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Stuck in the Controversy Bog: Thoughts on Feminism and Identity Politics

Pew... Okay. I have talked about this kind of stuff before in various places, but it's a topic that keeps getting brought up over and over in gaming circles and I don't know if I ever really sat down and made a blog about the subject. Partly because I suspect 90% of people really really do not care, or if they do, are completely sick of hearing about it or talking about it. The other 10%? Well probably 90% of them have already made up their minds no matter what I say. So likely only 1% of people will actually care about and pay attention to anything I have to say about the subject. But I feel like blabbing about it anyway so here we go.   First of all, lets ask an important question:   What exactly is feminism anyway?   Feminism is, as far as I am concerned, a number of movements which concerns it's self with a subset of the larger subject of Identity Politics and is in particular focused on the liberation and promotion of the "female" identity. It is not, as some people would insist, simply the promotion of gender equality. For many if not most feminists solving the problem of gender inequality is, has been, and always will be, the primary goal of feminism, true. But feminism is not a goal, it is a rhetorical method. The method can be and has been used for different ends, even up to and including the promotion of the domination of the "female" identity over the "male" identity. This however is again a goal and not one a vast majority of feminists share.   Therefor, one thing that is incredibly important to realize is the goals and ideals of particular groups of people who use feminist rhetoric are not necessarily the same. Making blanket statements about all feminists or anyone who uses similar ideas and methods is incredibly misguided. If you have a particular objection to a particular recurring argument or a foundational criticism of feminist theory, then those kind of debates and criticism are far more valuable then just blatantly attacking a goal that someone may not share. On the flipside, if someone is using feminist rhetoric to argue for a goal or position that you disagree with, then arguing directly to oppose that goal or position is far more valuable then attacking the theory behind the rhetorical devices they use to push for it.   In short, feminism is a tool. If you oppose the tool's usefulness, debate the tool. If you oppose the people's use of the tool, debate the individuals who use it.   I have my own objection to feminist theory and to the whole field of identity politics, but on the other hand I also share the same goal as most of the people who are into it do: The ever murky idea of "equality". I just don't think identity politics as it exists is the best way to go about accomplishing that goal.   So, what, exactly, is the problem we should be trying to solve?   They say life isn't fair. Maybe that is true, but I don't think of it that way. Life is very fair. People are born in the same way as basically everyone else, and everyone's life has the same kind of random factor to it. Are you born as a particular race or gender? Roll a dice. Are you born with some genetic disease? Roll a dice. Are you born in a particular area of the world? Roll a dice. No it's not truly random, but from a personal perspective it might as well be. Everyone starts out pretty much the same, as a helpless baby. Everyone has pretty much the same odds of being born in any particular position starting out as any other.   No, it's society that's unfair. It's society that judges you for your birth, not life. Life just doesn't care. It drops you in the middle of things at some random point and leaves you to sort it out. Society wants to sort you, to put you in a nice box. Sure society protects people, but only for it's own interest. Unlike life, it cares about you, but only in how best to use you. The uncaring wilds may chew you up and spit you out but they won't judge you. Except if you count in retrospect by how many babies you managed to pop out and genes you manage to spread, but that's coincidence not intent. To life society is just complex tricks to increase the amount of wiggling things that can be wiggling together at any one time. To society, life is just a source of things to put into different boxes and judge according to what boxes things were put in.   So people are put into boxes like "male" and "female", and much more then just biological traits are put in these boxes. Ideas, behaviors, rules, everything is divided up into these boxes. There are boxes for gender, boxes for race, and boxes for other things. Some boxes are put inside other boxes to make a neat tree so everything gets cleaned up and organized. People are expected to take what box they are put in and use it to model their entire life around it. If they can't be put in a box or refuse to be put in one they are just thrown into the "other" box and distrusted and scorned. Once a group of people in the other box with some arbitrary number of traits the same emerges they can be given their own box. And so the cycle continues.   People of one box can find it easy to hate and scorn people from another box. People who identify as a box with fight furiously to defend and promote their box over other people's box. And boxes who gain some sort of "power" will try and dominate other boxes. Some boxes will be put other others. It has happened time and time again, and will continue to happen. Life doesn't care as long as that means more wiggly things everywhere. Society delights in it's happy little boxes without caring about the contents of the boxes at all. So what fights for us? Well we do of course. Nothing else will.   So what then is the solution to this problem?   I can tell you for sure what is not the solution. Playing society's little games with boxes. And that's exactly what identity politics is. If you insist to define yourself as "male" or "female" or "gay" or "straight" or "black" or "white" all you are doing is putting yourself in another little box. It doesn't matter how much you fight for the cause of your box, because your still fighting for the broken system that causes you to be oppressed in the first place. The only way to free humanity from this system therefor is to systematically tear down the system of boxes that people are placed into.   And yeah, that's really really hard to do. But maybe not impossible. Maybe as technology advances and humanity can change their bodies more and more in ways that they see fit, the need for these types of classifications will vanish. If people can change their gender whenever they want or even be in between, what need is there for gender identity? When people can change their skin or appearance what need will their be for racial identity? When people finally develop a post scarcity economic system what need will their be for class identity? But until that day comes, and maybe it never will, it will be hard to simply refuse to put ourselves in little boxes. Buit I think it's still something we should look to as an ideal if nothing else.

Kayzee

Kayzee

 

Dream Journal: Real Virtual Worlds

Often in my dreams I tend to run into the same basic dream idea again and again. Usually these dreams are connected in subtle or obvious ways with other, to the point where it almost could be said a lot of them exist in almost the same continuity. Well unless I dreamed that I remember it too anyway, sometimes it's hard to tell? But I am pretty sure I have had this kind of dream I just had before many times.   The basic idea behind this particular dream is that of a smallish world that behaved almost like an online game or virtual world, or maybe even a web site or forum. It's rules were often managed and it's land created and maintained by an administrator who had nearly godlike power to do whatever they liked, and usually lived in a tall tower overlooking everything. Some administrators were good, but a number were selfish and only interested in using their power for their own amusement. Some were human and some were closer to AI programs.   The twist was, more or less, that often times hardly anyone inside the world, often not even the administrator, was aware that their world was not all their was to reality, that their was an outside world beyond it. Often their would would literally just be contained in some large computer system in the outside world. The odd thing though is that their world isn't really "virtual" so to speak. There world is an actual real/physical place (as much as a dream can be said to be anyway) that they retreated to that is simply controlled by technology.   Why people decided to transport themselves inside such a space (sometimes with no obvious way back) depends. Some times the outside world is dead or dying and these custom pocket dimensions are all that is left. Sometimes they were just convinced it would be a cool game to play.   Often a common plot was the need to replace a selfish and/or incompetent administrator with a new one, requiring people to sneak in the tower where the administrator holds up, often the last place with obvious links to the outside world, and either through some loophole or backdoor, or sometimes escaping the virtual world entirely and interacting with the real one, over throwing the old one (note: I have had this dream since forever and I don't mean to imply distrust of administrators in general, much less the ones here).   Outside the simulation often partly takes the form of some apartment somewhere filled with computer systems and wires running on automatic, or sometimes strange outer dimensions after the fall of man, if it is accessible at all. This particular outside for the one I just dreamed during my nap was larger and more industrialized though, and there was this huge subplot of harvesting animal brains, testing them for self awareness or interesting mental quirks, and using them to do something related to a dreamworld. Wetware computers? Making a better an artificial administrator? I am not sure. I kind of woke up soon after that.

Kayzee

Kayzee

 

Resistince is Futile

Okay imagine this.   Out somewhere in the depths of space sometime in the distance future, a starship flies through the stars. It's brave crew are out way past the edge of known space, far far from home thanks to a mischievous god-like entity. You know how those rambunctious god-like entities can be, always playing around with mere mortals like that.   There they find a mysterious sphere which seems to be covered in seemless white plastic of some sort. The fearless crew approach and scan it, As they do a few strange figures beem on to the bridge, they are human-like but they seem to have parts of themselves that are also covered in smooth white plastic, as if they are half human and half very sleek machine.   All of the figures have cheery looks on their faces, and bow, one of them a cute looking girl speaks in a clipped cheery but artificial tune.   "Hello visitors! I am a representative of the iBorg collective! And it is you and your species lucky day! We at iBorg are here to offer you and your species a free upgrade to our new iBorg G7 technology! With this new wonderful technology, you can..."   She cuts off as the lights cut out and the view-screen turns on displaying a cheery and sleek marketing video to go with her speech.   "Improve your body! Tired of dealing with the old meat sack you carry around? Why not augment it! Be free from all known disease and old age! And if something were to happen to you our back up software can upload you mind to the cloud to make you virtually immortal!"   Improve your mind! Network with billions and billions of other iBorg systems to help your decision making and informational processing capabilities! Keep in contact with any iBorg, being able to send messages across a huge galactic network that is growing bigger every day! Explore a huge database of knowledge and amusements!"   "Improve your society! No need for complex political systems and bureaucracy, just submit your need to the collective and the collective will work on it for you! No crime to worry about, and everyone get's 100% guaranteed job security! Every job will be uniquely created to suit the individual's skills and desires, guaranteeing 100% job satisfaction as well!"   "Still not convinced? That's okay! We have no need to force new species to upgrade. We know that someday soon someone will choose to upgrade anyway. Even if you don't believe personally in our product, maybe someone who hears this pitch will, or peer pressure from other converted beings will convince you, or It may be the only way to save yourself or a sick or dying loved one. Eventually more and more members will upgrade and tell others about how great it is and become believers in the iBorg family."   "We realize that our slow cultural assimilation of your species will cause some backlash, and we understand. We will of course guarantee protection for everyone who upgrades or even expresses interest! It is not a bad thing to desire the personal freedom to join us. We will of course retaliate if attacked, and we have vastly superior numbers and technology, but there is no need for such drastic measures! We are sure the free complementary upgrade to those that survive the retaliation will change our attacker's minds!"   "We are iBorg! We are here to help you become part of our family! Yes, you will be assimilated and yes resistance is futile, but there is no reason to be sad about it! We at iBorg are committed to serving you!"   What would you do? 1. Join the collective. 2. Resist to the last of your ability! 3. Just shoot yourself now... 4 . JAILBREAK YOUR UPGRADES!

Kayzee

Kayzee

 

The Problem of Interest.

You know one big problem I tend to have is that I have absolutely no interest in like 99.99% of all of the RPG Maker game projects I see, even ones made by people I think of as my friends. Really I think one problem is I no longer have as much interest in RPGs in general and JRPG-style games in particular, and most of the other genres of games commonly made by RPG Maker uses (such as horror games, more pure narrative games) don't really hold that much interest in me either. It just kinda seems like most game projects I see seem to kinda end up seeming the same to me.   Ultimately, I think I am just getting old. I am sure 10 or so years ago things might have been different. Maybe even five years ago. I think I have gotten more and more picky and lazy about games since then. Ever since around the end of the PS2 era at least, when I basically decided I didn't really have that much interest in any newer consoles. For a while I switched mostly to handheld games like the DS and PSP, but eventually I sorta almost fell out of gaming altogether, only partly getting back into it with Steam a few years ago.   It's not really that I "grew out" of gaming either. Gaming is still a major part of my life. Almost 90% of how I entertain myself online is gaming related somehow, usually in the form of let's plays, or game reviews/discussion, or something related to gaming culture. I just don't really play very many anymore. It's just a lot easier to watch and discuss then to play.   Part of that is no doubt because games in general have become much more focused on story and "cinematic" elements to the point where it's almost pointless to play them anymore. I still haven't actually played Undertale for example, though I own it, partly because I was waiting for a Linux version (which is moot at this point since my laptop with Linux is being replaced by a new one with Windows 10 installed anyway), but mostly because I just don't think playing it myself will really add that much to the experience.   It really won't. I never was the type to believe that experiencing something myself made it any different. Everything for me just seems like random sense data anyway. It's not that I can't tell the difference between reality and fantasy or anything like that, at least intellectually. But emotionally it seems more and more that everything is almost equally out of touch and remote. I guess it's kind of like depression only I am not sure if it actually is. Maybe this is normal for fairies actually.   This doesn't mean I don't enjoy games, I just think it means I enjoy different types of games. I am more interesting in mechanics I can play around with, things with a huge possibility space, like a lot of roguelikes, or Minecraft or Dwarf Fortress, or any game where you explore and tinker and do things. RPGs can be like that too for sure. I guess that is one reason (along with others) I hate Final Fantasy IV with a passion (though the DS version was way better) but really liked Final Fantasy V (and thought VI was merely pretty good, and VII was probably the one I thought was the best in the series, but over all liked the SaGa series more).   That doesn't mean I hate stories either. Stories to me after all are more or less just the result of an author playing a game in his own mind. Kinda like D&D really. You have the rules you set for how the world you are making works and work out the implications. You have a personality and traits for a character and work out what they would be like and what they would do. It's really a fascinating process, a way for the author to create their own worlds. Games and stories I think are in the end almost two sides of the same coin, two ways people try to do the same thing.   But when I am playing a game I want to basically create a story, not be told one. And let's face it, even a beaching storyline like Undertale with many clever paths and things it keeps track of is still you being told a story. All the paths are there from, the start and you just choose one. It's The Stanley Parable problem really. I won't deny that as a artform story and gameplay can reinforce each other's point in some cases. I would never deny Undertale should have been a movie or a TV show or anything like that. I am just saying watching someone else play is just as impactful as playing it yourself, if for different reasons maybe. I will say that both Undertale and The Stanley Parable basically require a player, but whether you are playing and reacting to events or whether you see how someone else reacts to it I think doesn't matter as much.   Blah, okay maybe all that is sort of besides the point. I am sure I have said that all before I think. The point is, I find it hard to take interest in most games that are narrative focused. But honestly? The fact they are narrative focused is only part of the problem. Maybe even not the main part, though it might be the easiest part to pinpoint and try to justify.   Another big part is just that a lot of games are tedious. They are annoying. JRPGs in particular. It's hard to get into menu based combat sometimes, though at the same time I often want to defend it, because honestly realtime action-rpg combat is worse, especially in RPG Maker. My favorite style of RPG combat personally is roguelike-style single step turn-based on-map combat, and has been basically since one of my first RPGs, Ultima VI. It's fast, gives you a ton of tactical depth, allows a unified way to explore and fight things without switching between screens, and still gives you plenty of time to plan everything out. Alas, that style of combat has basically completely vanished outside of rougelikes. Anyway, yeah. That's another big reason. I know it sounds kinda like the kind of dismissive of JRPGs and people do enough of that but that's just how I feel sometimes.   Another big part, and this is hugely subjective, is setting and style. I just don't care that much for most typical medieval European fantasy, or Tolkien-style "high fantasy", or typical sci-fi settings, or mystical eastern settings, or modern day settings, or post-apocalyptic settings, or Judeo-Christian mythology based settings, or basically any kind of setting that hasn't been done a million times before, and let's face it most of them have. It's not that you can't do creative stuff with these settings, but I am just not interested. Really the only exception is if you really really do your research and make something that has so many references that it seems to weave seamlessly into an existing mythology/setting already, and even then I am not sure.   I guess there are other reasons, but that's all that comes to mind at the moment. Though I have to say there is one common exception that always seems to perks my interest. One kind of RPG Maker project I still play sometimes. Naughty X-rated RPG Maker games. The more depraved and fetish filled the better. I know, I know, I am a total pervert, and truth be told most of them are quite bad or forgettable, but they can usually be relied on for some brief, ahem, "entertainment" at least. What can I say? Sometimes I have a one track mind. Tee-hee!

Kayzee

Kayzee

 

Why The Internet is Going to Hell in a Handbasket, and What We Can Do to Stop It.

So I recently heard that last month yet ANOTHER royal YouTube screw up has made tons of people really mad. Yet another example of the automated system screwing up and screwing a lot of people over. Some big name people even. And people complained again loudly with seemingly little effect, until some of it was cleared up without even a peep of an apology or even any explanation for what happened. Same old story.   This wasn't the first time, and it won't be the last. This isn't going to change. YouTube will continue to screw with people and people will complain but they won't really do anything to change it. They certainly won't leave YouTube or anything. They aren't going to risk their livelihood or audience and will continue to implicitly support the broken system even knowing that it is broken and knowing they are doing nobody any good supporting it. Because when it comes down to it, YouTube is a monopoly that can get away with anything.   Except it doesn't have to be.   See, this is the Internet. This is a system where anyone can, if they wish to, install Apache on a old computer and get their own web site online from their own homes. Not the best way to do it of course, for that you need either money enough to rent a server or to find some free web hosting site, not to mention DNS registration fees. But you CAN do it. Thanks to WebM and HTML5's video tag you can even host videos there, though again it would be slow and a hassle and no one is likely to find it.   Of course, since it is slow and a hassle and no one will be able to find it, no one does that stuff anymore (except for "dark web" stuff I guess"). The thing is though, even big things like Channel Awesome which DO have their own site have always relied on external video sites for hosting videos. And I mean, fine, I understand why. WebM is a relatively new technology for one thing, and most sites just can't handle the type of load videos get. But the weakness of not hosting their own videos and ads and stuff is they rely on external sites for their content, and any problem or change will effect them and tfhey can't do much about it. They were counted with the ones who were having problems with YouTube's latest round of bullcrap after all.   Ideally, what would be best is to have a YouTube-like site API that can work both as a host for people who can't do it themselves, and as a search engine/cache system for videos on external sites. A decentralized cache would speed up most videos while allowing everyone to host them where ever they want wouldn't it? There would be no need for any one corporation to control the whole system. Heck, it's likely this will happen to YouTube if an antitrust case is ever successfully built to challenge it, since this is kinda what happened to the bell system.   The thing that sort of annoys me though, is that it's not just video that this trend has effected. All of a sudden, most people seem to have flocked to a handful of sites for everything. Facebook, DeviantArt, Twitter, Tumblr, and so on. These few sites seemed to have gobbled up most of the content on the web, and all are controlled by centralized corporations with their own rules and very little competition allowing them to do what they want how they want.   Am I the only one who thinks that the "good old days" where everyone had their own little server somewhere where they could host whatever they wanted was a better system? Maybe, but we can't go back can we? I would like to see more general APIs and decentralized systems and less monolithic corporations. I do kinda think the time where corporations can thrive and do whatever they want is slowly slowly coming to an end, but they are not gonna go down quietly, and not without people who are willing to trade a bit of convince for freedom, at least in the short term.

Kayzee

Kayzee

 

Samhain: The Game That Almost Was (and may be someday but don't count on it)

So it's probably been at least a month or two since I worked on my last project, my first and only attempt at actually making a game with some other people, and I realized I never really talked about it with much of anyone outside the project besides one or two vague hints or did any blogs about it or anything. So why not do this now?   It all started in October where, despite being possessed by a vile being of vile darkness that I of course opposed, RavenBlueIndigo decided to hold a contest. My friend Nya wanted to be in a team so I decided to contact her and see if I could help, despite being a bit nervous about working with other people. Anyway, long story short, she didn't have a game idea in mind, so I came up with the idea of a fantasy RPG based around the idea of a pre-christian Halloween holiday and the myths and legends surrounding it. Brank also joined in and was mostly responsible for finding a good tileset and doing all the maps.   I named Samhain as an example though I wasn't necessarily committed to a historically correct representation of Gaelic culture or mythology, though Nya seemed very inspired by it and it seemed a lot of the monsters she wanted to add were from that origin, which was fitting since a huge inspiration for wanting to work on a Halloween themed fantasy RPG in the first place was Quest for Glory: Shadows of Darkness which in addition to all sorts of classic Halloween tropes and monsters (as well as more then a touch of Lovecraft) was very much influenced by mythology and culture (Slavic mythology and culture to be exact, actually all the Quest for Glory games have a huge focus on various real world mythologies and cultures).   The basic plot, as it was, was that every year the barrier between worlds grows weaker, and people more or less make a big holiday/festival to keep everyones spirits up or else combined negative emotional energy can cause dangerous things to start leaking in from the spirit world in some places. The player plays a member of a secret order of hunters who's job it is to safeguard a town and keep the townspeople safe from any spirits that show up, and to keep them from panicking or even noticing anything is wrong. Though there may or may not have been some other force at work.   Most of the gameplay was going to involve going around the town when a spirit/monster shows up and taking care of it, preferably quietly and cleanly without anyone even knowing it is around. Most people can't see them but their presence can still be noticed, especially by superstitious townspeople who know all about the legends of strange spirits or creatures. There was going to be a "mood meter" of some sort which was effected by how well you did at containing the spirits without the towns people noticing, as well as other things like being positively effected if you did sidequests to help with the festival, and negatively effected if to many towns people are injured/killed, if you act hostile or use too much magic in public, and so on. The mood meter mostly effects what kinds of and how many spirits show up.   Sort of like how Undertale has it's Fight or Mercy options, taking care of the spirits usually meant either violently "killing" it (which doesn't always stick and just makes the spirit mad when it comes back, in addition to making a lot of noise), capturing it (which means you need to worry about how to contain it and keep it from escaping or keeping anyone from noticing it's there, but you can sometimes use captured spirits to cast/learn magic), or pacifying it (which just convinces the spirit to leave or become benign, but can be hard or flat out impossible to do i the spirit is too "evil", though those spirits will only show up if you are to negligent so panic or negative feelings spread too much).   I think the over all design was a bit too ambitious, even if I purposely limited the size of the world to just one town and some surrounding areas, using a quicktravel-like menu instead of a world map. I think I may have done the most work on it, but most of it was just coding lots and lots of weird subsystems that were probably mostly unnecessary. I had the idea of NPC events that were stored in one map and could be loaded into any map dynamically, then I made some complicated scheduling and conditionals and lots of hacks with additional event pages so that NPCs (and spirits, though they were just NPCs too) could kinda move around between maps when you did. I used my old "Event Battler" script for spirits so they could be NPCs too, and made "negotiation skills" that could call different event pages of a spirit's NPC event in battle.   But by the time I had accomplished most of this, the contest that this game was going to be for was already over. We all decided to keep working on it for a while, but Nya eventually had other things going on in her life she needed to focus on and I kinda never heard that much from Brank. I kinda lost most of my motivation to work on it anyway, so the project is kinda dead. I still like the idea, and some of the scripting work I did was kinda neat (if sloppy), but I donno when or if I will pick it up again at this point.   Anyway MV is already out. I haven't gotten it yet and probably never will unless it goes for like 90% off on some steam sale sometime (because seriously, I don't care how good a piece of software is, I am never gonna pay more then $20 for anything, and if I had my way I wouldn't even pay that because screw proprietary software), but that doesn't change the fact that I am behind the times and the world has moved on and I am stuck in the past. Honestly I am not sure if I will ever work on anything with RPG Maker again, but I probably will. Ether way, I am gonna stick around this community a while I think. :3

Kayzee

Kayzee

 

Wizard Fic Time!

Here is a unrefined fragment of something I was writing. I wanted to do a "wizard fic" for a while, in the terrible tradition of Complacency of the Learned and Wizardy Herbert (though only Wizardy Herbert is based of a real thing), you know, a weird Harry Potter type thing that isn't related to Harry Potter. I had this idea in my head for a while for a story that partly follows (he isn't actually the main character as such, but he is the introductory one) someone who would be a bit like Dumbledore if he actually became aware of how terrible he could be, in a world that knows about wizards but is slowly pushing them aside in favor of industry. But only today did I start writing any of it down and... well this is my third version of the opening and it's still too terrible and expositiony. Take a look for yourself:         So yeah. Terrible? Might be good? Tell me what you think!

Kayzee

Kayzee

 

Medium of Choice.

I have been making some comments on this status about my general apathy to movies. To be honest I find movies kind of dumb. It's not that I can't recognize that there are some brilliant films, or that the art of filmmaking isn't a fascinating subject, or anything like that. It's just that the biggest reaction I tend to get with movies, even really good ones, is "that was pretty okay", and the most excited I can get for one is "eh, maybe if a friend/family member wants to see it I will tag along". A lot of why is just because I think movies are too short and insubstantial to tell good stories, and another good chuck of it has to do with my distaste for the Hollywood formulas and tropes.   Most of it though? I guess it's just that I plain don't have that much interest in the stories they are telling or the experience they are providing. For example, Avengers. I never saw it. I heard it's great, I have heard it does new things, I have heard it is really well put together. But I don't really care, because superheros don't interest me. This new Star Wars movie. I know nothing about it really. It might be great. I just don't care about it any more, and I am not sure I ever did. Sure as a kid Star Wars was one of those cultural backdrop things you just had to have seen, and I liked it well enough, but I guess it always felt just like that: cultural backdrop. A thing you had to know and experience to understand the world around you.   A lot of the classic movies I saw as a kid seemed like that. Books too really. A good many of them I simply digested rather then enjoyed. The original Star Wars movies got burned into my mind and maybe I can't remember every last shot, but I think given time I could reconstruct at least most of them in my memory as if I was actually seeing them. Ideas from the mythology, like Jedi and Lightsabers, are an important part of out culture to this day. Actually caring about the plot though? Eh... Maybe when I was a kid and the whole big "good vs evil" thing was new or interesting, but even then I think books like Lord of the Rings and eventually games like the Ultima series was more what I was into, where I could really dig into the lore and such.   But this is all only my personal perspective. Other people could feel the same way about games or books as I do about movies, thinking maybe that books get bogged down to much in detail and games can be too annoying to play through when they just want to relax and be entertained. I can't really fault them for that. Sometime it is frustrating though that so many people dismiss games as an artform, and even though I say a lot that I am not sure games are really the best story telling medium, a lot of my favorite stories happen to be told through games. It seems a shame that some of these stories will never retch some people just because they don't like the medium it is told in. And I suppose it is a shame that some stories will never reach me because I don't care about movies.   Honestly though, my attitude to movies has spread more and more to most forms of "old media" for one reason or another, including games. I rarely read books, my TV isn't even hooked up, I have no real interest in comic books, the last video game console I owned was the wii and I never played it, and so on. I find myself more entertained reading fanfics, or watching youtube, reading webcomics, or playing free or cheep indie games. And I am finding it harder and harder to really care. Maybe it's just as a grow older and more antisocial I find it less and less necessary to keep up with everyone else. I find it more rewarding just to find random little things I like rather then read watch or play what everyone else is. Or maybe it's that in the Internet age, fandoms and social groups are splintering and fracturing into their own little mini cultures more and more, becoming more self absorbed. In the old days if you wanted to have "nerd cred" you better know the "nerd canon" of Star Trek, Star Wars, Monty Python, Hitchhiker's Guide, and so on. Now there are a billion popular "nerd" fandoms, many of which I don't know much about besides the name.   Either way, I am pretty happy with what I like. I may go see the new Star Wars with my family but chances are I won't care too much.

Kayzee

Kayzee

 

So Undertale won the GameFAQs Best Game Ever poll...

... and apparently the Internet is freaking out about it? Sorry for rambling so much about Undertale here lately, I just find it an interesting game with an interesting reception. Anyway I wanted to make some comments about it this whole poll nonsense: The GameFAQ poll was always intended mostly as a silly fun thing, not a serious poll, and even if it wasn't it wouldn't mean much.
The whole "tournament" style is complete bull anyway. It's way way too easy for otherwise promising tittles to get crushed early or for less good ones to do well in the rankings simply because of placement. If it was round-robin style instead of bracket style maybe that would be interesting actually, but as is it seems pretty stupid to me.
There may have been a lot of people voting for it just to piss other fans of classic games off.
The idea of a "best game ever" is kind of a childish and insulting one anyway. Even rating games in lists of favorites seems wrong to me. You don't just hold up one piece of media over all others as if all others are worth less then it is. Art doesn't work like that (and yes games are art). Art is a language, a culture, a rich tapestry of many works. They all add to each other and help each other. None of them are ever perfect, and they don't need to be. You look at some ideas in one work as inspiring and interesting and some in another
While I think Undertale deserves all or most of it's praise, I also think there are many many games, most of which that have been forgotten by all but a few, that are just as remarkable as Undertale is and in many of the same ways.
Still, do I think Undertale winning is a bad thing? Hack no. I am glad as heck to see Ocarina of Time taken down a few pegs. It is a boring overrated snore of a game. Majora's Mask is awesome though.   Almost forgot: about the whole thing made me smile.

Kayzee

Kayzee

 

A Undertale/Touhou crossover idea. (Spoliers of course)

Because I am a nerdy geek, I thought of a way Undertale and Touhou could coexist within the same universe. Consider this:   "What do you mean the barrier is going to collapse?!" shouted Reimu. "Haven't I done a good enough job as shrine maiden? It's not my fault if the shrine is always getting destroyed and no one donates enough for repairs! And why are you so calm about it!?"   Yukari sipped her tea. "It's not the fault of you or anything inside of Gensokyo. It's because of something happening in the outside world, and not something that can be so easily stopped... and it might not be entirely a bad thing."   Reimu cocked her head. "Not a bad thing? I thought maintaining the barrier was the most important thing to you? And what's going on in the outside world then?"   Yukari took another sip. "Simply put what is happening is that people are believing again. The outside world no longer doubts the existence of magic. Without that doubt, the barrier cannot maintain it's self. Eventually all of Gensokyo will be thrown back into the outside world."   Reimu blinked a few times. "You mean Gensokyo won't be destroyed? And won't that mean youkai will be hunted to extinction?"   Yukari shook her head. "Gensokyo was once part of the outside world, and it will fit back into it as if it never left. And usually perhaps youkai might be hunted but... things have changed. It might be that the barrier isn't necessary anymore."   Reimu stood, shocked. "H-How? How could the outside world have changed so suddenly?"   Yukari smiled. "Let me tell you a little story. About where Youkai came from long long ago"   Reimu looked confused. "What does that have to do with-"   Yukari just put a finger over her lip. "Shhh... I will explain after."   Yukari smiled and began to intone words as if they had long been committed to memory by a sage.   "Long ago two races ruled over the earth: Humans and Monsters. Humans were creatures of the physical, solid and resolute. Monsters were creatures of the magical, flexible and expressive."   "Both feared the other. The monsters feared humans for the humans were strong and often violent, able to kill the monsters en mass with the power of their determination. It was said even that the human soul was more powerful then the monster's. But there was the humans weakness. The humans feared the monsters for the monsters could steal the human's power, creating fearsome beings more powerful then anything either had seen."   "At first the humans and the monsters simply avoided each other,spirit, each making their own way in the wide world. But soon that became impossible. The humans and monsters began to run into each other more and more. At first, monsters simply chose to remain as invisible and inconspicuous as possible and worked to live with humans. The humans knew there were there and though fearing them began to see that they were mostly helpful and benign, and so left them be. Some they worshiped as gods and gave some power, but most they just left little offerings to in exchange for work. There are still stories of friendly elves helping a shoemaker make shoes, or protective house spirits, or other such creatures. Not all monsters were friendly of course, many were still tempted by the power a human soul could give them. Even so their was mostly harmony."   "But then, things took a turn. Maybe it was because monsters had remained mostly invisible and underfoot that they became less and less appreciated. Whatever it was, wars broke out. The humans wishing to exterminate and vanish the memories of all monsters. To wipe them from existence. Many were simply exterminated, but a few had the mercy of being sealed far under the earth. The rest fled, hiding in the shadows, and left to places where they had not reached. Soon monsters were pushed more and more, until this magical set of islands became out of our last refuge. But even here humans came and humans fought. But here monsters fought back from the shadows taking human souls and becoming strong, and those are the first youkai. Is it any wonder that we have grown more and more to resemble the humans that we used to hunt? Human souls changed us... in many ways for the worst, and many ways for the better. We have become both strong and violent like humans with all the magical powers of our monster ancestors."   Yukari sighed before continuing. "But... we were still too few in number. The humans still outnumbered us. We had the power of many human souls, but that power has drawbacks. Souls have a mind of there own. You can't absorb that power and not be effected by it. Even if you can stay in control form just absorbing a few, any more then 5 souls absorbed at once and the souls can rebel, and backfire on the user. Youkai have learned other methods of gaining power since then, safer ones, many which only involve absorbing small parts of human spirit energy and not the whole soul. But back then it was the only way we knew how. So to avoid extermination I planned and help create the Great Hakurei Barrier."   Yukari paused a bit and smiled. "So... can you guess what happened to change the outside world?"   Reimu gave a grunt of irritation. "Out with it already!"   Yukari chuckled. "Alright. As I said some monsters were sealed deep within the earth. One of the barriers sealing in monsters has been broken, and the monsters have left and are now rejoining humanity on the surface. Not only that but it seems to be going well, and they are accepting each other."   Reimu didn't know what to think of that. "So that's it? Monsters show up and then everyone is happy forever? What about Gensokyo though? Even if what you say is true, from what you have said youkai are not like innocent monsters anymore. Do you really think Gensokyo can coexist on the outside world too?"   Yukari shrugged. "I don't know. Humans and youkai here are in an uneasy coexistence, but many youkai are violent and sadistic and this place has been cut off from the outside world for so long. Maybe it would be better if it stayed that way, but... I seeing monsters and humans coexist peacefully again...   Yukari suddenly grinned. "It fills me with DETERMINATION."   Reimu suddenly wondered if she had missed a reference to something she didn't understand. She guessed that was the one normal thing about this conversation with Yukari.

Kayzee

Kayzee

 

The whole "Video Games as Art" debate again... and is gaming really still "in it's infancy"?

I was reading this article and is sort of annoyed me. I mean I love Undertale and all, but I don't think it's a glorious subversive step forward for the medium as a whole that will lead to the holy path of being recognized as a legitimate art form or anything like that. And frankly I think it's kind of insulting to every game that came before imply it is. Undertale is a fantastically well-written game that is both extremely funny and heartrending with some interesting subversive elements, but it isn't really anything new. It's not like we haven't had fantastically well written games that are both extremely funny and heartrending before, like take Star Control 2 for example (to say nothing of Undertale's obvious inspiration). And it's not like we haven't had games that have done extremely screwy subversive things before, like take Spec Ops: The Line and Irisu Syndrome! ( I think the Undertale demo's trick of fiddling with the manual as you play was probably directly inspired by this game actually, and possible other things) for example.   I would like to restate something I have said time and time again. It probably doesn't need to be said, but here we go. Anyone who doesn't think video games can be art is completely ignorant about what art actually is. Art is simply anything that is deliberately used to make a statement and/or invoke an experience. That's all it is, all it ever was, and all it ever will be. Anything can be art if used the right way. There is no secret ultimate authority or cabal who decides what is or is not art, and you don't get to decide to exclude it for whatever arbitrary reason you want. If the author intends to make an artistic statement, it can be counted as art. Period. Video games have just as much claim to the tittle of art as film or books have. Just as much claim as paintings. Just as much claim as a stain on your shirt if you intend it to make a statement. Arguing what is or is not art is dumb and just makes people look ignorant or elitist or both. I don't care what so and so said, no matter how famous or accomplished they are. If they don't understand this basic fact they are wrong.   Okay now that we are all on the same page about what art actually is, why is it that people have trouble counting video games as art in the same ways movies and books are? Because to some people, just being art isn't enough, nor is being popular. No, to some people, you need a whole culture of critics and analysis that goes along with the art that elevates it to a level worth caring about. Which is fair enough. No one is going to care much about that stain on your shirt unless other people are talking about it and telling others why it is important. This is what divides art and "High Art", the art that people actually care about and talk about. I mean someone can draw super detailed amazing fanart and put it on the Internet for all to see, but it's probably going to be another piece of art in a flood off stuff very few people care about no matter how amazing it is. The fact is, no matter how many people will want to think otherwise, art is disposable and not vary valuable on it's own. You need a critical educated culture of people who appreciate and make commentary on things to make something worth paying attention to.   Thing is though, video games HAVE that culture. People like me who grew up on an spend their life obsessing over every aspect of gaming are that culture, the same way film buffs are the same for moves. Video games are just starting to sneak in to the academic world as a serious field of study, but they are steadily gaining ground in that arena. Youtube is filled with people who will pick apart and analyze every aspect of a game in insightful and educated ways. So why is it that people still seem to be debating including video games as an art form every bit the equal of film or books?   I have heard the excuse time and time again that video games is a medium still in it's infancy. I disagree. I don't think it has been since at leas the days of the NES. If video gaming isn't already an adult, it is in at least just getting past it's awkward teenage years and is on it's way to collage... where while the industry part of it parties and tries to get laid as much as possible while pissing away it's inhabitance and struggles to pass it's classes, the part that actually cares about the games is actually working and learning and expanding it's horizons and contributing to a better tomorrow.   Yeah I know video games are a young medium compared to others, but that doesn't really matter that much. It's not like the moment people decided to make video games a thing they had to completely reinvent everything they knew about art. It's not like everyone who ever wanted to work on games suddenly forgot about all their language skills or about art theory. Even the technical side of it was mostly grounded in math and computer science which had long been studied. Just film and television borrowed techniques meant for theater, photography, radio, and others as well as inventing it's own tricks, so do video games borrow from traditional board games, computer simulation, film, books, and all sorts of other places as well as inventing it's own ticks. For games technology was the most limiting factor for a long long time, and people still made amazing things with very little.   Go back and look at some NES classics, like the original Legend off Zelda for example. Everything in the first Zelda was focused on providing a particular feeling of wonder and adventure, of recreating the feeling that author had of exploring and finding hidden caves as a kid. How is that not art? How is that not meaningful? And I personally think the first Zelda, actually provided the best emulation of that feeling that the Zelda series ever has. I dare say a lot of older games are even more artistic and better expressions of the medium then most games today which have tried to become too much like films or books.   No the simple fact is, video games are not in their infancy and haven't been for a long time. They just haven't yet been rooted into generations of traditional ideas about what media is and are therefor targeted by old media supporters for taking attention away from what they like. That's all it is. I don't see why I should give the whining of that dying subculture any attention, but I guess it feels nice to rant about it sometimes.

Kayzee

Kayzee

 

Why Violence is Kinda Boring.

So, Undertale has gotten extremely popular lately and has gotten highly praised. I think one of the things that it uses to sell it's self is the promise of being an RPG where you don't have to kill anyone, and how it really tries to show the consequences if you do. I think though, that it mostly ends up being good because of the sheer quality of it's writing and design rather then because of it's gimmicks. But there certainly is something to the promise of having an alternative to violence.   It's not that I think violence is automatically bad, I really have no moral/ethical objection to violent games and media. It's a fantasy, and I think most people understand that violence is a tool that is to be used only in a last resort situation (if at all) without having to have a game or other piece of fiction spell that out for them. I do think that surrounding oneself with only mindless violent media without any thought or commentary thrown in is unhealthy, but I don't think most people actually do that. Anyway, I am pretty sure that unless you expose yourself to at least a little violence it becomes impossible to form any sort of educated opinion about it.   But the thing is, violence, especially in games, is kinda played out. And I mean that both mechanically and narratively. Mechanically most games over the years have sort of settled into a set of comfortable easy abstractions that are easy to program and easy to understand and lead themselves well to violence of some sort. Everything from Mario's basic physics to simple HP meters and attack rolls abstract violence so well. You don't see many games like Façade where the whole game is just figuring out the right things to say to other characters, and to be honest those games don't really seem that interesting to me either except as a curiosity. But there are other games that are about building, or exploring, or puzzle solving, or even farming, that can be compelling without any violence at all. It's interesting I think to see games that use new and different mechanical systems for other things besides violence. But heck, it's fun to see ones that use different mechanics for violence too, like in Dwarf Fortress.   Narratively we have seen stories that talk about or deconstruct violence before. Even Undertale isn't particularly new in this regard, at it's most heavy handed it sounds a lot like a repeat of Spec Ops: The Line in many ways, though I think it's much more effective in that you do actually have a choice in Undertale. There is only so much I think you can actually say about violence before it gets old and preachy and you just have to roll your eyes. It can be an important message to hear once, but if every game becomes like that it's boring. Then again it's also not interesting to ignore the problem if your game has violence in it. If you are doing something with violence, to simply refuse to talk about it at all is very cheep and makes the writer seem ignorant.   That said, a bit of violence is okay to me. I understand not wanting to do anything real wacky and sticking with a normal RPG formula or doing an average story. I just that I don't want to see every single game be the same I guess. I have been working on a game lately and I thought it would be fun to do something sort of like Undertale and have multiple ways to approach encounters, but I wasn't necessarily trying to make a statement, I just wanted to experiment with different kinds of mechanics. I am not sure it's really any more interesting that most games but I was having fun programing stuff... Don't know if it will ever be done or will be any good but I liked coding what I did at least. :3

Kayzee

Kayzee

 

A Tale of Ruby: The Duck Who Said She Was A Chicken

There was a duck who decided one day she to try becoming a chicken. And thinking that, she decided to find a farmer to live with, and began a journey. But all in her land knew she was a duck, so she went to a new land where the farms were still being built.   The first farmer who she met was building his farm strictly. She introduced herself but the moment she asked to be let in the chicken pen, the farmer yelled at her and refused to build his farm while she was there, knowing that she was a duck. So she left.   The second farmer she met was building his farm more freely. She introduced herself and asked to be let in the chicken coop. The farmer wasn't paying close attention and let her. And she settled down happily. And when the farm was build, she laid many eggs for the farmer. The second farmer went to sell the eggs and noticed their unusual look. But they were still chicken eggs right? They came from the chicken coop after all. So he sold them anyway. For years he sold them, and became rich and could afford many new chickens and a team of farm hands. The other chickens payed little attention to the duck, but the duck knew she did not fit in, and felt more and more like a fraud. One day a farm hand went to the chicken coop with the duck and was confused when he heard no clucks from her. So he called out for the duck to cluck, but the duck could not, she could only quack. The farmhand quickly told the farmer, and he finally understood why some eggs were always different and became outraged and kicked the poor duck right out.   The duck wandered in despair. She wondered into the woods, and ran right into a fox. "Well now..." said the fox, "what is a tasty treat like you doing here in the woods?" The duck was rightfully frightened and backed off. "You are a lucky thing, I happen to be full from eating the chickens of a poor farmer. But I am curious why you would come out here into the woods." The duck was wary but told her story, and how she had fooled the second farmer for years and felt awful about it, and how she was finally caught, and how the second farmer would have been better off if he had been like the first and never let her in the coop.   The fox snickered and soon started to laugh. "Oh you feel bad eh? For what exactly?" the fox said. The duck was confused, wasn't what she did a horrible thing? The fox snickered and said "Yes perhaps that deception would have lead to disaster. But it did not. He sold your eggs and the ignorant people never complained, and he got rich off of your back. As for the first farmer..." He turned and motioned for her to follow. She, daring not to disobey did so, and soon was led to a small and poorly maintained farm. "Look" said the fox, " at what has become of him!" And there was the first farmer, struggling in back breaking labor. The duck was confused and asked why this would happen. "Because, " said the fox, "he was too much a perfectionist. Everything had to be right, everything in it's proper place, nothing even slightly off could be allowed. He spent so much time building the farm just right, making sure nothing was wrong. Except he was not perfect. I stuck in after all. Killed and ate his chickens again and again. The farmer that you worked for was too clever, too fast. Everytime I tried to sneak in he would come up with some way of keeping me out. It wasn't that sophisticated at first, but he would notice me and change things too quick for me to get far. He found problems and fixed them quickly and simply. This one was lost in his perfect idea of structure."   "Maybe, " mused the fox, "things would have good differently if I would not have shown up, or if I had been stopped. Maybe this one's perfect structure would have made him more successful in the long run if he had more help. Maybe even it would have worked better with a different profession. I don't know. But what's done is done." The duck wondered herself. "I will leave you for now... " said the fox. "I am not yet hungry and you would make too much noise anyway. But just remember I am lurking. You don't want me to catch you when I am more hungry, do you?" The fox chuckled and walked away leaving the duck with her thoughts.   Maybe it wasn't so bad to not check if something was pretending to be something else sometimes? If it helped get the job done. Still, she was going home. She was done being a chicken. It was time to be a duck again. Or at least something that quacked like one.

Kayzee

Kayzee

 

My thoughts on The Magic Circle, or: How some game developers seem to missunderstand games.

So I ran across a very interesting game the other day on youtube. I only watched an LP of it but I may buy it myself soon (that is i my dinky computer can handle it, which I doubt) because besides it's story being amusing it's gameplay actually looks really really interesting, even if it seems sort of short. I think there is something that is sort of interesting that the game touches on, maybe even unintentionally, that it never really to my knowledge addresses completely.   So first of all, I am going to be mentioning some spoilers for the game. Nothing really groundbreakingly major I think but still, if you care about that sort of thing, well spoiler warring and such.   So okay. This game, it's about running around a unfinished gameworld being worked on by feuding developers that just cannot seem to get along. There are three developers that tend to show up as the main stars of the show, while most of the others just seem to show up in backstory lore (in the form of developer changelogs and commentary on the unfinished world). It is noticeable to me that none of these three main developers really seem to actually care that much about the game it's self, or even understand what a game is and what it's for.   First we have the head designer (voiced by Dr Venture of all people), who acts as the game's writer. He only really cares about the story, to the point where he is actively hostile to the players. Early in the game he decides they are entitled kill-crazy jerks who when given a weapon would just run around and kill all his carefully made NPCs. So he takes away their weapon. Despite the fact most of the game was designed with combat in mind (you never do get it back, but though shenanigans find another power that is actually a lot more interesting then using a weapon anyway).   Next there is the cynical second in command that has no choice but to follow the head designer's lead even though she hates it, but can't quit due to shady cooperate dealings. She actively hates all the story focus and wants more combat and killing things. She seems to be on the side of gameplay, but I think it becomes obvious she just wants something to master. She even goes on this long story about cavemen (or woman, whatever) called "Frag" and "Brag" that seems to really drive the point about how she views games as pure competition and sport.   Then there is the fan intern that flatters her way into the head designer's good graces and ends up doing a lot of the work. All she really cares about though is nostalgia, and resurrecting the past. In fact it becomes more and more obvious that her dedication to the past is much stronger then her dedication to the present. Her focus is on the exact set of symbols she remembers and the emotional responses they trigger.   It strikes me that none of these developers seem to have a clue about what games are actually about. To me, games are and always have been about the manipulation of data within a set of rules. To me it's always been just the pure joy of figuring out and using systems. Exploring them, exploiting them, figuring out how they work. Bit like programing I guess, or even life it's self, but maybe with more strict rules and a bit of story for context, just enough to make you want to work to something and to let the world you are exploring come alive beyond pure gameplay mechanics.   Ironically this is something that the real game (not the fake in-universe game) actually seems to do pretty well, at least for the main chunk of it's gameplay. It offers a simple, but pretty deep, mechanic and allows you to solve puzzles various ways with it. I hesitate to spoil the actual mechanic, but if you wanna know:     Thing is, I am not sure i that was an idea that the game's story ever really picked up on, or i they just threw a interesting mechanic to keep people interested and drive off the "not a game" crowd. There is a lot of interesting if heavyhanded commentary, and several long speeches, about games and why people play them and why and how they are made and so on and so forth, but I didn't see anything about this, at least not directly. It even, at parts, pokes at the old idea that video games are just escapism, which always rubbed me the wrong way, but I don't think it was supporting that view and instead using it as another example of how the head designer just doesn't get players.   I always thought games were important. All fiction is of course, beyond escapism. It communicates and discusses ideas, sets up scenarios, allows hypothetical to be explored. This is an important function of thought, one we need more they people are willing to admit it seems in our day to day lives. And games are one level beyond even fiction. They allow us to explore abstract models and conceptions, and allow a nuanced way to see how some choices will play out in an abstract setting. Escapism may happen sure, but people uses stories and games to enhance their minds, making them more effective for decision making in the real world as well.   I guess I am rambling at this point but those are just the thoughts this game brought out of me. Lots of games do that. I think it's a good thing, it means the time invested in the medium is worth it. You know just the other day, I was thinking of making a blog entry about how I sometimes think I should just leave gaming. When gaming news depresses me I think that sometimes. But it's still worth it, and I find examples why all the time. :3   (Also: Fun fact: The game's name seems to be a pun on this which is kinda like a gaming version of the forth wall. Clever!)

Kayzee

Kayzee

 

The Ultima-ite RPG?

I am not sure exactly why, but today I started thinking about the Ultima games. I expect most people today have only heard of them from Spoony, if they have heard of them at all, but I don't think it's hyperbole to say that they act as the foundation that pretty much all modern RPGs rest upon in some manner or another. The series might probably still be going strong today and be rivaling The Elder Scrolls in terms of a popular fantasy RPG that impacts gaming culture had not EA got their insidious claws into Origin Systems.   My only solace is that nowadays EA finally gets the blame it deserves for it's many many crimes against gaming, but that is tampered by the sadness it came to late to prevent so much tragedy. But let's not get into that. I have hated EA for decades longer then most anyone else already, and I could spend all day ranting and raving about how they are ruin everything they touch. Ironically Origin seemed to hate them too before they were taken over if any of the many many jabs in Ultima 7 is any indication. I wouldn't be surprised if EA was run by The Guardian himself... it would certainly make a scary amount of sense to me for him to try to ruin his own universe.   Anyway, it seems to me kind of a shame that the series was kinda left to die and lie forgotten. I mean I guess Ultima Online may still be around in some form, and Shroud of the Avatar now exists as what seems to be a spiritual squeal in part, but the vast storyline and lore has still kind of crashed and burned and the gameplay innovations the series made were never quite followed up on. I guess you could argue that The Elder Scrolls seems to keep the open world fantasy RPG torch alive, but I always thought The Elder Scrolls was comparatively lifeless and uninvolving and were much better in the series earlier entries Arena and Daggerfall, where the focus was on creating a vast mostly randomly generated world without much detail. Once Morrowind came along it all kind of fell apart in my option.   I guess now that I think about it it's kind of a rarity in RPGs nowadays to do what Ultima did and try their hardest to tie the whole series into one long continuous continuity with the same core cast of characters while still having each game be it's own independent adventure. Mostly nowadays I see RPG series just have each entry in the series be completely independent, or have the few that have a continuity be preplanned episodes of a larger story. Ultima however can cheat a bit due to it's Narnia-like rules of world travel and the fact that a number of the cast seems to either travel back and forth from Earth or due to being from another world originally are blessed with long long lifespans. This means 200 years can pass between some games but the same characters can still show up. I won't say it makes perfect sense, because it doesn't. The characters, objects, locations, plot points, and so on that will reappear with each new game can be terribly random and inconsistent sometimes, and subtle retcons or plotholes seem to creep in from time to time (this isn't even counting the last game in the series which is a big rushed mess of plotholes and retcons). Plus the world seems way to small for all the events and history that are implied to happen sometimes though this seems like a problem with most games, particularly older ones (The Elder Scrolls seems to almost have the opposite problem, where the world is way too big for the games to seem like they have any real connection at all).   Though really the fact that computer/console RPGs had storylines at all is something that the Ultima series pretty much invented. Before Ultima 4, storylines in RPGs pretty much were excuse plots to run around a fantasy world and slaughter monsters. Ultima 4 did something different by focusing on character interaction and personal growth, and it introduced the concept of a morality meter, though it did so in a diffrent multi-dimensional way and basically punished you for being a bad guy. It was Ultima 5 though that really got the ball moving on story-based RPGs by having an oppressive government and villains that actually move around and do things involved with the plot. One unique thing is that Ultima 4 and 6 basically had no big bad villain at all, (though you are lead to believe 6 does) and no final boss. They basically exist as pure morality dramas. Most of the others after 4 seem to have a villain because it ties in to the theme of the story the games try to tell.   Most Ultima games after the first three early hack and slash ones have to do with ideology and ethics. Ultima 4 was purely about what it takes to be an actual hero and not just a guy who slaughters their way to the final boss. Ultima 5 has a theme of an ideology being corrupted into mandatory law by a tyrant, Ultima 6 is about what happens when two opposing ideologies clash. Ultima 7 seems to deal with the exact opposite of 5, well meaning people willingly being swept up in a corruptive ideology or group. Ultima 7 Part 2 is a bit more confused but has hints of being about what happens when people reject any ideology all together and/or what happens when an ideology is fractured into warring factions that take some ideals as more important then others. Ultima 8 is when EA started ruining things, but it clearly has a theme of being forced to do horrible things for what you think is the "greater good", and Ultima 9 has a running theme of why EA sucks and ruins everything it touches. I mean, that's not Ultima 9's intended theme, I don't think it really has one, but that is clearly what you will read into it. Maybe some of these themes are heavy handed and misguided, but they did attempt something that was not really done before, inject a little philosophy and higher thinking into a computer RPG storyline.   Also the open nature of the world is something that is subtly different then most RPGs today. I mean, I may bring the series too much as a comparison, but in The Elder Scrolls you seem to spend a lot of time trudging through uninteresting terrain on formally defined quests which NPCs hand out like personalityless vending machines, but in the better Ultima games like 6 and 7, maybe because the world is much smaller and there is a greater continuity of ideas and history to draw from, the terrain is more filled out with interesting things, the quests are less formal, and the NPCs converse with you more naturally and have more interesting personalty and personal history. It's a open world that doesn't feel as empty or impersonal.   Not that being empty or impersonal isn't always a bad thing, it's just that you need to design the game to focus on some other kind of engagement, like randomization and creativity like in Minecraft, or extreme character customization and freedom like Daggerfall. But I think the newer The Elder Scrolls games and other open world RPGs in that format are still trying, and failing, to really capture what Ultima 6 and 7 did so well, but maybe that is just me. Not really saying they are bad games, they are just a bit misguided I think in their design focus. Oddly the one The Elder Scrolls game I think that really does seem to capture that kind of Ultima-like feel is Battlespire, which feels a lot like the Utima Underworld games. It's kind of a pity Battlespire was such a buggy mess because it's really nice in several ways. I especially like how you can talk to a good amount of the game's enemies and get some to turn on each other or help you. I would have liked to see what happened if this sub-series developed further. Of course Battlespire is a linear dungeon crawl and not open world at all (and Ultima Underworld kinda ends up more like a metroidvania in a way, you end up backtracking a bit but it isn't really open world either).   And look, my point with all this is not to say that they are the best games ever and are so much better then the games they make today, because they aren't really. There are a lot of things wrong with the series. My point is simply that I don't think they should be forgotten, and I think most RPG fans, particularly "JRPG" fans have ever heard of them. The early Ultima games were pretty big in Japan too, and it can be argued Dragon Quest is basically a simplified Ultima clone, and that Final Fantasy is a simplified Dragon Quest clone, so I think JRPGs owe a lot to Ultima as well. And it seems a lot of ideas from the series didn't really get picked up on or were dropped or simplified over the years. So I just want people to be able to remember the series and maybe take it's lessons to heart for the next generation of great innovative RPGs.

Kayzee

Kayzee

 

Unearthing Half-Remembered Things I Saw as a Kid.

You ever think back and have that one cartoon you saw when you were a kid and couldn't remember what the heck it was called or maybe anything but a few hazy images or half remembered plot line? I sure have! I saw a heck of a lot of stuff when I was a kid, most of them pretty well established as a part of pop culture. I mean I am sure it isn't hard to remember stuff like Tron, Dr. Who (pre-revival I mean) or Capitan N, even if you can't remember anything about them, you usually can remember what they were and easily are able to look them up and rewatch them anytime you want. And there are probably a number of unremarkable things that you have seen that you have completely forgotten or faded into a generic mishmash because they are so forgettable. But then there are things you have seen that stick with you somehow (even if they are not very good) but have become so buried in popular culture or what I do remember is so hard to explain or search for that a simple google search just doesn't cut it. At worst you wonder if the show is all in your head or you were confused or something.   Slowly but surly I have been able to uncover most of the half remembered things from my childhood. Just today I was looking once again for a show I saw about signing robots from the future with hearts on their chest, and low and behold when searching for "80s cartoon robots" in google image search I found this. Could it be? Sure enough I found it. Only it turns out no time travel was involved. I thought the robots came from the future for some reason.   Anyway this isn't the first time I found something long lost that was buried in my brain. Last time a half-remembered scene about a dog food can logo with a picture of a dog holding a can (on which was a picture of a dog holding a can, on which was a picture of a dog holding a can, on which was a picture of a dog holding a can... zooming in all the way further and further to infinity) lead me to this.   Before that I half remembered a TV show where the villain was a greedy guy who was bulldozing down a forest (and in the opening represented this by him playing a basic pacman like game with a bulldozer as pacman and trees as the dots) and the animals trying to stop him which I found because Jim Sterling (thank god for him) kept using a picture of the villain in his videos (whenever he talks about greedy game corporations... which is a lot).   Before that searching for half remembered show about a painter resting under a tree in a forest and given the ability to talk to animals for a time while he worked to save the forest from a villain who was basically made out of thorns who became good and bloomed into a rose in the end lead to this.   And finally the start of all this was when I on a whim decided to watch an old anime about a cute widdle unicorn, and was shocked to discover one of the movies he stared in was one I had seen before. I remembered a lot about it to, the creepy evil puppet villain, the way he turned people into flat puppets and made built buildings out of them, how he had this aprentice, how he was powered by hate... But I completely forgot about the hero, I remembered the hero being the apprentice, and remembered him as another toy that came to life and turned good in the end.   So there you go. And with that, the only half remembered thing I remember seeing as a kid I can't remember the title of or anything really about was a live action fantasy movie involving a boy with a sword that could cut through metal (and maybe an invisibility cloak) trying to rescue someone from a tower which was enchanted so you starved to death very quickly when inside it, and if you stayed to long there was nothing left but a white cube or pile of dust. Now that Is going to annoy the heck out of me. Oh well.   Anyone else remember any half-remembered things from their childhood they saw but can't for the life of them figure out enough about to tell what it was?

Kayzee

Kayzee

 

The End of Copyright?

One thing I am almost entirely sure of, is that "copyright", as we know it anyway, is going to mostly or totally go away... eventually. Don't get me wrong, it's not going to go away anytime soon or without a hard fight, but after a while it's just going to be impractical. It may take a while but the signs are already here, happening now as we speak. What signs am I talking about? Well here are a few: Linux won. Oh yeah yeah, I know the majority of desktop users probably still use windows. Doesn't matter. Linux is used for practically everything else. Servers? Mostly Linux. Smart Phones? A good number of them are Android which is a version of Linux. Most embedded devices? You guessed it, Linux. And let's face it, desktops are mostly dieing anyway, even businesses are starting to do "Bring Your Own Device" more and more. Even Steam is embracing Linux, so windows gaming may end up being a thing of the past soon too. And of course because of this,
The idea of "Free Software" is winning too. Big business is becoming a look more open to practical collaborative methods of programing. Google for example, are a big big pusher of open source. It's just an easier and simpler way of doing things. This has spilled into games too, but not as much as other areas. Most every application you can think of though has a free version, and most of them are just as good. Do you really want to pay $600+ for photoshop when gimp is offered for free with just about as many features? But this doesn't only apply to software because,
Creative Commons licenses allow the same type of freedom outside software. Wikipedia already uses it for most of it's content, and there are lots of places that use it to make free art, sounds, and music. Nowadays it's actually not that hard to look online and find sites dedicated to royalty free artwork, sound, or music. Some of it is made just for games even. But even without this type of thing,
People ignore copyright anyway. For most people I would guess, copyright is an afterthought, if they think about it at all. There is the matter of out and out piracy of course where people just copy things anyway, copyright laws or no. Not all of them even think about it, just copying a song or two out of habit. But that's not all there is to it. There are also remixes and fanfiction, works of art made from or based on other works of art. But how would people make money off of this all you ask if they don't have control over copying? Well,
People don't have to make money just of selling copies of something. Let's face it, half the Internet runs on ads anyway, and even if I don't particularly like that fact and block them on every opportunity, they still make money. People now can raise money for projects by themselves, and donate to a person they think is worth it. These aren't all viable all the time I know, but the point is alternative ways of making money exists. Even if it didn't there is still the fact that,
People hate Copyright more and more each day. Let's face it. Every time you hear about Youtube pulling some Content ID crap, every time you hear about one more unreleased game from Japan or old game that has been abandoned by publishers who hoard the rights but never do anything with them, every time some asshole makes a DMCA strike on something you like, every time the government caves in to lobbyists and makes a bill like SOPA and PIPA, someone gets even more fed up with all this bullshit. It's only a matter of time before the dam breaks.
I am not saying everything is going to change right away, I am just saying I wouldn't be surprised if within at longest the next hundred years the idea of copyright as we knowing slowly gets widdled down to nothing. And good riddance. But I kinda think it's worth thinking about at least. That's not all, The Singularity (the point where technology can recursively improve it's self on it's own and we all likely either die off or become cybergods) I heard may happen as soon as 2045. Will we even need copyright if, say, we are all connected as a super AI network?

Kayzee

Kayzee

 

The Problem With Game Design Courses

Not to be anti-intellectual or anything, but I do sometimes question the wisdom of actual academic ideas of video game design. Partly because serious academic interest in the subject still seems like a relatively new thing, but also because I sort of worry it may be too reductionist. The world of video games is now more then ever right in the middle of sort of redefining it's self and what a video game can be, and I am not sure if the formal teachings really mesh with the reality right now.   Let's take a example. The game Portal was based heavily on a game designed by students. Now Portal is a great game, and I don't think anyone would argue about that. But Portal seems to be a product of a very formal idea off how games are made and what a game is. I have seen quite a few student games that follow the same kind of idea, you take a single mechanic, work out the implications of that mechanic, and design the whole game around that. Which is fine, it works and lets you explore a mechanic to it's ultimate end. It's neat and tidy. But I think it would be a mistake to design all games that way.   As a counter example, let's look at Dwarf Fortress. It's a messy messy game. The UI is a mess with lots and lots of menu options and keyboard shortcuts. The gameplay involves tons and tons of mechanics haphazardly thrown in for no other reason then because the designer can. And yet, while it would be wrong to say it's an objectively better game then Portal, in my eyes it's at least a more interesting one. And then we have Minecraft which sits somewhere in the middle. And we have lots of art games witch exist totally outside the whole spectrum.   My point is this: I am just not sure how much game design classes actually tell you about the vast world of game design and all of it's many incarnations. I am too old to take them myself, and don't have the money anyway, so I guess I will never know. There is a heck of a lot going on in game design that seems to go outside the formal patterns.   I guess this is probably true of literature and film studies too though, so it probably isn't anything new to say that. Really, if you ask me, the whole collage system is practically a scam anyway, at least in the USA. It just costs too much money and doesn't do enough to prepare people for the real world. But that is a whole other problem that I have been rambling about for years. And also the whole job market.

Kayzee

Kayzee

 

The Completeness of Turing

You think I am just a hopeless nerd And you've played so many games I guess it might be so But still I can not see If the hopeless one is me How can there be so much that you don't know? You don't know...   You think there is no art in the programs A program is just a dead thing that runs the game But I know every sprite and thing and feature Is an object, has a class, has a name   You think that the only some art matters Only the graphics or the story or the sound But if you take a look behind the surface You'll find things you never would have found   Have you ever found the wonder of the code Or danced with the numbers and the strings? Can you design the classes of the objects? Can you code with the completeness of Turing? Can you code with the completeness of Turing?   Come learn the wonders of recursion Come risk a bit of pointer math Come take joy in the algorithms all around you And for once, never worry about feedback   The object and the function are my brothers The method and the lambda are my friends And it is all connected to each other All just machine code in the end   And how was this game made? You never look to the program you won't know You will never see the classes or the objects You will never see the completeness of Turing You can play the game an still All you can see is the game until You can code with the completeness of Turing   (inspired by some of the discussion on this thread, see if you can figure out the tune it's meant to go with)

Kayzee

Kayzee

 

Why the game industry needs to hurry up and crash already.

I probably shouldn't actually use this blog for actual serious opinion blog posts really, but I guess I might as well.   So I found myself watching a video about the whole GamerGate thing again. Is that still even going on? I am not even sure. I hate watching stuff about it because it seems no matter what side of the issue someone takes, they just manage to sound wrong to me. The only exceptions are when people are talking about specific issues with a particular very narrow scope, where they are able to make points on particular questions. If this was an issue about ONLY corruption in games journalism, or ONLY about issues of sexism, or ONLY about the failings of the SJW movement, I might be able to see one sides point over the other, but the fact it gets mixed into a big miss mash and everyone gets dragged into issues they never really wanted to argue in the first place makes it impossible for any kind of right side to emerge if you ask me.   Here is the thing though, I have felt, or more like hoped, for a while now that the game industry was spiraling into another crash. Too many over inflated budgets, too much loss of consumer confidence, too much DLC and microtransactions... even steam seams tio be filling with early access and shovelware now a days. It all leads into a huge mess and sooner or later things are going to have to either change or come crashing down hard on all the greedy publishers heads. And if you think about it, a crash will hurt the publishers and the greedy corporations then the consumer. Games aren't going to go away, all a crash will do is make the money-grubbers be unable to squeeze gaming for money any more.   Recently I started to realize a huge crash will also probably make games not be the "in thing" any more, and at the risk of sounding like a hipster, that can only be a good thing. Idiot man bro frat boys will move on to sports or movies or whatever is the new cool fad, and SJWs will move to where there is a bigger podium to preach their doctrine at. Games will go back to being something for enthusiasts and people who genuinely love the medium. And that is still millions of people. People will still make games and people will still play them.   So yeah, not really seeing a downside here. You might not see very many or any triple A big budget extravaganzas or anything like that, but honestly how many of them lately have actually been that amazingly good? I guess there have been a few, but I haven't played them myself. But I hope it happens soon because it's getting more and more annoying every day I see all this shit.

Kayzee

Kayzee

 

I am in mourning...

Today I just found out a very precious friend is dieing. I knew this friend for I think maybe even more then a decade, and I loved them dearly. I admit there were times where I may have neglected our friendship, but they were always there for me when I needed it. I always seemed to know how to push just the right buttons though. I just loved to turn them on and play with their sticks, gliding my finger on their pad, gently using my moves to send us to the next level...   I am of course talking about my precious gamepad. It wasn't anything really that fancy, and it didn't even have the kind of cross compatibility for lots of newer games of an xbox 360 controller (though it's fairly easy to get a utility for that), but I loved it all the same. I loved the PSX dualshock inspired button layout, I love the special mode button that let you switch the left joystick and the d-pad whenever you wanted, I loved the feel of the d-pad and it's responsiveness, and the feel of the buttons. I really do think I have been using that exact model for ages and ages, I think my last two or three gamepads were exactly or almost exactly the same kind, and it still seems good enough to me.   But today, I finally got around to trying to play Dark Souls, but when I plugged in my trusty controller I found my worst fears to be true, that the cord near where the wire connects to the controler is flacky and will cause it to randomly disconnect when you move the controller. I have been having a few problems with it for the last few months but always minor ones. The one button isn't as responsive as it should be, it sometimes would randomly disconnect once in a great while while playing The Binding Of Isaac: Rebitrth (I was never quite sure if it was the controller's fault or not). But it has finally degenerated to the point where it is just no longer usable.   Still, maybe it's just as well, it has been ages since I got a new gamepad and I think I might try and find something form logitech that is xinput compatible, and I think I have already found the perfect thing. Alas, I will miss thee logitech dual action pro, but maybe it is time to move on.

Kayzee

Kayzee

 

The offical "I am a huge idiot" blog post.

You know I have a bad habit of bugging people and being a pervert sometimes and offending and hurting people. I think I have a worse habit of completely forgetting that some people want to be left alone and bugging them again not learning at all form my mistakes. I think I am far to insensitive when it comes to interacting with other people and just treat everything as if it is a big game. And then I hurt people and drive away people I really want to be my friend.   And you know, I guess I want to be most people's friend for all the wrong reasons. I should really stop PMing random people that have cute avatars I see around. I am a very selfish person sometimes, and honestly I think it try to treat a lot of people like playthings almost, and I can see why people don't appreciate it. I can be nice and friendly, but sometimes I don't really think I have grown past being a child in some ways.   I try to think of tons of excuses for my actions, figuring out ways to twist it around in my mind so it's not really my fault. I was joking, or someone needs thicker skin, or people are just overreacting, or people have issues they need to get over, or people are stereotyping me into some category they hate, or that I have aspergers, or any other number of empty little things I tell myself to get over the fact I hurt someone. And honestly sometimes those excuses are true. But they all kind of ring empty when it comes down to it. It doesn’t heal the hurt someone is going though, and all it does is make me forget the hurt I feel when I hurt someone else.   I do kinda wonder when it will be time for me to leave and move on from RPG Maker, and if people don't want me here I will just leave, but I am not posting this to start a pity party, and I am not really even posting this because I really want take charge and try and fix my flaws. It's more like... a reference sheet, maybe a reminder to myself, maybe for other people to look at and decide not to answer any of my PMs.   You know what, this is stupid. If anything says "I am a huge idiot" it's this whole post. I know this is going to sound ether inflammatory or a grab for attention, and I have seen this kind of post a million times before. But sometimes I think you need to be an idiot. So I should at least be a happy fairy idiot! Wheeeeeeee! *sprinkles fairy dust everywhere*

Kayzee

Kayzee

 

Simple Database

Here is a fixed up version of my NPC Database script with some changes and a bit of documentation. May have to fix this up a bit more later though.      

Kayzee

Kayzee

 

Alternitive Antilag

For the last week or so, I have been working with TheoAllen on his antilag script, mostly swapping ideas and code back and forth. Some of my ides and code made it into his script and some didn't, and while I was working on my own personal copy, he started added his "insane" optimizations, really trying to be able to support as many events as he could. I on the other hand, decided to try more for compatibility and speeding up sprites. Doesn't include the "insane" optimization for large numbers of events, so Theo's script is definitely faster when there are more events on the map, but mine might work better for people when there are fewer events or when there are compatibility issues, so I will post what I have so far here:         You should probably turn off OPTIMIZE_EVENTS_XY for any pixel movement or ABS scripts but give it a try with it on! This is not meant to compete with Theo's script and is only meant for better compatibility and/or to possibly speed up maps with fewer events.

Kayzee

Kayzee

 

A sorta Final Fantasy 2/SaGa stat leveling system.

Here is a little script I was working on for my test game made to count tallies when each stat is used and randomly raise them after battle. It's kinda like the stat leveling system in Final Fantasy 2(j) and the SaGa series, but it works a bit differently.   Mostly it is different in that experience levels still exist and are used both to determine your max over all stat level, and whenever you gain a level you get a big random boost to your stat tallies. The actor class's stat growth curves also determines how much each stat level is worth.   Anyway the basic idea for how it works is stat tallies are used as percent chance that that stat will level up after battle, so if a stat is tallied 100 times it will always level up, but if it is tallied only 10 times you have a 10% chance. Tallies are remembered across battles but the level up chance only happens at a battle's conclusion. If a stat is leveled up a flat 100 is subtracted from the tally, and it can go into the negative. This practically means stat increases are random but predictable over a large period of time, and since your level acts as a cap for how many stat increases you can have and your class acts to show how many each are worth, the fact that the stats always grow at the same rate is not as important.   It's probably not going to be useful for most people's needs since it doesn't try to exactly match the system used in the old games, and is mostly me just experimenting with the mechanics. It might be useful as a base if anyone wants to do something similar though!   Here is the script:    

Kayzee

Kayzee

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