New Game Minus

I just got Dragon’s Dogma, which basically means for the next month I’ll only be leaving the house for work and buying groceries. Mostly I got it because it was free on PS+ and I was hoping for some kind of hybrid of fighting game combat and RPG adventuring like I mentioned here. I didn’t get my wish, but I do still like the game.

The combat so far reminds me of Dynasty Warriors. There are special moves but mostly I’m hacking and slashing over and over. Possibly I should try out the rogue or the mage. I’ve only had one God of War fight against a gigantic beast and I was mostly wondering what the hell was going on, after which I won. Fights don’t seem especially difficult yet so I’m thinking I’ll try Hard mode. On a scale of one to ten, ten being Tekken‘s online mode, I would rate the combat difficulty as a three.

However, the game is still pretty damn fun. I’m a sucker for RPGs, especially the open world type, and this hits that sweet spot of stamp collecting and mathematical progression. It’s not a game for playing for short periods, though, you need several hours to properly get into the groove.

The pawn system is great, at least in theory. Your character has a sidekick and can also hire more minions, which are actually the sidekicks created by other players. Pawns only level up when their creator plays so you’re forced to keep replacing your employees. However, most players either half-ass the design of their pawns or they should be arrested for crimes against fashion. I was up until 1 AM last night looking for pawns to hire and I freely admit I was entirely superficial in my hiring criteria. “Too fat. Too short. Name has numbers in it. Outfit looks like shit.”

Speaking of which, who else out there just got Dragon’s Dogma on PS+? Because I hereby propose a pawn exchange. Someone hire my pawn, I spent a long time customizing her to get the right look. She’s a Strider with only the basic gear so far, but I love her like my own daughter. I release her into your care.

PSN: Armacen

You’re not Alexander the Great

Gameological alerted me to this peculiar project to create even more crappily written novellas based on video games released for the Nintendo Entertainment System console. Well, there’s nothing demanding that the submissions be terrible but apparently the original editions were really bad. I wondered exactly what kinds of stories would be submitted so I started looking through lists of NES games, then one thing led to another and before I knew it I was writing a fanfic for Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out. An excerpt:

Mike versus Mac

Most of the people reading this weren’t alive during the Moon landings. Most of the people reading this weren’t alive during the Kennedy assassination. A few might be too young to remember 9/11. Somehow, history refuses to be conveniently accessed. Somehow, history happens without us being there.

I think about this as I drive through Los Angeles on my way to a certain house in Carson. Most of the people in the neighbourhood are Filipino, and I even pass Jollibee, a restaurant franchise which has almost all of its locations in the Philippines. Finally I pull into the driveway of a modest home and before I even open my car door the owner comes out and shakes my hand. How are you, he asks. How was the drive?

I’ve never had an interview subject so eager to talk to me. Before I know it, I’m ushered through the house and into the den. “This is where I keep my old stuff,” says my apparent new best friend. There might have been several things on fire in that room, but I don’t notice because my eyes are drawn to a poster on the wall. It’s screaming about a boxing match set for October 5, 1987. Two men, one white, one black, face off with grim determination. Mike versus Mac, it says. The Battle of the Decade.

We’ll see if my inspiration will continue. I’ll have to read some Sports Illustrated articles to check the writing style.

Edit: Hmm, I hadn’t realized how much of a first draft this was but it really needs some revision. Still, the seed has been planted, I just need to build on this.

Hail to the King

You catch a clan member stealing food - what do you do?

I’ve recently gotten into the computer game King of Dragon Pass. You play as the chieftain of a clan of Iron Age barbarians. It’s set in a fantasy universe with dragons and whatnot but it’s still very well-researched with regard to the attitudes and material life of your people. The broad mishmash of Celts/Gauls/Saxons/Norse that the game is drawing inspiration from feels realistic. Wealth is measured in cattle and you must continually propitiate the gods for political legitimacy. Also you can do stuff like take out a lawsuit on a ghost haunting a house.

The game society’s gendered division of power is not so overwhelmingly patriarchal but it doesn’t feel like a sop to political correctness. The way it’s presented in the game feels perfectly plausible and shows that the developers studied their history and/or anthropology. Using female slaves as currency like the Irish did would have been kind of interesting, though – "You want misogyny? Have some goddamn misogyny you unwashed neckbeards!" I imagine the developers shouting.

It’s a very unique take and practically a game in its own genre. How does one classify this? A strategy roleplaying fantasy game, perhaps? There are no real time elements and when you’re not picking what crops to plant then you’re just clicking on choices in dialogue trees. But the roleplaying narrative the game creates for you is so involving that you feel the need to keep going just to see how your clan will fare.

Still, despite my enjoyment, lately I’ve plateaued on the game. I’ll be back and at it soon enough, though. There are trolls out there that need slaughtering, and who else is going to do it?

Roma Victor

Redeemed: Attain 100% in the Single Player Game Completion Stat

So I’ve finished everything that can be finished in the single player campaign of Red Dead Redemption. I feel hollow inside, like I’ve gained nothing but a temporary and meaningless accomplishment. I must play more video games to distract me from this realization.

Quo vadis?

In case anyone was wondering what I’ve been up to. Did you know Red Dead Redemption lets you hog-tie an innocent woman and leave her on some train tracks to get run over? And you can also capture the entire population of a small town and leave them wriggling in impotent desperation while a train comes bearing down the tracks at them?

Are you fit to serve? (No.)

As part of the marketing campaign for Skyfall, the new James Bond movie, Sony Entertainment has released a browser-based text adventure game which is ostensibly a test to see if the player has the right stuff to become a spy for British intelligence. The last time games of this type were popular was in the 1980’s so it’s rather nostalgic to be playing this (admittedly, I’ve only played pure text adventure games as part of my retro-gaming hipster nostalgia freakery).

Still, it’s easy to forget that computers are goddamned stupid and are nowhere near ready to take commands phrased in natural language. Case in point:

Comprehension test: FAILED

AGENT: What’s my first move?

YOU: Hold on

AGENT: We have all day.

AGENT: It’s not like we have a problem with weapons of mass destruction in a Caribbean holiday resort to figure out.

AGENT: Anything like that.

YOU: Pull both white wires out at once

AGENT: Be as clear as you can. Appreciated.

YOU: Pull the white wires

AGENT: NO. Cutting wires at random is my last option. Want others first. Don’t care if you’re an expert. You’re not HERE. Ideas. Fast.

YOU: Call the bomb squad

AGENT: Device right in front of me. Five wires and a USB port. How to handle this?

YOU: Err

AGENT: Keep it simple. Say again.

TIME PENALTY: FIRST WARNING

YOU: Throw it into the river

AGENT: We’ve got the bomb. It’s even nastier in the flesh. Check the photo I sent and then advise me on how to proceed.

YOU: Plug the tablet into the USB port

AGENT: I can try plugging the tablet in. One second.

AGENT: Interesting. It’s displaying … hang on, I’ll transfer an image.

YOU: You need to pull out the white wires

AGENT: Explain your plan first. I’m not starting cutting until I know where we’re going with this.

YOU: The white wires are the main ones

AGENT: So you mean … actually, what do you mean?

YOU: THE WHITE ONES ARE IMPORTANT. CUT THEM

AGENT: No savvy. Re-state?

YOU: Cut the white wires NOW

AGENT: If you think you’ve figured out the image, tell me what you think it means. Then I’ll start cutting.

YOU: It means that all the coloured wires lead to the white one

AGENT: Not sure I understand. Put that another way?

YOU: The white one is the important wire

AGENT: Be as clear as you can. Appreciated.

YOU: The white wires power the bomb

AGENT: Put that another way? Sorry.

YOU: The colored wires aren’t important

AGENT: You’re right. The colours in the picture do match the wires. What do you think we should do?

YOU: Cut the white wires

AGENT: Sounds like you’ve got a plan. Spell it out. Don’t just tell me to start cutting wires.

YOU: CUT THE WHITE WIRES. THAT IS THE PLAN

AGENT: What’s your thinking? Not just going to cut arbitrary wires.

YOU: The white wires are key. You need to cut them first

AGENT: In other words…?

YOU: In other words, if you cut them the bomb won’t go off

AGENT: Keep it simple. Say again.

YOU: BOMB NO EXPLODEY IF WHITE WIRES NO WORKY

AGENT: Try and be concise.

Your progress is currently below average. The HELP command may offer ways for you to improve it.

TIME PENALTY: SECOND WARNING

YOU: Cut the white wires, because they are the important ones

AGENT: So you mean … actually, what do you mean?

YOU: The white wires detonate the bomb. Cut them

AGENT: Break that down for me once more. Please?

YOU: Forget it. You deserve to die

AGENT: So… put that another way?

This is my rifle, this is my gun

I’m kind of obsessed with playing Dust 514 right now. It’s a multiplayer game set in a distant science fictional future where you get to shoot other people. It’s also got aspects of role-playing games in it and I’m a complete sucker for the Skinner box reward structure of the genre, what with all the numbers and flashy virtual items you get awarded for doing stuff. I cannot say more than that, since the game is still in closed beta and I’m bound by the pesky Non-Disclosure Agreement.

I can say that I’ve discovered a second level to the game beyond mere violence and statistics. On the game’s online forums I’ve now started dropping as much homoerotic innuendo as possible into my posts. All the misspellings and competitive posturing can get rather tiresome so now I’m seeing how many times I can insert phallic imagery into my replies.

For level 2 of this meta-game I think I’ll see how well I can make subtle connections between fighting other players and having sex with their avatars. “Have you ever been penetrated by another player’s hot lead injection and been disappointed that you couldn’t return the favour?”

Well, we’ll see how it goes.

Where have you been, Billy boy, Billy boy?

Where have you been, darling Billy?

Dear god, I practiced that tune more times than I can remember on the piano. With the span of years separating me from those times, however, I’ve come to reconsider my grudging resignation to playing the piano and wouldn’t mind messing around on one again. However, now I don’t have a piano to practice on.  Isn’t that just how it goes?

Oh, and in answer to the question, I’ve been playing Red Dead Redemption. Yes, I know it’s two years old. I don’t care. It’s new to me and it was a lot cheaper than when it was new to everyone else, plus it’s way more fun because a lot of the bugs have been fixed by now. The breadth of actions you can do in this game are astonishing. For example, you can tie a woman to some train tracks, but there won’t be any snivelling heroes to interfere and you can pretend to twirl your moustache while you watch a train run her over. You can also do that to anyone who tries to steal your horse, though it’s not as satisfying, but if you punish the no-good horse rustler more appropriately by lassoing them and dragging them to their death as you gallop over the plains you end up losing honour points. I think my favourite thing right now is to hogtie everyone in a saloon and stand around listening to them shout impotent threats at you, then calmly walking away to hunt some deer or something.

Also, when I’m not playing that I’m playing the beta for Dust 514. Also fun, but in a different, kill-other-players-who-are-trying-to-kill-you way. I’m not sure how much leeway the beta’s Non-Disclosure Agreement allows me to say so I’ll just leave it at that.

So yeah, video games. Yeehaw.

Nick Carraway, Action Hero

The Great Gatsby - Press Start

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ever wonder what The Great Gatsby would have been like as a mid-80s Japanese video game? Yeah, neither have I. But a couple of enterprising chaps have answered the question that was burning in no one’s mind. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. The fake manual and fictional provenance propels it further into the heights of absurdity, but the cut scene where Gatsby teleports while gazing at the green light from Daisy’s house is already sublime in its awful glory.

You’ve got to love the fact that you have to fight Meyer Wolfsheim’s Jewish gangsters along with hobos, flappers, and the Black Sox. But where is the ghost of the Dutchman from? I don’t remember that from the book, but admittedly I haven’t read it in a long while.

Video game trivia: the titular character of The Legend of Zelda video game series was named after Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald, wife of dear old Francis Scott.

EDIT:

Holy crap, some company made Gatsby into an adventure game. It’s not a parody like the game above, it’s an actual thing that’s supposed to make money and everything. It looks like one of those classic inventory games where you click on everything trying to find the object you need to solve the puzzle you’re stuck on. Pretty pictures and you even have a GOSSIP action, but I wonder if the game makers kept Tom’s fascination with racist literature?

The pic is from the adventure game, not the parody from above