Archive for the Grumblings Category

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.

 

On Two Americas…

Posted in Grumblings on January 23, 2019 by chemiclord

(Note: I am going to be coarse.  If you can’t handle strong language, don’t continue.)

Boy, do we have a lovely clusterfuck of bullshit here, don’t we?

On one hand, we have a group of teenagers who intentionally dressed themselves up like they were going to a Trump rally, then walked around the nation’s capitol knowing it would irritate, anger, and cause all sorts of trouble.

They got exactly what they were looking for.

On another hand, we have the “Black Israelites,” a group notorious for being intentionally abrasive and hateful, going to the nation’s capitol looking to make a scene.

They also got exactly what they were looking for.

Then finally, we have a Native American military veteran, looking for an opportunity to get his cause in the spotlight.

He got exactly what he was looking for as well.

Then, to top off this wonderful attention whore salad, comes the dressing of a media desperate to be “first” rather than “correct”, managing to piss off everyone, first by missrepresenting damn near everything about the confrontation, then by rolling back on the parts that actually were correct in an effort to appear objective (rather than actually be objective in the first place).

But let’s not fool ourselves, and let the general American public off the hook either.  The parties above do this shit because they know that eyeballs, clicks, purchases, and attention follow.  I’m guilty too.  I bit hard myself.  Not so much that I was wrong about any of the boys (because they were being glorious shitheels no matter how much they want to tell the world they were provoked), but now I’m a shitheel myself because I didn’t wait for the whole story.

It’s become another example of the Divided States of America, and the naked contempt and resentment each side has for the other becomes more stark with each passing day and each event where people rush to be noticed and the country rushes to notice them.

Will we learn our lesson?  I hope so… because I don’t think anyone really wants what will be the result of continuing to escalate the divide.

The Viral Meme Process

Posted in Grumblings on January 17, 2019 by chemiclord

Provided without any context whatsoever.

  1. Initial Infection: The meme expands rapidly, as like minded people quickly try and get on board with showing their ass to the world.
  2. Antibody Production: The meme inevitably winds up in the crosshairs of those who feel ridiculed or disagree with the meme, pushback immediately follows as they are determined that the world sees their ass as well.
  3. Mutation: Meme has now reached peak saturation, and now everyone insists that everyone else respect their proudly displayed ass.  Irony is also at maximum as it is impossible for anyone to see any other ass… due to their heads being firmly lodged up their own.
  4. Dormancy: Eventually either the masses realize how incredibly stupid the meme actually is, or a different meme catches their attention (the latter is far more common than the former).  Meme is mostly forgotten as everybody pulls their pants back up in preparation for the next opportunity to show their ass.
  5. Relapse: Some memes reinfect the population, though in most cases they are limited in scope and only to incite groans from an inoculated population.  In rare cases however, the meme takes off again as the masses remember how much fun it was to show everyone their ass.

On The Price of Games…

Posted in Grumblings with tags , , , on October 30, 2018 by chemiclord

In a post made just a few days ago, I made the comment that gamers were part of the reason why the financial environment of games it so terrible.  And I want to expand on that, because just that throwaway sentence in and of itself comes across as a bit unfair.

Jim Sterling (I guess you could call him a gaming pundit) has an excellent video on the topic of game cover prices.  You should watch it if you haven’t already, because it offers a lot of good counterpoints and context for what I’m going off about here.

 

First, what is he correct about? He’s absolutely right that adjusting the cover price of games won’t stop the predatory practices “AAA” publishers do now.  The toothpaste is already out of the tube, and there’s no getting it back in.

He’s also correct that worrying about major “AAA” titles going the way of mobile pricing is too little, too late.  We’re by and large already there.

But I also think he makes the same sort of mistake most pundits of most disciplines make; focusing too heavily on the top and the bottom of the food chain, and wind up ignoring the middle.

Right now, independent studios have one of two choices; either they stick to budget “retro-styled” titles that require little development costs, or they sell their souls to a major publisher.  You don’t hear more and more tales of big publishers buying studios whole hog because these studios want to be wage slaves to a big soulless corporate entity… it’s because unless they want to keep making titles that look like they came out of RPG Maker, they have to.

The independent studio is basically extinct at this point because it simply isn’t financially solvent to be in operation… and a large part of that is because a $60 price point for a modern styled game that doesn’t have huge financial backing is too massive a risk for any potential indie studio to make.

The profit margin for the sort of game Sterling wants is so paper thin that one title that doesn’t sell like gangbusters means that studio is dead.  Good luck finding too many people willing to take that chance.

There’s no salvaging AAA publishers at this point, and we really need to stop trying to shame them into doing the right thing.  If we want the sort of deep, immersive titles of old, we’re going to need to be willing to pay more for them.  That’s where the games we remember could potentially be found… but if we don’t show the willingness to support those attempts by putting more up front, the studios that might be willing to take that chance aren’t going to.

And that is something we have stubbornly and petulantly refused to do for nearly two decades at this point.  Then we wonder and complain why things keep getting worse.

Gamers are What’s Wrong with Gaming

Posted in Grumblings with tags , , , , on October 27, 2018 by chemiclord

I want to say this first; I would, by the colloquial definition of the term, be a “gamer” myself.  So as I unload here, I do so knowing that I am a part and contributor to this environment.

I write this in the aftermath of the revelations of extreme “crunch” (for the non-gamers among my readers, it’s overtime in the same way that Hafthor Bjornsson is a weight-lifter) at Rockstar Games as they pushed to make the publishing deadline for their latest title, Red Dead Redemption 2.

Now, the extreme levels of crunch that R* demanded of its developers earned itself a great deal of flack and scorn from a broad swath of gamers… who then promptly rushed out on release day and rewarded the company for the abuse of their developers by buying the game “Day 1” by the truckload.

Because publishers know that gamers’ words of support for developers are emptier than John Stumpf’s soul.  Publishers will continue to abuse their developers without any real concern of reprisal because they know damn well by now that given the choice between actually supporting developers, or beating them like mules to get their games five months earlier, that gamers would crack that whip themselves if they had the opportunity.

Because gamers are what’s wrong with gaming.  We are the Patient Zero of all of the industry’s problems.  Every single terrible, predatory, abusive behavior on the part of publishers and studio management can be directly Point A to Point B traced to some shitty behavior or actions on the part of the industry’s consumers.

Publishers impose crunch because they know the absolute biggest sin for gamers is to delay a title.  Hell, we live in a society where a reporter got threatened because he reported a potential delay.  That dude was only the fuckin’ messenger.  What do ya think happens to developers of a delayed game?

And before that, what was the big source of outrage before Rockstar’s “crunch” controversy?  Lootboxes and other microtransactions bilking us of our money.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  It is predatory bullshit.  It is disgusting how much money they are making basically selling the equivalent of e-lottery tickets that you (mostly) can’t actually get any monetary winnings on.

But at the end of the day, this mess is the direct result of gamers repeatedly losing their shit every single time the industry tried to raise cover prices, and as such publishers decided they needed to get creative to get the profits they were looking for.  And now that they are making more money than half of the world’s nations, suddenly they don’t need to raise prices.

Good job, us.  All because we couldn’t accept that $60 in 1990 wasn’t the same as $60 in 2010.  We sure showed them!

Hell, we are a community so entitled that we have people comfortable enough to suggest without irony that laid-off developers for a studio that wasn’t even going to honor the contracts they had with those employees should work for fucking free to finish the game.

And don’t even get me started on the culture of toxicity that makes gaming or game developing as a woman such a unique hell that Dante Alighieri, if he were still alive, would have felt compelled to wedge it somewhere between his sixth and seventh circle.

And yes, I’m sure that these latter examples are all “minorities” of the community.  But ya know what isn’t?  The millions upon millions of people who despite knowing about people being worked up to “100 hours” for months on end still said, “But… my games…” and made Rockstar’s management a whole ton of bonuses.

Because we are the problem, and I’m kinda tired of hearing us claim we care about solutions.