Murderous Big Sisters And Kawaii High School Girls

I’m still spending way too much money on worthless junk, but I have cut down somewhat from my first week of being back in the black.  Whereas last week I spent about $200 on stuff, this week I spent about $110.

Who were the lucky purveyors of fine entertainment who managed to weasel yet more cash out of this student?  Bioshock 2 and two animes from Kyoto Animation.

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If you only have one Agenda this year, make it a Global one

The first week of Spring 2010 has thus far been punctuated by miserable failure.  Nevermind that my homework isn’t particularly completed — the first week largely being an orientation week, it wasn’t particularly assigned, either.

No, I’m more concerned that I spent perhaps a quarter of a budget that was intended to last me 5 months on a week.  Some of this was for my books, which is commendable enough.  The rest largely went to eating out (a decidedly lazy habit of mine) and entertainment expenses.

I’ve plenty to entertain me already, and could probably entertain myself regardless, and therefore any entertainment purchase is hard to justify.  However, I like to think that, at least as far as entertainment expenses go, I’ve been frugal:

  • $55 on some Zalman headphones, very well reviewed and probably the cheapest way to get some reasonably good quality 5.1 sound (outside of crafting your own with potentially poor results).
  • ~$45 on a Dungeons and Dragons Online, but on things that will persist forever rather than become inaccessible in after only 3 months of $15/mo subscription payments.
  • ~$60 on Mass Effect 2 which, as far as I’m concerned, is a mandatory gamers’ purchase on a magnitude that may be seen maybe twice in a year.
  • And then there’s ~$45 I spent on Global Agenda, a soon-to-be-released game from Hi-Rez Studios… which is, of course, what I’d like to talk about today.

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MMORPGs: No longer monthly subscription material

Though I have blogged in the past about how I found it to be an encouraging sign that Dungeons and Dragons Online was going free to play, only now after I have had a chance to play it a bit do I really realize just how significant this is for me.  It really has more to do with where MMORPGs are in gamers’ lives these days.

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“The Path” Travelled

As I approached the end of Fall 2009 semester, I was tasked to put together a 12 minute presentation (I opted to do a video) for my Art and Technology class.  It went poorly – I was lucky to escape from class with a grade of C on the basis of having done good work prior to my final. In retrospect, I think I may have sabotaged myself.

Nevermind my senioritus had pushed my procrastination into chronic levels, the problem in this case is that my chosen topic had a subconscious ulterior motive.  I thought I was trying to indicate that, within the purely digital realm of computer game creation, there was an unbridled basis for the imagination to create.   What I was actually subconsciously doing was telling Modern Art that, even if I understood well enough to write some good reflections on it, I disagreed with much of it, I thought many examples were being overly vague and pretentious, and was demonstrating that far superior work could be found even in popular video games.

Unless the class is being taught by Andy Rooney, you can expect that to go over very poorly in a Fine Arts class.

You might say that it’s not entirely fair, and it’s a matter of taste, and perhaps you’re right. But then, what if you’re not? To accept bad taste as a new taste would imply that there’s no such thing as good taste – something a modern artist is quick to deny, but can they prove it?

What I do know for certain is, as far as personal taste is concerned, I prefer a bit more reason to my rhymes. I prefer masterpieces, like an opera, not some stoned guy recording himself talk on camera. To be deliberately illogical and vague in order for people to make up their own interpretations and buy it strikes me as dishonest.

Much like my final presentation, when you never knew what you were attempting to communicate, you’re only mumbling, and have no right to earn acclaim for what people think they heard. Perhaps the dividing line is there, as how else can they rate your ability to present a message than to compare what was received with what you were trying to send?

Today, I discovered a game that blurred the lines even for someone who would so clearly (if callously) define them such as myself.   This is The Path, developed by Belgian Tale of Tales

It is generally served up as “a short horror game.”  Indeed, it is capable of generating some pretty nerve-wracking moments, as it does everything in its power to unchain the player’s’ imaginations before hinting them towards macabre thoughts.  However, it does not seek to simply frighten, it is really more along the lines of modern interactive fiction.

The Path spins the tale of Red Riding Hood from the perspective of six sisters, chosen to embark through the forest to their grandmother’s house one sister at a time.  To heed your instructions and follow that path directly to Grandma’s house produces a boring-but-safe-result, and is branded a failure.  For a Red to succeed in The Path, she must leave the path and find the Wolf.

As far as being a game is concerned, The Path would seem relatively weak. Though it is beautiful both in terms of environment and the interface and has dynamic music accompaniment, it seems boggled down with pacing issues and you can get stuck on invisible walls. Controls often feel sluggish and, given the surreal backdrop of the forest, it is sometimes difficult to see.

However, much of this is planned, because The Path deliberately confuses, obstructs, disorients, and mystifies. Though it may resemble an adventure game, items collected are never used, but rather shed light on each Red’s personality, which is both the backbone of the game and completely optional. Even the scoring screen generated at the end of each chapter is done tongue-in-cheek.

Like Modern Art, The Path defies interpretation. I would interpret the 6 Reds as being the past selves of the grandmother (who is apparently on her death bed) remembering her life, dreaming of one last adventure, while making peace with the past. Another person would interpret the 6 Reds as being real individuals with everything else being a metaphorical symbol of their coming of age and/or enduring personal tragedies. These are only two of many possible interpretations.

Would that I had only found The Path prior to giving my presentation!  Here is a game that bears much of the earmarks of Fine Art while simultaneously being so well done that I could not accuse it of being pretentious trash. I probably could have focused completely on it for my 12 minute presentation and have met the mutual satisfaction of myself and the Fine Arts class.   Oh well, that’s retrospect for you.

Merry Recession-mas!

Being a full-time college/university student for a little over 4 years now, I really learned to pinch my pennies. That shiny $60 game released today may well be worth $20 a few months from now if you’re willing to wait it out. Instant gratification is all well and good… but there’s something to be said for frugality.

My current favorite of the lot: Mechanarium.   Sure, completable in one evening, but a real feast for the senses and with puzzles that are just right in terms of difficulty.

Indeed, between Direct2Drive’s “21 days of Christmas” sale and Steam’s Holiday sale, it has been a very good month to be a frugal gamer.  I suspect I can blame the recession for a lot of this – with everyone’s wallets being a bit tighter, purveyors of fine digital entertainment have been forced to make compromises.  Some of the more interesting deals I picked up:

  • Genre-rocking immersive behemoth Grand Theft Auto IV for $7.50 (75% off).
  • Quality medieval games Drakensang and Mount and Blade for $5.00 apiece.  (Over 80% off,)
  • Excellent indy games Audiosurf and Braid for $5 each.  (75-80% off).
  • Innovative if forgettable genre breaker Mirror’s Edge for $5.00 (75% off).
  • Indy city builder/RPG hybrid Hinterland: Orc Lords $6.50 (75% off).
  • A city builder RTS with RPG undertones, Majesty 2: The Fantasy Kingdom Sim for $7.50. (75% off)
  • Turn-based strategy RPG hybrid King’s Bounty: Armored Princess for $9.99 (75% off).

In addition to the “wow” deals above, I also pulled some pretty decent 50% off deals such as:

  • Quite good indy-made Mechanarium and Torchlight for $10 apiece.
  • Behemoths of yesteryear, Prototype and Command And Conquer Red Alert 3 (including Uprising expansion) for $20 apiece.
  • Quality indy adventure games of Samorost 2 and a package of Zombie Cow adventure games (“Ben There, Dan That!” and “Time, Gentlemen, Please!”) for $2.50 apiece.

This is to say nothing for the gifts I received this year, including the complete Lucasarts adventure pack, Red Faction: Guerrilla, Borderlands Zombie Island DLC, and Left4Dead 2.

Overall, my gaming cup runneth over once again. Through, like many aspiring game designers, most of these games won’t get more than a few hours of play from me, it seems I’ve now a goodly amount of research materials.

A Matter Of Process

In some ways, I’m a pretty experienced BYOND programmer. In other ways, as is made clear from time to time, I’m an incredible newbie.

After wracking my brains to produce something simple since Wednesday, I’ve decided that my trouble is actually this: I’ve been trying to experiment within the confines of BYOND and a text document. Why is that trouble? Because it’s an incredibly inefficient method that ultimately serves only to sap one’s motivation and kill the project.

While you can just dabble with BYOND and see what you come up with, and maybe be pleasantly surprised with the result, it’s better to look at programming as just explaining what you want to the computer. The reason why having a completed design first is necessary is because if you don’t know what you really want, you won’t know what you’re explaining to the computer.

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2009 For Me Is Wrapping Up

As common knowledge would indicate, failure to update this blog regularly would result in the world stopping spinning, causing the Earth to heat disproportionately and bring about the end times.

Thus, out of the great responsibilities this brings to me, I am creating a blog entry about my easiest of topics: what I’ve been up to since the last blog entry.
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