State of the Quest

We’re going to be posting a bit differently, here at Lost to the Aether, for at least the near future. Your main man was wounded recently, and while it’s not anything you should be worrying about, the effects of this do mean that I’m having a harder time focusing and putting the kind of thought I usually do into these posts. I should be able to make a full recovery with time, but until then, well, the content’s just going to be a little different around here, more in line with my presently diminished capacity. So, you know, fair warning. I hope you’re into it. I hope I’m into it, too.

Today I’m going to go back to an old standby and talk about myself. I’m good at that. Specifically, my little gaming quest. I’ve mentioned several times on this blog, once upon a time, I got the odd idea in my head that I was going to beat all of my games. All of them. I’ve been collecting games since I was a cub, I’ve got a lot of them. I give myself a bit of a break when the game is too glitchy to progress, or in the very, extremely, infinitesimally rare case I’m not skilled enough to beat a game, but overall, if I own it, I will beat it. I’m going through my entire collection, with games grouped by the console generation they released in, and by hook or by crook beating every single game I own.

This little quest has been an interesting one. Some games I never would have given the chance I did, some games I found that I enjoyed in a different way, and some games, playing them this way has actually given to my perspective of them. This quest has certainly changed the way I value games and the experiences contained therein.

But have I mentioned that I have a lot of games? Because I have a lot of games. The NES era took me a few weeks to play through. SNES took me several months. The N64/PS generation took me about a year to clean out. The PlayBoxCube era? I have been at this for years. Many years. Too many years. Longer than I’d care to admit. Children have been born into my family since I started, and have now grown old enough that I can have a sensible conversation with them. It’s been a long time. Part of which is that this was the generation I started making an income in, then one that I filled in later when I started picking up the other consoles for cheap, so my collection is perhaps the largest in this area. Part of it is that there are just so many JRPGs on these consoles bloody hell and they all take like 40 hours minimum to beat.

But for all the causes, I’m most of the way through. I estimate that I’ll be through the rest of this console generation and on to the next, hopefully not so long one, in about a year. That might be a bit optimistic of me, but still, pretty close. I’m excited.

I thought I’d take a look at all the rest of the games ahead of me. What do I have coming up, what shall soon be moving through the life of Aether, what more must I conquer before the next milestone. Because sometimes, it’s just fun to get organized.

Currently Playing

Tales of the Abyss

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So of all the games I haven’t beaten yet on this quest, this one is one of my favorites. The Tales series has, overall, been pretty solid ever since Tales of Symphonia, and Tales of the Abyss shows the developers in rare form. The Tales series has spent the past decade and a half really strong in terms of characterization, oddly charming technobabble, and in pointedly subverting common storytelling tropes, and Tales of the Abyss showcases some of the best the series has to offer. Mixing the typical JRPG wayfaring and dungeon diving with a fast-paced Smash Bros-esque combat engine keeps the experience feeling really varied and fresh. They don’t really add much new to the mechanics here over previous installments, and the new features they do add seem largely circumstantial, but the mechanics are very solid. I’m having a good time with it.

Also, I get to play as a left hander in this game. How often do I get to do that?

Summoner: A Goddess Reborn

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The other game I’m currently playing is one of the best games I have left on my list. This one is one of the worst.

Which I suppose if this is the bottom of the barrel, the barrel’s not really that bad. Summoner: A Goddess Reborn is no Fur Fighters, or Turok: Evolution, or Fallout Tactics. It’s not the type of game that actively offends me for its existence. It’s just… kind of bad.

You remember when THQ made RPGs? Yeah, those were always kind of quirky titles, none of them actually very good. This is along those lines. I’m actually really interested in the lore and the world. It’s obvious the developers put a lot of time and thought into those. I just wish they put as much into their engine and presentation. Gameplay is as slow and clunky as my uncle’s pinto. When it goes bad, it gets about as explosively horrible, too. Graphics and sound are poor, and the art design is all over the place. It’s world is interesting, but it’d take a better game to keep me around if I wasn’t forcing myself to.

I’m a little worried that I may not actually be capable of taking this game the whole way through. Most of the time, strategy or skill makes at least a bit of a difference to how well combat goes, but when the game hits its bad points, that goes out the window and there’s not a whole lot to do except button-mash and hope it works out for you. I haven’t been completely stopped yet, but I’m worried that I’ll run into one of those bottle-necks where skill or preparation doesn’t matter and the odds are too stacked against me to make any headway, and that’ll be a really unsatisfying end to this run.

Continue reading

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My Adventures in XCom 2

I got myself a new computer. I didn’t want to. I was perfectly happy with my old one. But you can’t always get what you want, so here I am, new computer in hand. Lap. There you go.

One of the important things to do with any new computer, of course, is to find out just how much it can handle. After all, if you’re going to be investing into any games for it, you need to know just how leet it is, else you could buy something above your system. And also, you get the hackerz casting hardz as to the spex of your system. You can’t have people hardzing your spex. Sure, you can just look at the system requirements, but that doesn’t give you anywhere near the knowledge on frame rates and specific graphic quality that a practical test does.

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That drew me to XCom 2. A current gen game I actually wanted that I could get for cheap with a bunch of mystery gems on top through the recent Humble Monthly Bundle. If it worked on my system, and actually played well, I could comfortably get other modern games. If not, well, at least I got some other games I could play.

So when I started XCom 2 up, I really wasn’t planning on playing for long. My gaming schedule is rather full. Like, I need games to make reservations to get themselves in my immediate playlist. I played it for an hour, was satisfied with my system’s performance, and shut it down. But I couldn’t get the game off my mind. So I figured, you know what, Time? You can’t tell me what to do. I still have this super packed gaming schedule, so I wasn’t going to commit to a full runthrough, but given the nature of the game, I thought I’d give it an ironman run until it wasn’t possible for me to continue anymore. Continue reading

The One Lovely Blog Award

There was supposed to be a blog post here.  A long one.  I’ve been working in my spare time on one for a while.  This is one that I’m putting a lot into.  Working a lot of thought and research into it, meaning it’s probably going to be one of those posts that so tailored to my own mental processes that not many others are going to agree with or be interested in the content, but it’s fun to put those out every once in a while, and what’s blogging if you’re not selfish every once in a while?

In any case, I had planned to put this post here, today, figured that I’d have the time to finish it up over the weekend.  Unfortunately, life, as it often does, said no.  Between work, chores, homework, and social obligations, I’ve not had the time I wanted to to work on that post.  Looking at the post, I’m not anywhere near finished.  So, we were going to be looking at one of those sad, sad times where it takes me a while to get a post out, and everyone’s hearts feels smaller in the interim.

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Then, I remembered that a fortnight ago, the lovely Athena at the lovely blog Ambigaming had nominated us here at Lost to the Aether for the One Lovely Blog Award.  I’ve been a little hesitant to follow up on that, what with the fact that this is one of those viral social things and I’m just not very social conflicting with the fact that I think I am totally awesome and love talking about myself.  These two opposed mentalities created a stalemate until… well, until I needed some quick content and this provided a good framework.  You should go over to Athena’s blog and thank her for that.  While you’re at it, check out some of her posts, too.  I mean, if you’ve been following me this far, you probably enjoy overthinking video games, and she does that really well!  Especially if you’re interested at all at how brain science works with video games.

And yeah, some of you who’ve been with us for a while may be wondering how I might have anything more to say about myself after I’ve already been Double Liebstered and a Versatile Blogger.  Oh, how much you underestimate me.  I am as complicated as I am mysterious.  Besides, the OLBA on requires me to state seven things about myself.  Seven!  I could do that all day.

Let’s go!

  1. I was a giant Nintendo fanboy for the longest time.  Yeah, the bad, argumentative type.  I don’t know what to say, there was something wrong with me.  That had lasted until I was given a PS2 back in 2007 and got to expand my gaming horizons.  Even now, I’ve owned at least one version of every console and handheld Nintendo’s put out, aside from the Virtual Boy.
  2. I stopped acknowledging my birthday years ago.  This way, I never age, and shall remain eternally youthful.
  3. I haven’t really written into it here, but as you may have guessed from my ill-fated and poorly suited to the internet-format attempt to create a graphic novel, I really like graphic novels.  Or comics, or manga, or whatever you want to call them.  I read more of those than I do traditional literature.
  4. My father was a huge gun nerd.  I have never cared about guns, but I was able to, check the safety, securely unload, and strip a gun at the age of five, thanks to him.
  5. It seems that most of my interests have pulled a complete 180 from where I was as a teenager.  As a youngling, I was never very interested in dancing, dating, sports, clothes, and a whole bunch of other stuff that I’ve really grown into and now I kick myself for wasting all those times and opportunities in my teenage years.
  6. My hair is my best physical feature.  I’m like Samson, and that’s where my power comes from, except my power is to make people weak in the knees and keep them from thinking of anything else.
  7. I’m not a fitness freak or anything, but I’ve gotten really into calisthenics in the past few years.  I can’t even say why that specifically, but those bodyweight exercises just feel so satisfying to me.

So… there.  That’s me.  And wasn’t that fun?  We’ll see you all again, once I get caught up with life!

Lessons Learned: I Rule

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Note: This is not my festival. Purely a flavor image.

Last year, I put out a post reflecting on the work I had done for a recently completed film festival.  Then I left the film commission I had been managing.  With that, I thought I was finally out of the game.  Both the festival and the commission were a lot of time, and a lot of stress, and I had never really had the passion for film that’s pretty much required to thrive in the industry.  I had left that behind me, happily so, and moved on with my life.

But just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.

I have a hard time saying no to people who need my help.  And the festival it seemed, was not quite ready to stand without me.  Still, I was adamant that I was not going to be as involved as I was last year, basically working another job towards the end of it.  And that was fine.  Last year, we had a problem with having way too few people involved to cover everything, the year before we had way too many to get anything done efficiently, this year, we seemed to hit the sweet spot.  We had few enough people there that we weren’t bogged down in multi-hour long meetings revisiting the same things we did in the last several, but enough of a team that nobody was really overworked.  As opposed to last year, when I managed the money, did most of the fundraising, led the marketing, as well as all the other odd jobs on my plate, this year, I limited my main activities to just handling the finances.  I helped out with other stuff as well, but that was all I was really in charge of, dedicated to.  Everyone else had their own areas, but there were enough people going around, that everything went smoothly.

Until the day before the festival.

And that’s when everything went bottoms up.  First our festival director had a situation suddenly come up, and he couldn’t make it to anything.  Then another member of our committee had an emergency, and she couldn’t make it either.  Leaving our decision-making group cut by half, leaving only myself and our programming director.

But you know what?  We handled it.  We were in a situation where both of us were having to completely adjust what we were doing on the fly, and we made it work.  We had volunteers to help us, some of which were pushed into roles a little bit above their heads, and we both had to take a lot more ownership of the festival and its activities, but we made it work.  I learned things about myself, too.  I learned I do pretty great at quick, casual presentations, given that I had to keep ad-libbing things in introducing or closing out the films, which is one thing I hadn’t been expecting to be charged with.  I learned that I’m able to pretend I know something about a subject matter when talking it over with an expert enough to hold a good public discussion with my only knowledge being the twenty minute film I just finished watching.  And I reaffirmed that people just really enjoy looking at me.  Good times.

I also learned I’m really good at marketing.  Last year, I took over most of our marketing activities.  Our attendance doubled.  I figured I couldn’t claim responsibility for all that at the time.  This year, I left the marketing to others.  Our attendance halved, back down to what it was before I got involved.  It still might be too soon to claim that’s all me, but I think that’s enough evidence to determine that I was at least partially responsible for the boost.

So yeah.  That’s what’s been going on in my life.  Just got through a really rough weekend.  Have a number of strenuous times ahead of me, so posting might be a little slow, by the way.  But still, I learned through it all.  I really need to respect myself more.  So does everyone else.  After all, as this weekend proved, I rule.

The Bookshelf Tag!

We haven’t done one of these viral social blogging posts in a while.  Which seems a little odd to me.  After all, there’s plenty of questions I know people are just dying to ask me.  Questions like “What’s a day in the life of the world’s sexiest man like?” or “What deities do I have to thank for the fact that you’re in my life?” or “How exactly are you supposed to pronounce Aether, anyway?”  Given that I’m still one of the internet’s biggest enigmas, I felt I owed it to the world to respond when our good friend Mishka Jenkins hooked us into the Bookshelf Tag that’s been going around the internet.  Basically, got ten questions here, all about me and books.  And because I basically carved out this corner of the internet for me to do nothing but talk about myself, I’m going to answer these questions.  With words.  And self-indulgence.  Because really, isn’t that what the internet’s all about?

Here we go!

1. Is there a book that you really want to read but haven’t because you know that it’ll make you cry?

Not really.  If a book can make me feel, that’s a beautiful thing.  Even if that feeling is sad.  If a story can break me out of my bitter, mortal shell, and actually feel for the characters to the point that I weep for them, that’s that almost always something worth experiencing.  There’ve been times that I put off sad stories until I was in the mood for them, because I knew they’d make me feel that way, but nothing I avoided outright.  Also, I’m a rock-hard stone-cold hunk of manly manliness who never ever cries.  That part helps too.

2. Pick one book that helped introduce you to a new genre.

‘Stolen Bloodline’ by Mishka Jenkins.  I very rarely dip into the romance genre, but I’ve actually been enjoying the works Mishka’s been putting out since she decided to start making a living as an author.  It’s not just because she and I are close, I’ve honestly been enjoying her works on their own merit.  She mixes up a lot of the fantasy and adventure and conflicts and other stuff I do usually like with some well-written love stories, and it’s made me a lot more open to the romance genre than I was previously

3. Find a book that you want to re-read.

‘The Burning City’, by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle.  I read it a lot as a kid, and really liked how well-realized and unique the world was, but looking into it more recently I’ve been seeing that there’s a lot of transparent and blatant allegory and imagery that was lost on me in my younger days.  Haven’t read it in years, but I’d love to give it another go to see what my older, better-educated mind might be able to pick up now.

4. Is there a book series you’ve read but wish that you hadn’t?

Nope.  Even bad media has some sort of value.  There’s been stories that have wasted my time, but none that I’m actively worse off for going through.

5. If your house was burning down and all of your family and pets were safe, which book would you go back inside to save?

Well, I’d probably try to save my video games first, but if it had to be a book… well, it’d probably be my collection of the original Elfquest publications.  Those are available for free online now, but the copies I’ve got were part of the first run, back when you had to get a subscription from a small time independent publisher to get your hands on them.  They used to belong to one of my relatives, before being passed down to me, so it’s more sentimental than anything else.  The fact that the story’s really, really good helps the decision.

6. Is there one book on your bookshelf that brings back fond memories?

Any of my Star Wars books.  I used to be crazy into Star Wars as a kid.  ‘Wraith Squadron’ is probably the one I carry the most memories for, to the point that I actually got a bit depressed when its author passed away earlier this year, despite being as jaded as I am.

7. Find a book that has inspired you the most.

Hmm… that’s a tough one.  Terry Goodkind’s early books in the Sword of Truth series, I’d guess.  I don’t particularly like his work nowadays, but those were one of the biggest influences that got me into writing in the first place.

8. Do you have any autographed books?

My copy of the Ocean at the End of the Lane is autographed by Neil Gaiman.

9. Find the book that you have owned the longest.

A copy of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ I’ve had since we put on the play in 6th grade.  I played Oberon.  Unfortunately, my parents were in the habit of selling everything as soon as they thought I was done with it, so I don’t have anything older.  I lost a lot of my childhood, that way.

10. Is there a book by an author that you never imagined you would read or enjoy?

I’m not actually a fan of most classic or older literature.  I find the writing style and plot development to be a bit less nuanced when written before the era where people were studying and educating themselves on these things.  So, I was very surprised when I found myself getting drawn into Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes novels in such a major way.  The plots are generally just as poorly developed compared to most of its modern counterparts as everything else of the era, but the stories are still really well-written otherwise, and I find myself drawn into them quite easily.

Laying down the Line

I’m going to try something new here.  Something groundbreaking at Lost to the Aether.  Something I haven’t done at all, outside of my Dark Souls playthrough.  I am going to open myself up for some public shame.

Here’s the thing.

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I’ve made some commitments.  Commitments to this blog.  And it’s been taking me a good long while to fulfill them.  You remember the Persona retrospective I started up, what, five months ago?  Where the hell has that been at?  And the Dark Souls thing?  The Let’s Play that’s currently ongoing?  Not counting this last intermission post, we haven’t seen any movement on that since January!  Man, that Aether’s pretty garbage all around, isn’t he.  It’s ok, it’s ok.  You don’t say it, but I know that’s what you’re thinking.

So, here’s what we’re going to do.  I’m going to make a public declaration, beucause this way, I’ll be motivated to get it done.  If you all know I’ve committed to something, I will be focused on avoiding the threat of shame to finish it.

So, here we go.  Barring some major life event, such as me getting hit by lightning or finally getting a new job and being able to move out of this hole, which seem to have the same chances of happening, I’m going to have the next Dark Souls post up this week.  I’ll also have the Persona Retrospective ready to go before the month’s out.  I’d like to move towards doing at least two Dark Souls entries a month, but I’m not going to promise the moon until life stops being horrid to me.  So that’s where we’re at now.  So there.  New posts coming soon.  We’re bringing life back to this blog!

The Versatile Blogger Award

Sometimes, life is cruel.  Sometimes, it seems life just tries to keep you down.  Sometimes, you desperately want to post more on your blog but you’re too busy trying to keep from drowning under the sea of all hardships life just keeps burying you in that you just can’t find the time.  It’s moments like this that true friends are so important.  They’re the ones who remind you there’s still things worth living for, the ones who keep you from giving up, the ones who throw you softball posting opportunities by nominating you for viral blog awards.

Recently, my good friend and talented author Mishka did just that for me, adding onto Lost to the Aether’s status of being twice as Liebster as your average blog by nominating us for the Versatile blog award, yet another award promoting bloggers getting to know each other by spreading nominations among their fellows.  

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In fact, this award seems even simpler than the Liebsters we’ve dealt with in the past.  Just post seven things about yourself.  I think I can handle that much.  Here goes!

  1. Once upon a time, I was fairly into poetry.  I put together a few works, entered them into local competitions, that whole deal.  I had to stop once my parents found out.  They were… way too supportive.  They’d take my poems and pass them around to friends and family without permission, make me read them out at parties, etc.  It was too much for me, and I’ve never really tried to write any more or even appreciated to form ever since.
  2. I have a prominent birthmark on the left side of my chest.  When I was a kid, I used to imagine it marked me as a prophesied hero or something like that.  Still waiting for that to play out.  My grandfather once told me I had the birthmark because my grandmother branded it into me.  I believed him for way too long.
  3. I still write regularly, although lately I’ve been having a bit of a problem where I start projects but never get out of the intro.
  4. Several years ago, I started a project with my video games where I go through each system I own in generational order and beat, or come as close as I possibly can to beating, every single game I possess.  I had been cruising along at a good rate, but I’ve been stuck at the PS2/Gamecube/Xbox generation for years now, because I own waaaay too many jrpgs for those systems.
  5. I’ve been searching for a new job and to move away from my current location for a good long while.  That said, if any of you know of a good nonprofit that needs an experienced program manager/event specialist/ungodly beautiful man, maybe leave me a tip?
  6. Even after all my history with roleplaying forums and having this blog for over a year, so far I’ve still been too anxious about my creative works to post any of them up.  Just posting my drawings a while ago took a lot of working myself up.  That’s something I’m really hoping to work through in the near future.
  7. I am really, really, really good looking.  Like seriously.  I am a true work of art, God’s masterpiece of the human form.  I am also incredibly humble for only pointing this out like once a post.  

And… that’s that!  More content to come soon!  We’ve got the second part of the video game pacing, a brief interlude in our Dark Souls playthrough, and the promised retrospective of the first Persona game coming up soon!  Hope to see you there!