Archive for the Grumblings Category

The Canterbury Traveler

Posted in Grumblings on July 18, 2018 by chemiclord

It’s not terribly often that a video game allows me to dip into my English Lit studies so blatantly, but Octopath Traveler for the Nintendo Switch isn’t your typical video game.

Square-Enix quite proudly declares that Octopath Traveler harkens back to the days of “old school RPGs,” and it indeed does that, both good and ill.  From the heavy grind elements, to the heavily padded play time created by the necessary grind, to the somewhat disjointed narrative elements, to the endless excuses the game presents to make you do anything but what you’re supposed to be doing… there’s a lot of things that modern games tend to not do, and for good reason.

Old-school RPGs generally did not respect a player’s time, and neither does Octopath Traveler.  Be prepared to either spend several days in deep marathon sessions, or be willing to spend months just taking it in piece by piece (and hope to remember just what you were trying to accomplish between sessions).

That said, there is definitely some good elements of old-school RPGs that I was happy to see again.  In many ways, the RPGs of those ol’ times were almost as much puzzle solvers as they were adventures.  Octopath Traveler brings that back in spades with a depth of turn-based combat I have not seen too many times before, if ever.  There is a delight of accomplishment in putting together a chain of attacks that completely turn the tide of battle that you really can’t do in the active time or hybrid combat that modern RPGs prefer to utilize.

The sprite artwork of the characters and environments doesn’t always mesh perfectly with the more modern particle and lighting effects the game uses, and if you’re prone to motion sickness, you might find the very obvious focus line as the scene shifts from foreground to background extremely jarring.  But said effects are breathtaking, especially in combat.

But honestly, the best analogy I could think of to describe Octopath Traveler is a Middle English long-form poem by Geoffrey Chaucer.

Much like the pilgrims in Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, the various stories of Octopath Traveler don’t overlap, and in fact have little to nothing to do with each other.  On one hand, having a game’s narrative that doesn’t have some central, puppet master type antagonist is a fairly novel one, and creates an illusion of a very big world, one in which no singular person could hope to wholly influence.

On the other hand, only the protagonist of any given story chapter will interact in said story (the other members of your party completely vanish outside of combat).  It can be jarring to suddenly lose those you had been fighting alongside up until that narrative step.  In fact, interactions between party members are restricted to occasional events in various pubs, and it feels like a tremendous missed opportunity to create a much more engaging narrative.

As a result, Octopath Traveler feels unfinished in a way, much like the poem that Chaucer was unable to complete.  It feels like there was so much more that could have been done to turn what is a very good RPG into a great one.

How much you enjoy Octopath Traveler will depend entirely on how much your enjoyment of “old school RPGs” is tainted by the rose colored glasses of nostalgia.  You’ll either be delighted by all the things that have slowly vanished from the genre… or be reminded why games aren’t really made this way anymore.

Advertisements

On the Role of Journalism…

Posted in Grumblings on July 12, 2018 by chemiclord

Between President Donald Trump’s “fake news” and the media’s constant hand wringing about the president’s “War on Journalism,” it really does feel like the people reporting the news have become as much of the story as the news itself.

As much as I am loathe to say that President Trump is right about anything, perhaps he has stumbled unwittingly on a very good point.

What good is professional journalism at this point?  What is it actually doing right now that isn’t already being done by less professional outlets for less cost and much more effectively?

I know the obvious answer is that the people are so poorly informed nowadays, but is that really true?  Or, I should say, are people really any more poorly informed than they ever have been?

Are the crazy conspiracy theorist, or the hate-filled ranting nutjob, or the inflexibly entrenched partisan really new things?  I’d say not really.  I think every single person can’t even count the number of horribly informed people they know using both hands and their toes, and that number probably really hasn’t particularly increased or decreased over the years.  Hell, the people you’re thinking of right now are probably even the same people you’d be thinking of twenty years ago.

Like with most things that are getting “worse” in our society, I’d contend that the only thing that’s really changed is how visible these terrible things in our society are.  Poorly informed people only seem worse now because there are so many more ways they can show their ass to the world than there used to be.

Mass media is failing not because people no longer care about the news.  It’s because the public no longer needs to pay someone (or serve as a receiver of advertising) to craft a slant, story, or opinion.  There are hundreds of “amateur” journalists or bloggers or newsgroup posters that are giving them the exact same level of “quality” but refined even further to hit the talking points they want to hear for a lot less time and/or monetary investment.

We no longer need journalists to tell a “story.”  Why go to Fox News at certain times of the day, when you can hit up The Blaze or The Raw Story or Breitbart at your leisure?  Why hit up The Guardian‘s website and be begged for money when you can get the same talking points (and get largely the same amount of garbage comments) just by following the right people on Twitter?

Now, with that said, I think journalists do potentially have a vital use… they just have to be willing to actually do it.

Journalists, in many ways, are the first responders of the media.  They have the quickest access to the actual facts of what has happened.  They have the most direct connection to the people who are actually responsible for the events we hear about.

We don’t need stories.  We need facts, and journalists remain our best and most effective way to get them.

This is Who Nintendo Labo is For

Posted in Grumblings with tags , on April 23, 2018 by chemiclord

When Nintendo Labo was announced, it received a mixed response, especially from the “hardcore gaming” world, bemoaning that this wasn’t at all for them, and who Nintendo was trying to cater to with such a childish toy.

Meet Jack.

Jack’s always been a creative sort.  There’s been more than one occasion where he has joined Fred and I at a convention booth, and just started cranking out drawing after drawing, or conjuring Frankenstein’s Monster-esque Lego contraptions, or… paper craft steering wheels for Mario Kart 8.

And this was his excitement when the big moment finally arrived.

This is who Nintendo Labo is for.  No, it’s not for the conventional gaming community, but you know what?  That’s perfectly fine.  Not everything has to be.  Sometimes, a game (and the experience that comes with it) can be for a 9-year-old kid who likes to make stuff.

The Problem with Racist Caricatures

Posted in Grumblings on April 21, 2018 by chemiclord

I’m going to be honest.  I haven’t watched the Simpsons in forever.  The shelf life of relevance on that show expired approximately 10 years ago, and no matter how much they keep dragging that lifeless corpse onto TV every Sunday, I will continue to aggressively not watch it.

However, I am keenly aware with Chief Wahoo.

Give me a moment to connect these two.

Chief Wahoo is, to put it bluntly, the atrociously racist mascot of the Cleveland Indians.

This guy.

Image result for chief wahoo

And this guy.

Image result for chief wahoo history

And this guy, for posterity’s sake.

Image result for chief wahoo history

The sort of mascot that makes white people think it’s okay to do stuff like this to defend it against its removal.

(And don’t even get me started with the Washington Redskins.  At least “Indians” isn’t a gross ethnic slur.)

The fervor against Chief Wahoo has been steadily boiling over, and it’s been engendering a steadily rising push back, centered around a defense that the Simpsons effectively invoke when finally confronted about their own little racist caricature that they’ve been running with for twenty years.

Yep.  The Simpsons asked the same stupid question that Cleveland Indians fans have asked repeatedly as the anger towards Chief Wahoo has stirred ever hotter.

“Why weren’t you upset about this years ago?”

It’s a dumb question because the answer is simple.  They were.  You just didn’t want to listen, so you tuned it out.  Now, thanks to social media amplifying even the quietest of voices, you can’t get away with it any more.  Now you have to face your casual racism, and you don’t like it.

I say, too bad.

To the writers of the Simpsons, do better.  To the Cleveland Indians, get rid of Chief Wahoo.  This is only hard because you want to pretend it is.

(I’d chastise the Washington team, but history has proven Dan Snyder is beyond shame.)

 

It’s Been A While…

Posted in Grumblings on April 15, 2018 by chemiclord

Yep, I know it’s been forever and a day since I updated, so as an apology, I suppose I should do something for the five readers I have.

Here; take a look at what I’ve been slowly working on, little snippets from my last title in the Endgames series, The Isle of Donne.

Khufu DebutKhufu Debut 2BubbleBuffalo

On The Best Last Jedi…

Posted in Grumblings on December 17, 2017 by chemiclord

Some of you might remember my review of The Force Awakens.  If you don’t, that’s okay.  I had to look it up myself to remember I said this:

The problem, for me, is that I don’t think Star Wars movies are really my thing anymore.

I was wrong.  Good Lord alive, was I wrong, and I’ve not been happier to admit that.

The Last Jedi (and I say this without hyperbole) challenges the throne that The Empire Strikes Back currently holds in my line of succession to the best Star Wars film.  It was damn near everything I wanted to see, which is remarkable considering is also contained everything I thought I didn’t like about what had become the Star Wars formula.

Picture taking one of those Millenium Falcon LEGO sets, but instead built something that looked like something from the Star Wars universe, but wasn’t like anything built before.  That’s what The Last Jedi felt like to me; Rian Johnson took all the parts of the Star Wars formula, then rearranged them, twisted them about, and somehow built a marvelously coherent film out of all those pieces that shouldn’t have been able to fit together.  The way he managed to take many of the universe’s tropes, invert them, then in some cases turn ’em around straight at the end were brilliant.

In fact, the only criticism I really have for the film was that some of the callbacks to earlier films kinda felt wedged in and forced, as if Johnson was trying to keep in the good graces of people who liked the way Star Wars has traditionally been done.

And I also thought the sort of meta-theme that played through the film resonated with me.  The fandom has deified the original trilogy in many ways; the series we remember isn’t so much what it actually was as much as what we want it to be.  How easily you accept that will likely determine just how much you enjoy this film.

If you had been waiting for the movie to shake up the formula and dare to deviate from what Star Wars is supposed to be, you’re going to love this film.  If you prefer that traditional formula, you’re probably not going to enjoy it as much.

For me?  I couldn’t recommend it enough.  The Last Jedi isn’t just a great Star Wars movie.  It’s an excellent film completely on its own merits.

 

With Friends Like These…

Posted in Grumblings with tags , on November 10, 2017 by chemiclord

And now we can add Louis C.K. to the list of despicable men who have used their position and their fame to do disgusting things to women that didn’t dare ruin their careers by speaking out.

And while it’s bad enough that this is just another example of the systemic misogyny that plagues Hollywood (can we admit that this is a big problem in our entertainment industry now?), Louis C.K. joins Joss Whedon as someone who was supposedly one of feminism’s biggest allies in the industry.

As reported by the New York Times; https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/09/arts/television/louis-ck-sexual-misconduct.html

Ever wonder why women are always so suspicious of anyone who sounds like they support them?  People like this are the reason why.  Louis C.K. loved to say all the right things (I once noted that he could get away with a lot of seemingly sexist and racist comedy themes because he knew how to turn it around on himself, and that his “credit was good” on those topics).

And turns out he was as bankrupt as Harvey Weinstein.  It would be tough to absorb if there wasn’t a resigned “of course” about it all.  It’s no longer a surprise… these revelations are almost to be expected.

Sad thing is… it didn’t have to be this way.  When these rumors first began swirling, had Louis’s present been different from Louis past, he could have met them head on, acknowledged what had happened, and been a lesson about how people can grow and change over time.  Instead, by hiding behind the anonymity of the accusers, he allowed doubt and scorn to be turned on said accusers… which might have been the idea, really.

Hard not to look back and see Louis’s actions during all of this as an intimidation technique.  “Look at what society is going to do to you if you ever come forward and put a name to what I did to you.”  It’s an insidious implied threat and fortunately, at least in this case, society didn’t have this man’s back any longer.

On a purely personal level, this is very disappointing.  He was a brilliant performer, and had an amazing ability to turn the despicable and/or irrational behaviors of those in power on himself to deliver a message that was equal parts informing and comedic.

One of his best pieces that still had me chuckling the last time I watched it about a month ago is this one:

Now?  Well, it’s just further evidence of that age old axiom among creators.

“You write what you know.”