Thursday, June 30, 2011

How to Tell a Good Story

Back when I first started writing The Immortal Chiitsu (the first time, before I stopped for over a year and restarted it), the question I had on my mind is, "How do I make this something someone would want to read?"  So I got into the PD-mobile and went in search of answers.  (The PD-mobile is a digital fabrication, of course, since my answers required a journey into the Internet.)

A lot of people have opinions about what makes a good story, but one point that is repeated more than any other is that you have to make...ok, stop.  Perhaps make isn't the correct word.  You have to LET your audience care about your characters.  That's better.  And the reason that this is so important is because then, your audience becomes emotionally involved in the story, and let's face it -- that's what separates the good ones from the bad ones.

There are many ways to go about this -- you can simply make your character likable.  You can make them sympathetic.  You can make them a badass.  You can make something tragic happen to them.  You can make them easily accessible so a vast majority of your audience can relate to them.  Or you can do a combination of any of these things.  I sort of used one on top of the other when it came to Chiitsu.  I made him a bit cynical but friendly individual, which created a foundation.  Then, I did something horrible to him.  Since my audience was already invested in him and cared about him, this made that event all the more shocking and emotional.  I think that's one of the keys to great story telling:  Pull your audience in, and then use their emotions against them.

This brings me around to the new quest line added into WoW with patch 4.2.  And don't worry, there will be no spoilers in this post.  This is a pristine example of excellent storytelling.  Blizzard has taken a character that everyone knows, that everyone is, in some way, emotionally invested in, and they've used those emotions against us.

And here's the thing:  (I didn't say "the thing is"!)  Even if you're a pansy-ass Alliance player and don't like Thrall, there was still plenty to enjoy in the experience.  I would totally understand if someone would say to me, "You know, I'm an Alliance player and really never cared much about Thrall, so the story of that questline didn't really do much for me."  That's fine.  Good argument.  But you still got the journey itself, you got to experience a lot of great lore that WASN'T centered on Thrall, you got to see at least one character you've only HEARD about before, and you got some incredible visuals.  Therefore, I *do not* understand how anyone could think that the entire experience was bad.  I'm not saying that the people who don't like the questline are wrong, because this is all subjective.  I'm saying that after doing it for myself, I just cannot understand how anyone could say that.

I have my own opinions about the self-entitled "haters" of WoW.  This is what I think:  There is only one thing that human beings love more than a champion.  And that is seeing a champion fall.  Humans have this morbid, uncontrollable desire to see something perfect whittled down piece by piece until there's nothing left but a shell.  This has always been true, with the earliest example of the mightiest empire in the world, Rome, getting sacked by tribal barbarians.

That is why, in my opinion, I think that these "haters" hate on WoW not because they THINK there's something going wrong with the game, but because they WANT there to be something wrong with the game.  They want to see it fall from grace, and perhaps some of them even think it already has.  You can't rationalize with those kinds of people, because all they'll tell you is that you're wrong and they're right.

So, you just have to shrug your shoulders, and continue playing the beautiful and engaging game that you still enjoy.  It's their loss, anyway, not ours.  We're still having the incredible experience that Blizzard has created for us.

One final note about Blizzard's storytelling.  And I'm going to make a direct jab at Rift now.  When you start a new character in WoW, there's someone there, and they basically say, "I'm your leader and this is what I do.  Also, there's a big dragon made of lava that is going to blow up the world, we should do something about that."  Then, a few quests later, that leader shows up and either saves your life or aids you in battle.  Before you're level 10, you've got a major character that you know and are familiar with, and you've got a major villain that you're kind of afraid of.  That's good storytelling.

In Rift, there are all these people standing around.  Who are they?  Then you never seem them again.  What do they do?  You know that there are these Rifts that open up sometimes.  Why do they do that?  You close them with the help of NPCs, sometimes.  Who are they?  Bad guys come out of the Rifts.  What are they?

This is bad storytelling.  I'm sure all of this is revealed to you eventually, and you may even be able to find it out right away by looking around for in-game books or stuff.  But the way its presented to me doesn't give me any emotional attachment, and therefore I have no desire whatsoever to continue playing.

And do you know what else I think?  Again, this is purely my opinion.  I think that most people who say they love Rift, only love Rift because they want to see it destroy WoW, and not because they actually think it's good enough to do so.

And my final thought:  I love 4.2.  If you don't, that's okay.  But if you say I'm wrong for loving 4.2, you can go fuck a sea cucumber.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Monday, June 27, 2011

Zero Direction

Time for a mind dump.  Every so often, I find it to be rather therapeutic to simply empty the things rolling around in my head onto a digital piece of paper.

First of all, any comic that references Indiana Jones is regarded very highly by me.  Case in point.

I love these lyrics:

"Well I've got a fever, a non-believer, I'm in a state of grace.  For I am a Caesar, I'm gonna seize the day.  Well call of the banshee, hey hey!  Hey hey hey hey!  As God as my witness, these infidels are gonna pay!"
From The Peacemaker by Green Day.

I've discovered that the only time I like coconut is when it's toasted on and a donut.

The one situation where you could either see the nicest side, or the ugliest side of a human being, is when you have something they want.  Either they will butter you up to get it, or they will see you as being in their way and try and destroy you.  Both situations are why I don't like human beings.

It's almost July 4th already.  Holy crap.  I get a day off on Monday for it.  Yay!

After the Friday I had last week, I had to force myself to come to work this morning.

Why someone hasn't made a zombie MMO yet is beyond me.

I like pie.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Alice: Madness Returns

I've come to the conclusion that I'm the only person on the planet who has actually heard of this game.  And, if I by chance find someone else who HAS heard of it, they are so uninterested in it that they actually change the subject before I even finish my first sentence.  

This is a shame, really, because it's a rather good game.  Not great, mind you, but good.  It's also quite different, which I think is one of the reasons why it appeals to me so much.  It's sort of gothic horror, adventure gaming, and simple questing thrown into a blender with a box of crayons and pureed for three minutes. 

The first thing I noticed when I started playing was the art style.  It's…BIZARRE.  But in a good way.  Most of what keeps me playing is so that I can get to the next level and see what it looks like, and what weird shit I'm going to find.  I really like that. 

The gameplay itself is average.  Running, jumping, slashing, and collecting.  Over and over again.  There are a few new weapons that you get further along that try and spice things up a bit, but mostly it's all the same.  For this reason, it makes the game feel like it really drags on a bit, and sort of overstays its welcome. 

And since I've talked up the art style so much, I should probably provide a few screenshots then, hm?  Look how varied each one is.

So there you have it.  I'm going to continue playing through the game — I would assume I'm about one third of the way through it now.

Now playing: Three Days Grace - Bitter Taste

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Man down

We regret to inform you that in response to the news below, Steve has entered a critical meltdown. Please wait 4-5 weeks for normal service to resume.

Thank you for your patience.

In short, NO!

"EA is in talks to purchase PopCap Games for $1 billion."


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Could It Be?

The third DLC pack for Fallout New Vegas has been named and given a release date.  It is titled "Old World Blues", and it's coming July 19th.

That's only part of the reason why I'm writing about it.  Actually, that has nothing to do with the reason why I'm writing about it!  Hell, I got so engrossed in the Legend of the Star questline, and doing random exploring in the main game, that I haven't even touched upon the first two DLC packs yet.  I'll get on that soon enough.

But anyway, the real reason I was excited enough to post about this announcement was actually because of another short little sentence included with it.  Bethesda promises to bring improvements to performance and stability in major areas.
I really, really hope this means what I think it means.  Fallout New Vegas is about as temperamental as a rabid wolverine.  If you look at the game funny, it crashes.  I wear out my F5 key when I play it, due to all the quick saving I've become accustomed to having to do.  If they're actually going to try and fix these problems, I'm going to be incredibly happy.

Here's hoping!

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Legend of the Star

Tonight, I was able to collect my 50th Sunset Sasparilla Star bottle cap.  It actually didn't take nearly as long as I thought, when knowing the locations, since I learned that usually you would find not 1, but 2–3 at each known site.  So that wasn't bad at all. 

I actually took a bunch of screenshots of finding the last bottle cap, taking it to the factory, turning them all in, and getting the treasure.  I was going to make a nice pictorial collage here of it all.  But sadly, I didn't realize that my keybinding for screenshot in FRAPS got reset.  So I actually took ZERO screenshots.  Bah!

So instead, you're going to have to rely on my writing skills to properly describe it.  Good luck with that! 

I found the 50th bottle cap in an old fisherman's shack on the side of a large lake.  The place was trashed, but the cap was sitting out in plain sight on a table next to some broken bottles and a box of Blamco macaroni and cheese.  What's interesting is that the quest did not tell me I had enough caps.  It actually expects you to not know, and guess by traveling back to the bottling factory to see if you do indeed have enough.  I really like how vague this one quest is (none of the others are like this).  It really makes you feel like it's quite rare.

So I collected this bottle cap, and made my way to the bottling factory to talk to the dilapidated robot there.  One of the dialogue options was to turn in my caps, so I did.  This led to my “prize”, which was simply the robot telling me the story of how Sunset Sasparilla came to be.  Not much of a prize.

After that story was all over, I had the dialogue option to basically ask “What the fuck?” in three different moods.  I was then given access to a secret room, where the “real” prize was stored. 

What's humorous is that the real prize was actually meant to be (at the time, y'know, before the nuclear holocaust) a worthless toy sheriff's badge. 

But, the room was also full of bottle caps.  Hundreds of them.  Since these are now the CURRENCY of the world…I'm rich!  Woo! 

Also, there was a dead body in this room, and he was holding a laser gun (called Pew-Pew).  Lovely! 

So yes, well worth the time. 

Now playing: Powerman 5000 - Bombshell

Thursday, June 16, 2011

AllOut - Fighting for Equality

Hello Bloggers.

You may or may not have heard of a website called AllOut. This fantastic charity is working towards saving the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people all across the world. With the aid of people from every corner of the globe, they have already successfully petitioned to stop a bill in Uganda that would make being gay a crime punishable by death. AllOut stopped it, and still they fight for the safety and equality of LGBT people everywhere.

They need your help. Their latest cause involves a gay aslyum seeker named Eddy. The following is taken directly from the AllOut website:

Stop the Deportation of LGBT Asylum Seeker Eddy Cosmas!
Edson "Eddy" Cosmas, a gay rights activist, is facing imminent deportation from the UK back to his native Tanzania—where being gay is punishable by life imprisonment, and gay and lesbian activists have been arrested and detained as part of a recent crackdown.

Eddy needs your urgent solidarity now. Please ask Home Secretary Theresa May to halt Eddy’s deportation, and promise to reform the "fast track" policy that unfairly targets LGBT asylum seekers like him. We'll deliver your letters directly to the Home Secretary.

Please help these people. They work hard to save lives and you can help them. You don't even have to donate - all you have to do is go to their website and sign up. With enough help, YOU can help save the lives of people across the world. Would you like to be thrown in prison just because you love someone? Should this kind of thing even be happening in this day and age? Should you stand there and wait as people around the world are suffering just because they're a lesbian, or gay, or bisexual, or transgender?

Please sign up if you're interested in helping. It won't take long, it won't cost you a penny and all of the information you provide will be protected by AllOut.

Thank you for your time.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

What the fuck?

I've rescinded my post here because it's apparently much more complicated than anyone realized.  Until all the information is available to me, I'll just leave this here.  No point commenting on stuff when I don't have all the facts.

Cripes, I sound like a journalist.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Monday, June 13, 2011

You're a Star, Baby!

I picked up the Explorer perk in Fallout New Vegas the other night.  This perk shows all locations on the World Map, whether you've been there yet or not.  (You cannot fast travel to them until you've actually discovered them for yourself, but it's still incredibly useful to see where everything is.)

In Fallout 3, after I got that perk I spent several hours simply walking around the Capital Wasteland exploring each and every site until I had scoured every inch of the map.  That's probably my favorite thing to do in Fallout games.  If I recall correctly, I finished the main storyline of the game in 30-ish hours.  My total playtime on Fallout 3 is well over 40 hours, and the difference in time is all exploration.  (I'm sure I made a post about it here somewhere.)

I'm to the point now where I'm just about ready to do the same thing in the Mojave Wasteland -- all I have left to do in the game is the final bit preceding the war over the Hoover Dam, and the two DLC packs that I've yet to take a look at.  I planned on actually doing one of those two things, but something last night drew me into skipping right to exploring:  the Sunset Sasparilla Star bottle caps.

Anyone familiar with the Fallout universe knows that the currency in the game is bottle caps.  These are found everywhere in the world -- in desk drawers, in crates, on dead bodies, etc.  Also, if you drink a bottle of Nuka Cola, you get a bottle cap, of course.  Fallout New Vegas introduced a new drink to the game -- Sunset Sasparilla.  Drinking a bottle of this also yields you a bottle cap.  No big deal there.  However, there's a 1 in 20 chance that you will get a bottle cap with a bright blue star on it.  They do also count as currency, but they go into a special place in your inventory and you don't spend them normally.  The first time you get one, you're left wondering what special significance these might have.  

This is one of the reasons why the Fallout games appeal so much to me.  I really enjoy the whole idea of there being all this stuff out there that I have no idea about, and have to discover on my own.  I think this is one of the reasons why WoW has lost as much of its appeal for me as it has.  The mystery is gone.  You know how to kill a new boss before it even reaches the live servers, because it seems like everyone and their mother has done it on the PTR and made a video or wrote a guide about it.  And if you don't watch those videos or read those guides, you're considered a noob because you don't know what you're doing.  Your fellow raiders will be angry at you for holding them back.  How dare you slow down their income of digital purples!  You have to make a conscious and rather tricky effort to keep new quest line secrets unknown to yourself, because the information appears EVERYWHERE, and you will seriously have difficulties not getting it spoiled for you unless you unplug your internet connection until the patch is live.  Hell, Blizzard is even adding a journal into the game to tell you what every boss does.  I'm not saying this is a BAD thing, but it's become EXPECTED for you to know what's going to happen in the game before you actually experience it for yourself.  I don't like that.  I like being surprised.  

WoW is still a game I enjoy.  I'm simply saying that if I want to be intrigued by mystery, by unknown places, finding items that I didn't know about, doing quests where I don't know the outcome...I'm going to play Fallout.  Because in that game, it's single-player, and no one cares if I keep myself ignorant to the information before I actually do it myself.

I sort of went off on a tangent there.  Back to the topic of these Star bottle caps, I was quite intrigued the first time I picked one up.  I had no idea what they were all about, and I sort of let that one sit in my inventory.  A little bit later on, I came across two people in a shootout.  The winner explained to me that they were fighting over a couple of Star bottle caps.  I asked her if she'd give them to me, and she started to shoot at me.  So I killed her and took her caps.  A little bit after that encounter, I was approached by an old man who said he used to collect them.  After reminiscing and saying he was getting too old now to continue the hunt, he gave me the few he had and strode off.  

From that point forward, I started finding a few of these special little caps in hidden places.  It became rather neat when I found one, because the little blue star on the cap really glowed, and you got that feeling that you found something pretty special when you looked in a crate and saw it shining up at you.  Nice presentation.  

My curiosity of their purpose reached a head when I got a quest to visit the Sunset Sasparilla bottling factory.  My quest was to go there and dismantle a bottle cap machine, because apparently some crooks were using it to create counterfeit bottle caps.  There was a little robot in a kiosk near the reception desk when I first entered the factory, and the robot told me a small bit of information regarding the Star bottle caps, and also gave me a quest to return to him when I had "enough Star caps".  He said there was treasure to be had when I had the proper amount.  Ok.  Now I'm interested.  

If I was a crazy son of a bitch, which frankly I tend to be sometimes, I would have set out to explore the entire map in search of these bottle caps.  I'm not THAT crazy, however.  Have you seen the size of the map in Fallout?  So, I went online to gather two pieces of information:  Exactly how many Star bottle caps was "enough", and a list of all the places where I could find them.  

The answer to the first question is 50.  Looking in my inventory last night, I had a total of 23 Star caps.  Not bad.  So the first thing I set out to do was visit all the places on the list that I'd already discovered -- meaning I had been there and simply missed the Star cap's hiding place.  When I logged out last night, I was up to 30 of them.  20 more to go, and I get me a treasure!  I did not look up what the treasure actually is -- like I said, I enjoy being surprised.  Given this quest is quite similar to the Nuka Cola Challenge in Fallout 3, though, I'm certain it won't be utter crap.  So I'm not too worried about that.  Besides, I love a good scavenger hunt.  That's really reward enough for me.  

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Just Business...?

I recently had a rather unique opportunity to observe first-hand a rather ugly side to human beings.  You can decide for yourselves if you think that I'm merely being a bit territorial or unreasonable, or if you think that my annoyance is justified. 

I'm going to have to provide a bit of backstory in order for any of this to make sense.  Also, since this is about work, I'm going to have to use generic names. 

There's an office with the following structure:  Boss A is in charge of Boss B and Boss C.  Boss B is in charge of employees #1 and #2.  Got that?  Good. 

Boss C isn't really a manager, but more of a guy who handles a lot of complicated tasks because he's qualified to do so.  But, he's the only one in the office who can do these tasks.  He sometimes gets overwhelmed with work because of this, and it leaves the office at a disadvantage any time he is out sick or on vacation. 

Therefore, Boss C decides that he needs to share some of his knowledge.  He thinks that Employee #2 is a good candidate for that, so he begins to teach him a few things about what he does.  This angers Boss A, who doesn't want Employee #2 screwing things up by working on stuff he's not experienced nor qualified to work on.  Boss C eventually makes him view this as a good thing, however, and Boss A relents and lets the two of them continue.  Eventually, Employee #2 becomes very good at a lot of the things that Boss C does, and Boss A starts to actually rely on Employee #2 to do a lot of these things.  All is well.

Soon, Employee #1 begins to make comments about the "Cool Kids Club", referring to Boss C and Employee #2 having access to certain aspects of the job in order to complete these more advanced tasks.  He's apparently unhappy that he's not able to do these things.  Eventually, he's given access as well, and soon starts doing some of the tasks that Employee #2 was usually asked to do.  Employee #2 is never informed of when this happens. 

Employee #2 begins to notice these things, and wonders why it's happening.  Has he not been doing a good enough job?  He doesn't know, and no one tells him.  He thinks that he's still valued as an employee, since Boss A still comes to him with special tasks quite often, and he's often the first person to work on a new project.  So, he's not worried, but only slightly annoyed at Employee #1's actions. 

This annoyance grows on one particular day.  Boss A asks Employee #2 to perform a certain task.  It's something that only Boss C or him could do (and now Employee #1 could do, too).  After getting the details from Boss A, Employee #2 sets off to do it with Boss C's help.  He finishes this task and is rather proud of his work.  He executes it and all is well.  As he's slightly tweaking his work so that it can be used again if needed, Employee #1 calls Boss B asking about the exact same thing.  He needs it done as well.  While on the phone with Employee #1, Boss B asks Employee #2 if what he's just created could be used for Employee #1's request.  He says yes.  Boss B tells Employee #1 that the work has already been done.

Employee #1 does all the work from scratch by himself instead of using what Employee #2 created.  Employee #2 is left with the impression that Employee #1 is an asshat who cares nothing for working in a team, and only worries about himself and how he can advance his own position, validate his existence in the office, and impress his superiors, without giving a damn about who he affects as he does so.

I leave you to draw your own opinion -- is Employee #2 justified in his feelings, or is it all fair in the business world?  You decide. 


Ding 18!

Monday, June 06, 2011

Varying Degrees of Assessment

E3 is this week.  There's going to be a lot of cool announcements, which is a double-edged sword.  It's good because it gets us excited for a bunch of new games coming out.  It's bad because these new games will take years and years to be released.  On this blog, I rarely write about games that aren't released yet.  And I'm not about to start now!

Ok, first let's get Hunted out of the way.  There is one aspect of this game that everyone is hating on, and it is the one area of the game where I will stick up for it.  To all those saying the graphics are shit and that the game looks like shit:  Go get your fucking eyes checked, you blind wombat.  Or perhaps this is another case of the human race's epidemic of being self-entitled cunts?  Is that it?  In that case:  News-flash, you self-entitled cunt, not every game is Crysis 2.

Every other complaint you can have.  The game is rubbish.  It came this close || to being excellent, but it was not to be.  Quite honestly, there is only ONE thing that needs to be different, and all the other annoyances would be quite tolerable:  It needs to be fucking easier!  Bad guys should not fucking two-shot you on casual difficulty.  What the devs were thinking here is beyond me.  Obviously they weren't thinking at all.

While on that topic, let me make an observation here about co-op in a game.  Something that I think devs seem to not realize is that the co-op version/portion of a game needs to be approached quite differently from the single-player version/portion.  When you're playing a co-op game with a partner, it's typically going to fall into one of these three categories:

1. Your partner is a good friend of yours, and you'll be doing a lot of chatting, joking, and tomfoolery while you play the game.

2. Your partner is actually your partner, and you'll be doing a lot of chatting, joking, and flirting while you play the game.

3. Your partner is a complete stranger, and there will be a learning curve as you adjust to each others' play-style.

No matter which one of these you are, your mental capacity while playing the game is quite different than if you were playing it by yourself.  You won't be as focused, and you won't be concentrating AS MUCH on actually playing the game.  As a result, making the co-op version as difficult (or moreso) than the single-player version is just about the stupidest mistake you could possibly make.  Why does no one else realize this?

It's not like raiding at all.  With raiding (or clan based multi-player for that matter), you are a group of GAMERS who are playing together BECAUSE OF THE GAME.  Co-op games are just the opposite -- it's only TWO people, and rarely do clans play co-op games (because why would you need a clan for that?)

Valve did it correctly with Portal 2.  The co-op campaign differed from the single-player campaign in all the correct ways:

1.  It had more silly, irreverent humor.

2.  It was easier.
3.  It never made you feel like one of you was more important that the other (except GLaDOS' humorous attempts to do so, which was simply part of #1).

In any case, sadly, I would not recommend Hunted to anyone.

In more positive gaming news, I'm nearly finished in my second play-through of Fallout: New Vegas, my goal being to reach the end so that I can try out the two DLC packs that I have purchased.  I could obviously check them out right now if I wanted to, but I simply had the urge to play through the entire game again.  I was just in a Fallout kind of mood.  I'm certainly glad I did, because just about every main questline is ending differently for me this time around.

I also discovered this weird bunker out in the middle of Asscrack Nowhere, and it was full of dead people.  I have a quest pointing me to that bunker, but I can't figure out why.  I look forward to exploring that in a bit more detail later.


Holy smokes.  The last post I wrote for this blog was on October 18, 2017.  Through the little more than  two years since, this blog has be...