Category Archives: Games

Several topics, each better than the last.

Chainmail Bikini has announced its trek to the land of the Eternal Hiatus. Chainmail Bikini was, in and of itself, nothing too special – another comic about D&D that makes all the usual jokes about all the usual subjects. It had quality art, but its true claim to fame was being written by Shamus, who had produced the absolutely brilliant DM of the Rings.

Sadly, Chainmail Bikini never quite lived up to its predecessor  – despite having a genuine artist on board, it didn’t bring anything new to the table, and while DM of the Rings had carved out a dynamic little niche on its own, Chainmail Bikini wasn’t saying anything Knights of the Dinner Table hadn’t already said a decade earlier. Sure, the art was nicer – the art was spectacular, in fact – but as a comic entirely driven by humor, the art was also largely irrelevant. The humor itself wasn’t bad – just nothing new, and nothing strong enough to really draw in an audience.

Thus, in many ways the end of the comic almost leaves me hopeful – with this out of the way, perhaps Shamus will find himself stumbling upon a concept for another webcomic as unique and addictive as his first. He has already been doing a number of short comics at his blog, all focused around video games and the inevitable stupidities that come with said video games. From what I can tell, they’ve been funny, though my lack of video game knowledge has rendered several of them mostly inaccessible to me. Still, it definitely provides some hope for whatever he comes up with next.

Until then, however, we’ve got Darths and Droids, which has now smoothly settled into the true void left by DM of the Rings – and, 100 strips in, is going strong. Taking the Star Wars movie as its set-up, and using a game system that seems an amalgamation of all sorts of game out there, it manages to hit all the elements DMotR did… and even add one more. The “art” (screenshots) are well-chosen for maximum effect, the jokes manage to riff on both the mentality of game players and the inherent silliness of the subject matter… and it also manages to present the gamers with increasingly distinct personalities. Oh, in DMotR you had that to some extent – Legolas was played by the power-gamer, Gimli by the role-player.

But Darths and Droids has that, and also manages to make some of the characters likeable – like Sally, the younger sister of one of the players, who seems to grok roleplaying in the way that only a child’s view of make-believer really can. (And who manages to make Jar-Jar Binks an enjoyable character, even as the power-gamer playing R2-D2 makes the droid seem like a colossal jerk. Seriously, that’s impressive.)

So, what could possibly be better than a comic about a game that uses movie screenshots to tell its story?

How about a game about a comic that tells its story through… fisticuffs!

I think it is safe to say I’m excited about On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness, and rather amazed it is only a week away from launch. Even better, Penny Arcade is celebrating the occasion by producing their own prequel comic for the game. I continue to find myself amazed that they’ve captured an interesting and exciting backdrop (steampunk adventures in the 1920!) that still feels completely and fully Penny Arcadian. The same sense of whimsy, the same saucy humor.

I suspect May 21st will be a day to remember.

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Today we rant about videogames.

There is at least a non-zeo possibility this will be the ending to my NaNoWriMo story.By we, I mean I.

By videogames, I mean Neverwinter Nights 2.

I’ve just finished playing this game – a good thing, since it was the biggest hurdle in my completion of NaNoWriMo.

The game itself is quite enjoyable, by and large. Fun and engaging characters, an entertaining if unoriginal story (with a few genuinely impressive moments), and all the standard leveling and equipment joy that placates hardcore d&d players.

The problem, unfortunately, is that the game is unfinished.

It is fiddled with more bugs and glitches than I care to go into – including several ones very key to the game itself, such as the AI controlling your character’s companions, the camera views through which you observe the game, and various pieces of the combat system that drives encounters.

But I was able to accept that. Perhaps it is a bad thing that I expect games to have their share of quirks, and look upon something buggy as the norm, and something that works properly to be a grand success.

What struck me to the core was the ending. Now, I won’t get into any details as to the final plot itself. But the ending, and indeed much of the scenes leading up the end, were tagged on almost as an afterthought. The designers ran out of time or money, and suddenly had to wrap it up and push it out the door.

We’re talking about a game that drops into cut-scenes every time you turn a corner, and has exciting and skilled voice actors for bums you run into on the street for five minutes.

The ending of the game consists of a series of still images (that may not even be entirely accurate), and a voice-over by what appears to be Bob the Pizza Guy.

I kid you not. The entire game is filled with an exceptional soundtrack, and the ending of the game is a slideshow narrated in a dead monotone.

Ok, I’ve had my rant. The reason for the game’s flaws is easily found – the company needed the game out the door, and had to ship it a few months before it could actually be developed into a quality game. Disappointing, but I’ll live – even if I did feel the need to spend some time venting on it.

Now, I thought about quite a few ways to compare my complaints here with the wonderful world of webcomics.

It would not be a difficult comparison to make. I could say that webcomics, after all, usually fall on a specific schedule, and the demands to meet deadlines (even self-imposed ones) has left many artists pondering what to do. Put up an unfinished work, and color it later? Put up filler for now, and the final product when it is ready? Just skip the deadline?

It is a tough choice, and one that invariably will end with someone unhappy, and one side of the crowd yelling at those who get upset about delays in free comics, and the other side demanding more professionalism from those who want to make a living from their work. It’s a debate that makes me twitch, because I’m usually able to see valid points in both sides.

As such, I will kindly refrain from making the comparison between my video game woes and the webcomic industry. Instead, like everyone else on the face of earth, I shall succub to peer pressure and link to the new face of WIGU.

Yo espeako el espanish!

Upside to a sick day: Finishing Kingdom Hearts 2.

Downside to a sick day: Agony, pain, and assorted other synonyms for torment.

In any case, I’m back and mostly recovered, though still a bit hazy due to, say, medication and so forth.

Amidst my drug-induced haze, as I perused my daily comics, I found myself inordinately delighted that I could understand the small amounts of spanish found recently in Candi.

You see, I took something on the order of 6 or 7 years of Spanish, between High School and College… and came out with nothing to show for it, with many of those years having simply repeated the information learned beforehand.

(Disclaimer: I did, admittedly, come out with a large number of humorous anecdotes, as I’ve had some exceptionally interesting spanish teachers. I wouldn’t be able to share those anecdotes in spanish, however, which is the matter at hand.)

In any case, being able to easily understand even 3 or 4 admittedly simple and basic lines in spanish was enough to make me quite happy! Some days the small and silly pleasures are the best.

Also, Candi is a great comic.

I’d say more, but yaknow, still drugged up. So I’m just going to go lie down now, k?

Penny Arcade can be used to explain anything. Seriously.

In my defense, I wanted it to feel like a hard-fought match. I’m back!

Hopefully everyone had a fine Memorial Day weekend. Mine was filled with assorted lounging, graduation parties, and family gatherings that primarily consisted of me being assaulted by small children. (Or, alternatively, nearly losing a chess match to an 8 year old.)

The weather here has suddenly spiked up to near a hundred degrees, and while I’ve been enjoying the heat, others have not been quite so welcoming of it. When I have taken temporary absence from the warmth, I’ve been retreating to the chilled indoors and engaging in more Kingdom Hearts 2.

As of last night, I have found myself with something of a quandary. I reached the final ramp that leads up to the final boss, surrounded by my faithful friends and companions, with danger threatening all the worlds – and I promptly turned around and walked away.

You see, there were tasks yet to be done.

Now, there is a part of me that seeks completeness in things for its own sake. It is not in my nature to leave things unfinished. It is a struggle for me to put down a book with the intent of not finishing it, no matter how vile it may be. Perhaps half a dozen times have I done so, the majority of which were in the last year, when I realized that I was under no compulsion to inflict mental trauma on myself through atrocious writing. But even with that epiphany… it is difficult.

So I already have the danger of obsession – leaving something in an incomplete state is irksome to me. And when it comes to games… well, there is a devil of a powergamer lurking within my heart, and once upon a time, when I played RPGS my goal was to claim total victory. It was not enough to merely win – I need the knowledge that I have demolished and mastered every aspect of the game.

But things change. For me, the game these days is more about the story. And in truth, I did not have the time to invest in fully conquering games when I could simply… finish them. Especially as games such as FF X (and even worse, the atrocity known as FF X2) went on to build realms of completeness that were a time sink beyond all comprehension.

So I turned away from that road, and merely played the game for its own sake.

But now… a dilemma. If I actually want to get the good ending, I need to complete a variety of tasks.
In his defense, Eeyore is an annoying little emo bitch.
Most of them, in fact, are already done with ease. It is merely the final few that are the challenge, that require the extra time of leveling unto infinity – defeating the 50 round tournament. Battling the ultimate optional boss. Etc.

So I’ve resigned myself to the grind.

Similarly, I’ve been trying hard to bring myself to stop reading several webcomics. Some of them I simply started without realizing they weren’t really worth my time – others have, indeed, changed over the years. And I don’t hold this against them – but, as with other things, I have this awful compulsion to keep with them, even after I’ve lost all enjoyment in the reading of them.

Now that I’m done waxing verbose, I’ll come to the point of this little tirade – am I the only one like this?

Do others have a similarly hard time, or is it easy to walk away from webcomics that you no longer enjoy, books that aren’t worth reading, games not worth playing?

Is it easy to identify when something isn’t worth your time – and even once you’ve done so, is it easy to let it go?

World of BananaCraft!

So I got into work this morning, and found a notice that a coworker had placed “Banana Bars” on the free-for-all table. I’d never heard of such things… but man, I do like bananas, so I went over to check them out and find out what they are.

For the record? What banana bars are? Is supremely delicious.

Anyway, on to serious stuff. I’d like to take a few moments to talk about World of Warcraft.

(Ok, not so serious.)

I’m sure many people have heard of WoW. World-reknowned best-selling Massive Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game, blah blah blah.

But what I’d like to talk about it isn’t what most conversations generally revolve around. Rather, I’d like to talk about the story.

I like playing WoW. Like many, I probably play it a bit more than I should. And I enjoy the aspect of the game that involves taking on the most challenging encounters, and walking around in the shiniest loot. Not due to the elitism of it all, but due to the sense of accomplishment.

But that isn’t what got me into the game. What got me into the game was the story. The lore. I had played Warcraft 2 in my youth, and enjoyed it as a game – but when I played Warcraft 3, it transcended into something beyond that.

And so, despite my oath to avoid the dangers of MMORPGs at all cost… I delved into WoW.

Now, for all that “RPG” comes in the title, many people avoid the roleplaying aspect. It is a game of numbers, of strategy, and immersing themselves in the fantasy has no place in that.

But the fantasy remains there regardless, and even if all my in-game banter is completely OOC, I still value the background behind it all – from a personal standpoint, if nothing else. I have a sneaking suspicion many others are the same – they enjoy visualizing their character as a triumphant hero, even if they enjoy spending most of the time just sitting around chatting with their friends.

Recently Blizzard has been releasing information on the upcoming expansion to the game – and with it, of course, more story. More lore.

Some of it is good. Some of it is interesting. And some of it is sadly flawed.

The long and short of it is as follows: When writing the background for a new race being introduced into the game (a race of demon-descended paladins, which is certainly a fun concept to start from), a number of mistakes were made.

Mistake number 1 was an emphasis on technology that scared those attached to the full fantasy elements, and this mistake was more a measure of the terminology used. The game already has a measure of steampunk tech, and the new technology being introduced could easily fit alongside it all – but the language could have been worded better than to say: “Their dimensional ship crash-landed on the planet.”

That imagery?

Just a bit too forceful.

I don’t think we’ll have guys running around with laser pistols and space ships. I think the reality will be far, far different.

But presentation counts for a lot, and tossing out such a quick little gimmick threw a lot of people into a state of concern.

In any case, the other mistake is one of the big ones, the one that really had everyone up in arms. The writing team at Blizzard simply fucked up. They took the lore, and made a completely amateur mistake, and screwed up the continuity.

This new race, who were one known as the Eredar, were peaceful and wise until visited by Sargeras, lord of the Burning Legion, a fallen Titan who now seeks to bring destruction across all the universe. He tempted many of them into demonic magics, and made them into a race of evil.

The problem?

The backstory for Sargeras himself is that he was once a goodly Titan charged with keeping the worlds free of bad guys. Upon encountering the demonic Eredar, he slowly grew disillusioned with his cause…

So, basic paradox mistake. Blizzard forgot to check their backstory, and left a gaping plot hole that needs fixing.

The writers are ashamed. The fans are up in arms.

Myself? In a way, I am almost perversely pleased by it all.

See, it is a mistake, sure – but one within their capabilities to correct. The head writer, after apologizing for screwing up, has said he intends to leave the new lore, but also to find ways to integrate it with the old. I can see plenty of ways myself. Fans have given out any number of suggestions, many of which would make for even more engaging history.

No lasting harm done, I suspect. What pleases me, though, is the response to such a thing as this.

Because it is easy to think of the game a collection of numbers. Of the players as powergamers out for loot and nothing more.

So seeing so much support thrown behind the lore, the story, the background… it is refreshing. Seeing that to so many playing the game, whether they delve deep into the roleplaying or not, they believe in the setting, in the tale being told. Seeing the writers accept that concern, and showing a genuine willingness to address it.

At the core of it all, I play the game for the same reason I read books and comics, watch movies and anime, and play most of the other games I play – for the story.

And sometimes, amidst all the worries over class balance, styles of play, guild drama and the like – it’s nice to know that others feel the same.

Build Your Own Government

Several of my friends recently directed me to NationStates.

The site is based off of a book, Jennifer Government, wherein corporations run the world. It looks like an engaging book, but that is neither here nor there.

What the website itself allows one to do is to create a country. Upon creation, you define it by answering a variety of questions – and from there, it calculates how your country does, in terms of civil rights, economy, political freedoms, and so forth. You continue to recieve issues that you must take a stance on (though that stance can be to ignore them outright.)

Based on your decision, your country changes in the appropriate fashion.

I like it. I don’t know, persay, how accurate the calculations behind it all are. But it is a nice conceptual game, and I thought I would direct others to it.

Whatever code runs the show, however, does seem to have a distinct lack of knowledge regarding habitation, as it announced that my country’s national animal, the dolphin, “frolics freely in the nation’s many lush forests.”

But you can’t win them all, I suppose.

A Confession

So, I just finished watching Firefly the other day.

Yeah, I know. I know!

Anyway, now that I’ve completely destroyed my nerd credibility here, I’m going to try and regain some ground by returning to geeking out over Kingdom Hearts 2.

Friday Frivolities

So, first off. Obligatory discussion of Wii. Yeah.

Like everyone else talking about it, it fails to appeal to me as a name. Or as a gaming system. Or as a philosophical concept.

Of the various rants about it, I think Logan said it best – I’m not all that concerned about the “filthy joke novelty” of it, I’m just concerned that it doesn’t work for me as a word.

It just sounds bizarre, and has trouble rolling off my tongue. Will that change? Perhaps. Give it long enough, and it could forge its way into sensibility.

But still. Wii.

They came so close to an excellent name for a gaming system, too! Ah well, maybe next time.

Moving on – in addition to his wise thoughts on the Wii, Logan continues to show us how awesome ninjas are. I just can’t say no to ninjas! Because, see, they’d kill me if I did.

Finally, the most exciting thing currently going on is over at the Digital Pimp. The big showdown between George and Joe is coming to a head, and this is a moment I’ve been hella waiting for! (Apologies for use of the word “hella.”)

What really impresses me isn’t that we’ve had this big dramatic story in a strip devoted to one-shot weekly jokes. Nah, what really gets me is how much of this little plot was developed not through the comic itself, but outside of it – in the newsposts. In the forums. Throughout the website entire. The comic itself was just part of the medium for telling the story.

Little references to the whole shebang showed up here and there in the strips, sure, and someone reading the comic alone wouldn’t have any trouble reading through the whole arc without pause.

But there was that extra step for those looking behind the scenes. That takes imagination, and that takes skill. I thoroughly approve.

And now we’ve got the pay-off about to hit. I’m all a-shiver with anticipation.

It’s been a great comic from the start. The art is fantastic. The jokes are generally dead-on. I mean, I’ve never been one to see all that many movies, and I used to be dead set against shelling out cash for bad ones – but when I read the comics? I feel the need to get in on it.

Cause Joe Loves Crappy Movies… and now, I do too.

The Burden of Choice

I am afflicted with a most serious Dilemma.

I have finally gotten around to starting Kingdom Heart 2, after various and sundry delays.

It has begun with great effect and style, and proved most pleasing. However… much plot has gone by that I have missed. Plot that occured in Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, for the Game Boy Advance.

Thus, the Dilemma – do I hunt down a GBA and that game, and play it before going farther in KH2, for completeness sake? (Ah, completeness – the bane of video RPG fans worldwide…)

Do I merely hunt down the story of the game, and read what I have missed in cold, clinical analysis?

Or do I perservere in KH2 itself, letting the game tell me what it does as it goes, and adapting to the unfamaliar plot whilst I play?

But such are the challenges a young man faces in the world today.

The Internet… Was Once… A Wondrous Thing…

It may come as a surprise to readers of this site to learn that I am, in fact, a gamer. While not partaking of casual entertainment such as comics, books, movies and the like, I might often be found rolling up some 20s with the crew, throwing down with some double dash, or enjoying a heroic afternoon in Azeroth!

I tend, as a gamer, to invest myself in the accoutrements of the genres. I don’t just play the games – I often buy the books, read the novels, unlock the hidden levels. I explore the lore behind the games, find the best combos, and assemble the most powerful deck of them all! So it goes.

One of the other things that I have often done, however, to my both expected and yet inevitable downfall… is to enter the realm of gaming forums.

I had thought, long ago, when I braved the den of the White Wolf, that I had seen things at their worst. The angst, the drama, the despair – cold and black like all men’s souls. I saw the dangers, and wisely turned away.

Time passed, and I walked into the Wizard’s Lair, and I learned again the depth of man’s descent. Senseless arguments, countless rules and regulations, and a desperate flight from any common sense – these things drove me away, and all was well with the world.

Yet more time has come and gone, and I have now seen sights that have scarred me to the soul. The discussion board of Azeroth – a more wretched hive of scum and villainy have I never seen. And yet, I cannot turn away.

With every day I glance at the pages within that board, a little piece of me dies inside. My faith in mankind is shattered whole – and the remaining bits then ground into dust and ashes.

In a full page of posts on the General Discussion area, I counted a single post offering useful information, and a single post asking a reasonable question. I counted no less than 17 posts demanding unreasonable changes to the game, 8 posts that were blatant trolling, 3 posts on the same topic that was answered in a sticky at the top, and one post advertising gold farming.

It worries me. I enjoy playing this game. I do my best to moderate my time at it, knowing well the dangers of an MMORPG. I know lots of fine folk in this game, and enjoy playing with them. I know many and sundry intelligent and reasonable players!

And yet, in this community of fellow gamers, I find nothing but the detritus of the earth.

In another area, a gamer makes a thread to track current progress on the most powerful boss available in the game. He makes a simple plea, for people to treat the thread seriously, rather than turn it into yet another repetition meme, and instead only gave serious posts.

Of the fifty-one replies, twelve are verbatim copies of the specific meme he gave as an example of what people should not use. Five are variations on the meme – including translating it into german, and chinese. Eight are various other memes, including a random reference to “Snakes on a Plane.” Seventeen are arbitrary responses to each other, and to the trolling attempts.

One is a reference to the Great Gatsby. Four are follow-ups to it.

Only two are genuine answers to the question, while there is one post proclaiming the failure of the thread, and one post simply explaining why making such a request in these forums is doomed to abysmal failure.

Now, I am not naive. I am aware of the fact that there is a problem with the internet. I am aware that there are places where attempting to find genuine information is asking for a miracle.

What I cannot understand is why I keep going back.

I can’t help it! Despite the bile that rises at the atrocities commited upon the english language, I keep reading. Sometimes my eye twitches. Sometimes my arm shakes. But I go from page after page, post after post. I no longer even know what I am looking for – useful knowledge, or just more horrible – fascinating – chaos.

I… I am afraid. I have stared into the abyss, and I cannot look away. It stares back at me… and it hungers.