Archive for the Grumblings Category

Thoughts on Fire Emblem: Three Houses

Posted in Grumblings on August 8, 2019 by chemiclord

A handful of performance issues and some painful lack of anti-aliasing are the only real quibbles I have technically for what is truly a masterful title with a LOT of replayability. When Nintendo claimed there was 200 hours of content in this game, they (perhaps unbelievably) might have been UNDER-selling it.

Narratively, it is a BIT basic in the sense that there’s no REAL massive surprises in that no one side of the struggle is entirely right, and it’s a type of structuring that we’ve seen many times before in games. But Three Houses excels in the execution of that framework. Regardless of the path you choose, and regardless of the perspectives you’ve experienced before, it is very easy to become wholly invested on the path in front of you.

The only quibble I have is that the real “villains” of the story seem to exist only to be villains. They don’t seem to have any particularly compelling reason to be in the story at all other than to do terrible things that no one else would do. It felt entirely unnecessary, and I feel like the game should have either committed to them or cut them entirely.

All in all, there is nothing that Fire Emblem: Three Houses does that hasn’t really been done before in the medium. There’s nothing that I felt was completely unique or original, either in the technical presentation, the gameplay, or the story. However, it DOES put those pieces together in exceptional fashion, and anyone who likes these sort of turn-based style RPGs should enjoy this game immensely.

For people who have never experienced the series before (because it had been a handheld exclusive series), there really is no better way to introduce yourself to it. It earns every bit of a 9/10 and I would recommend it to any RPG fan without reservation.

On Punching the Mirror

Posted in Grumblings on June 17, 2019 by chemiclord

“See how my knuckles are bruised?  That’s because every time I wake up in the morning, I punch that asshole in the bathroom mirror.”

The self-jab works on two levels; one because my knuckles actually are a bit discolored when compared to the rest of my hand (naturally, for the record), and two because there’s a part of me where it’s a very accurate sentiment.

It’s something I’ve had to come to terms with over the decades; that there is a part of me that will never be content or satisfied with anything I accomplish.  To that part of me, I will always be an unmitigated failure.  If by some miracle I were to win the most prestigious prizes in all of literature and have widespread worldwide acclaim, that self-loathing part of myself would scoff for not having accomplished it sooner.

It’s not quite the same drive that pushes motivated people to ever greater heights.  This is a destructive self-hatred that seeks to tear myself down.  It’s not that fear of failure that serves as a motivator for some people.  It’s an expectation of failure that can make preparing for a project a million times tougher, and attempts to be a suffocating blanket on anything I finish.

It’s not even a professional self-loathing either.  It creeps into my social interactions too.  Someone wants to talk to me?  Oh dear, what did I do?  Someone thinks I’m interesting?  Oh, that’s just because they don’t know “the real me” yet.

It blames me for “entertaining” my mother’s emotional manipulation and “encouraging” her to embrace the role of perpetual victim.  It sneers at me for my father’s physical abuse, telling me if I hadn’t been such a lazy fuck-up as a child that I would have never been beaten, and that he never really beat me up that bad anyway.

It’s been such a constant presence since I was still a preteen that it feels normal to me.  I’m not sure I would even be me without that self-hating shitheel hovering in my thoughts.

I’m loathe to call it depression, because it hasn’t actually stopped me from doing anything I’ve set out to do.  But it’s not the whispers of undefined “doubters” that inspires me to what I allegedly can’t, either.  It’s both less than that, and more.

How do I handle it?  I guess I don’t really.  It’s a malice that demands to be heard, even as it is powerless at the end of the day.  So I let it say its piece to my headspace, even if it might slow me down initially.  It can be a real fight.

But it’s not a fight I’ve lost yet.

And Another Sacrifice…

Posted in Grumblings with tags , , , , on June 9, 2019 by chemiclord

… to the altar of cheap games.

Double Fine, indie developer of Pyschonauts fame, is indie no longer, having reached an agreement to be bought by Microsoft Studios.

Now, if you’ve read some of my earlier comments on the state of gaming, it shouldn’t surprise you that I don’t blame Double Fine for this.  This is a move they simply have to make.  The profit margins for games at the price point gamers demand are too thin unless you have deep pockets willing to take the risk of potential failure.

Double Fine wasn’t some trash studio.  If they can’t make it on their own, then there is something very, very fundamentally wrong with the market they were trying to work in.

To those gamers who are inevitably going to complain about another studio “selling out,” we are the problem.  We need to be willing to spend more up front.  Period.

So… Where To Now?

Posted in Grumblings on May 7, 2019 by chemiclord

As you are reading this… I am at long last (about a year later than I would have liked) finished with the primary draft of The Isle of Donne.  Granted, still have some editing and some cover art to finish up, but the brunt of the work (on my end at least) is done.

It’s almost hard to believe that I’ve put in roughly 6 years of my life to this series, and definitely more actual development time than anything I had done before.  It really has become a part of my life, and as a result that I’m effectively finished with it is a bit hard to wrap my brain around.

These last few days have been my first sort of “vacation” from writing since then, the first time in years that I haven’t had my word processor and/or story board open in front of me, and while the break was probably needed… it felt wrong somehow.  Like I was missing a part of me.

So, I think that is me telling myself it’s time to get back to work.  But on what?

Yeah, I’m not going to able to pretend I’m lost in a indecisive haze wondering what my next project will be.  I already know.  I’ve kinda already known for a year.  And as I get it more congealed, I’ll share those plans with everyone.

Okay… back to radio silence, now.  Thank you for your patience.

The Right Way to Play A Video Game…

Posted in Grumblings on March 31, 2019 by chemiclord

Rule 1: It is not your decision.

Rule 2: If there is any doubt, kindly refer to Rule #1 and pick an orifice to go fuck yourself in.

This is something I frequently grind my gears over; the hardcore gamer who decides there is a “right way to play” and anyone else isn’t a true fan and thus deserves to be derided.

This attitude among gamers has really reared it’s ugly head with the release of FROM Software’s latest title, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, as it usually does every time FROM Software releases a title.  They are very mechanically challenging titles, and the fans of that series get very upset if you suggest that they aren’t “fair,” or don’t do things that you’re “supposed to do” like open yourself to PvP raids.

Now, this is hardly unique to Sekiro or From Software.  I’ve seen this attitude seep up like toxic waste in everything from the Fire Emblem series (if you turn permadeath off, you’re doin’ it rong), Doom (if you turn down the difficulty, you’re not playing it right), goddamn Mario games (using warp pipes if you’re not speedrunning means you’re trash), hell… I listened to an uncle get shit on for not defeating the Wizard of Frobozz properly in Zork 2 (a damn text-based puzzle game which encouraged you to find your own solution).

This isn’t hard to suss out, gamers.  You were not, are not, and never will be the arbiter for the “right way” to play any game.  And if you hold such an opinion for any game, I kindly request you to take that opinion out to the curb, because it’s garbage.

On the Layoff Epidemic in Video Games…

Posted in Grumblings on February 25, 2019 by chemiclord

To an extent, I’m not entirely surprised.  This sort of thing was a long time coming, and no, greedy executives and shareholders are not the only ones at fault.

There are a multitude of factors that lead to this collapse of the workforce, despite companies reporting “record profits.”  Yes, a very big one is shareholders who aren’t gamers trying to take an industry that really isn’t one that can work under a model of sustained growth and trying to force it into sustained growth.

In any creative field, it simply isn’t something that makes money to make money.  You are going to have lulls.  You really can’t expect even a large company of developers to be able to crank out increasingly more sales and profits every year before they start to crack and burn out.  It simply can’t happen for any prolonged period of time, even if you happen to find that one big hit that you can keep adding onto.  For every World of Warcraft there are thousands of titles that simply shouldn’t be expected to have those sort of legs.

Another huge problem is mismanagement.  When every studio starts copycat chasing whatever the flavor of the month is, you get a huge over-saturation of titles where there can really only be one or two winners.  Everything else becomes wasted money and development time, which makes shareholders unhappy.

Innovation and creative are the lifeblood of any entertainment field.  Copycat developing is the antithesis of that.  Add to that mismanagement staples like feature creep, indecision, and demands for crunch… and you have a terrific cauldron of stupidity that leads to catastrophic failure.  If you have a vision, then stick with it.  If you don’t; trust the people that do.

And finally… the fact is that the video game industry isn’t in very good financial health.  Despite Kotrick declaring “record profits,” the simple fact was that these cuts were made in anticipation of the bottom falling out.  The consequence of all this copycat developing, mismanagement, and demands for ever increasing revenues is that we have an industry where everything is built on a fragile skeleton, and the simple fact is that games simply aren’t very profitable, even with methods like DLC and microtransactions and lootboxes.

I’ve said this before… but us gamers simply aren’t spending what we need to in order to keep this industry healthy.  Expect this continue until (at the very least) we accept that $60 in 2019 isn’t the same as $60 in 1999.  We can’t expect this life to continue to grow if we insist on starving it.

Good News Everybody!

Posted in Grumblings on February 11, 2019 by chemiclord

No, this isn’t about The Isle of Donne (though I’m promise I’m very close to done with the manuscript; I’m not going GRRM on you guys).

But if you get annoyed whenever I get political on a blog space that I explicitly said I wouldn’t get terribly political on, then this is good news for you.

I’ve been invited as a contributor on the Kinja blog site Clashtalk, and so for the near future, my political commentary will no doubt be making their ears bleed, and I’ll save this site once more to my creative and narrative endeavors.

I’m so happy that I’ll be able to tragically disappoint two groups of people instead of one.  I always felt like I was falling short in that regard.