So is indy dead yet?

April 30, 2010

Fallen Earth lays off a lot of staff.

So it looks like Icarus has drastically reduced its workforce. Originally people were skeptical it was that deep, but with the follow-up posting listing 28 people are left, and a commenter mentioning the remaining employees would be doing the work of 3 or 4 people, well…

FE was the darling of a lot of people, and it’s going to get really interesting if this is the herald of things to come. Hard to see how a game could continue to expand and grow with so little people.

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Top Ten Ultra-geek Anime Songs part 1

April 27, 2010

..to get you up in the morning. In no particular order.

Sorairo Days, from Gurren Lagann

If you haven’t seen it, go do it. It is the definition of hot-blooded anime.

Colors by Flow, opening song for Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion.

Never mind that Lelouch Lamperouge is the best Magnificent Bastard in all of anime: the first opening song is pure energy, and great for those days you dont want to get up.

FACE, by TRY FORCE: opening to Heat Guy J

I SAID HEY, BOY, LOOKING FOR YOUR SOUL?

Adesso Y Fortuna, by Sherry: opening to Record of the Lodoss War

This is a criminally forgotten series. This is the anime equivalent of D&D and MMOs, done over 20 years ago, and virtually every fantasy game pays unknowing homage to it. Adesso Y Fortuna is a great song to kick off a binge of leveling.

BOA-Duvet: opening to Serial Experiments Lain

Imagine your only musical experience in anime is bouncy 80s style synth pop. You see a new anime, buy the VHS, and hear this. You get religion.

The anime itself is intense, and it only seems fitting to pay homage to the God of the Wired by letting Lain end it, Part 2 coming soon.


Realms of the Unreal

April 27, 2010

One of the first documentaries I watched is called In the Realms of the Unreal. It’s about Henry Darger, a recluse who, unknown to everyone around him, made a massive amount of art and literature about a group of girls called the Vivian Girls and their war against a hostile child enslaving nation. Darger is hailed as an “outsider artist”-someone who makes lasting art yet is completely out of the intellectual and creative class.

He also was mentally ill.

The reason why I mention him, is because for him, his mental illness manifested in many ways: in his art, in an obsession with the weather, in compulsive churchgoing. These things absorbed him, but kept him isolated. What worries me is that for many, MMOs are becoming similar coping mechanisms, and their grinding, rote gameplay acts on that and attracts people who should by many means be into therapy or dealing with issues.

A study referenced in this news article indicated that there may be a higher level of depression for both hardcore and roleplaying players. In my own informal experience, I’ve known at least 3 people suffering from forms of it in games, some very severe. I’ve heard of more, and I wonder how many other people can share the same response.

One of the three people I knew recently. She is an attractive, intelligent woman that is an excellent roleplayer who suffers from borderline personality disorder. It’s a form of mental illness that manifests in extreme mood swings and fear of abandonment, to wild degrees. One minute they are loving and caring, the next very bitter and hateful, often swinging from both extremes in quick succession. I fell for her and had to break it off because of this: the fears of abandonment and demands for time are too extreme, and even the slightest thing may be a personal attack and start endless fights. Medication can’t help it.

What worries me is that the sort of half-life an MMO gives can keep people hidden and isolated. The heartbreaking thing about Henry Darger is that no one knew him: he was so reclusive people couldn’t agree on even what he is like. While MMOs offer somewhat of a community, in many ways they are like what I would call a Darger trap: something that ensnares interest and isolates people from the greater world at large and hides any problems.

My first darksider post is this: while people tout virtual worlds’ benefits for education, they really don’t see that they warehouse a lot of people too. I think about that girl, and feel loss, because I had to leave her. The greater loss is though that no one knew why she acted the way she did, and I wonder how many people play like her: “I play this because I have nothing else.”


Darksiding

April 25, 2010

A lot of the bloggers I read seem to be stable, well adjusted people. Whether it’s a minister or a games artist, they seem to be happy and well-engaged with the games: intelligent, creative people. However I think that works against them sometimes, because they miss aspects of the game they don’t see. I’m going to start writing about some of those aspects.


Champions Online

April 18, 2010

I’ve been playing Champions Online very hardcore the past few days, and it keeps growing on me the more I play of it.

The Vibora Bay expansion is excellent. It starts out with a crisis situation where you have to stop an incoming apocalypse with the Champions acting at your side, and it is long. Vibora Bay itself is a wonderfully atmospheric New Orleans town wrapped in fog, with riverboat casinoes and arcades. Menacing it are several factions: the demonic Trey Kings, the gunmen werewolf Dogz, and the vampiric Night Shadows. Also the rogue angels of Therakiel still try and bring about the apocalypse from within the shadows.

What impresses me about it, and CO in general, are the little touches. Go into the arcade in VB and you see a whole colection of classic Atari games. The riverboat in VB can be entered and is actually a social area with a live singer. Stand next to some of the doors of VB’s clubs and you hear jazz music. The areas are really good, especially Lemuria: a 3-D underwater zone filled with sharks and divers.

The gameplay is very repetitive. This doesn’t change. But oddly enough I find that a lot more fun that the repetitiveness of EVE or Fallen Earth, because its bite-sized. You don’t grind because you are bored, or need to make a lot of progress just to enjoy a game or level up. It’s great to be able to play at your pace and deal with others as you like.

I think what this has taught me finally is to more or less ignore the popular community opinion. Play a game for yourself to see if you enjoy it: don’t let bloggers or posters influence you.


Against licensed games

April 8, 2010

Syp at Bio Break has been playing LOTRO recently and one of his older posts was about how LOTRO helped him to get back into reading Tolkien. I’m the opposite of him. I have read Tolkien but have  no desire to play LOTRO. Thinking about it leads me to several reasons.

Games destroy and abbrievate story. All adaptions of a work do this, but games especially are corrosive to a licensed property. It’s because they have to interweave a totally alien system with a fictional world. Tanking or buffing simply do not exist in fantasy novels, and having to time button presses to do events demand pivotal events to be rewritten or handwaved away. I think that is why so many games have you being the schmuck who runs errands for the fellowship or the good guys while they save the world offscreen.

Games destroy mood. A game has to be paced differently from a book. A book can have chapters or long stretches of time doing nothing but delivering exposition or setting tone or mood. Tolkien has several scenes like this in the Hobbit: Beorn for one being entranced by Gandalf’s story and the dwarf party entering in by twos is something impossible or very hard to do in a videogame. Players simply wont stand still or read text enough to let a mood set in.

I think they still can evoke mood in general, but when you have events that set up a specific tone in a licensed work it gets much harder. A lot of mood setting requires a passive observer and players simply wont stand for it.

Players metagame and act out of character. The big draw for me in LOTRO would be to play in Tolkien’s world. But Tolkien’s world is now inhabited by very modern-day players who are as alien to it as the orcs are to the hobbits. So you are relying on a license to draw people in, yet those very same people make the license harder to immerse yourself in.

This is an issue even with unlicensed games, but I think the disconnect is much greater when you play something with a very specific world and pre-established setting.

A counter example is Final Fantasy XI. FFXI is a licensed game, but the license is based on a series that has no real events in common except very general mechanical ones. You have chocobos, you have the summons, you have spells. No plot exists in common to be shoehorned into a game and clash with it, and so FFXI escapes this. I think licenses can only work in this way. The more specific and detailed the plot, like Tolkien’s works, the harder it is to transform it into a game.


Sorry

April 6, 2010

I’ve been playing way too much as of late, trying to juggle the three MMOs.

Oddly enough it looks like Champions Online will be the one I stay with out of it, Fallen Earth, and EVE. Fallen Earth has so much potential, but it’s wasted. They have lovely underground bar areas with slot machines and tenders that are perfect for roleplaying. You even get an exp buff if you stay there, but no one uses them! It’s rare that a game gets me angry for what it lacks, but as my last post shows, FE is something that could have worked extremely well but is ruined in exectution.

EVE-meh. I’ve said my piece, but there really isn’t a point to my playing.

Champions Online is flawed, but even with the flaws a fun experience shines through. It is like playing a single-player game online, but in a good way. Better yet, it’s a game you can put down and pick up at will.