Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Lone Gamer

I consider myself a pretty social gal, and if someone brings up a game I will gladly talk about it as long as they'll let me. At the height of my Skyrim obsession, my friend Jess and I would text each other from our respective living rooms, describing the woes of whatever quest we were playing. I love watching other people play games. I love playing Elder Scrolls Online with Jack and have strongly considered buying my brother a copy so he can play with me if Jack is busy. But when it comes to gaming online? With strangers?? Count me out. 

I think part of it comes from fear--of not being good enough even though I know I can sit those motherfuckers down, but also fear of being harassed. Although I have rarely personally experienced misogyny in the gaming world, I've seen enough of it to know what goes on out there. The chat window that hovers in the background of ESO is filled with jokes about Your Mom being a dumpster for something I won't mention.  The one direct message I received was someone asking me to take my clothes off.  The simple solution would be to have my avatar be male, but no! I love creating badass female characters with ridiculously awesome girly-girl names that an eight year old might give her dolls. Case in point, the two characters I have right now are named Magicia Sorcerella and Bromeliada. I have a horse named Princess, and I am not ashamed. I also suspect that my expressed gender wouldn't stop people from saying weird shit.

Fear of sexism and being called a n00b are not the only things that keep me from wanting to engage in the social aspect of games. I am hopeless at text-based conversation, as anyone who has ever tried to Facebook message me knows. When I'm playing, I get to escape. I don't have to be witty, I don't have to be gracious, I don't have to be anything other than good at casting Mage's Fury IV. 

An early screenshot of Magicia Sorcerella, now level 35 thank you.

MIDI Week Singles: "Underground BGM" - Super Mario World (SNES)

"Underground BGM" from Super Mario World on the  Super Nintendo Entertainment System (1991)
Composer: Koji Kondo
Record Label: Warner-Pioneer
Game Developer: Nintendo

I will admit that I was drawing a blank as to which song to showcase today/this week and "Underground BackGround Music" was Conklederp's idea.  I asked her if there was a song she would like us to cover, and so she started singing/humming from about 0:25 on and at first I couldn't place it.  My first thought was something to do with Donkey Kong or Donkey Kong Country, but the theme wasn't right.  It took me about 10 seconds or so before I managed to pull the correct song up (after I was able to locate the correct folder).

I really like this song too.  Whenever it crops up, I feel like I am 11 years old again, standing in G&G (the local video game store in the mall that I just learned stood for "Games & Gadgets"), playing this amazing looking new Super Mario Bros. game that I'd been reading so much about for the last year in various issues of Nintendo Power.  I recall either playing or watching someone else play one of the first underground stages (I'm not smart enough to recall the exact stage, but I can see it in my head).

Whelp, that is all I have for you today, so enjoy.


Friday, November 20, 2015

And Then They Started Talking

I was playing The Elder Scrolls Adventures: Redguard earlier last week and it got me thinking about spoken dialogue in video games.

Having grown up with the NES, there were very few games that had any kind of spoken dialogue, and I am not referring to the "uff" sound that Link made anytime he was hit.  In Top Gun: The Second Mission, a garbbly computery voice said "Take Off!" right as the game started.  Even in Star Fox, which came out four years later used "blrrbittyblrp" at various tones for the different characters; although in Star Fox 64, the sounds were replaced with spoken dialogue, which sounded fine.  Yes, even Slippy.  Specifically though in RPGs, spoken dialogue has been something that I had always preferred my games without the dialogue between characters spoken by real people. 

I recall first being annoyed by hearing dialogue spoken by characters back in 2006 while playing Tales of Symphonia on the Gamecube. I think what bothered me about hearing Lloyd, Sheena, and company speaking was that I was not used to hearing so much spoken dialogue in RPGs.  (I'm singling out RPGs because I'd already been playing games like Resident Evil and Time Splitters 2, which only used spoken dialogue and that didn't seem out of place, possibly because of the genre of the game).  Tales played in an odd way that, the characters only spoke during cut scenes, the rest of the time, all of the dialogue and descriptions were text.  No, I lied.  I had gone into the settings and turned off the spoken dialogue option since I didn't like how the voice actors sounded with how I imagined they sounded in my head.  Then during the cutscenes, the characters always spoke, which is what I had found disjarring.  Maybe if I had listened throughout the game I would have been more used to the sound of their voices.  Or maybe the voice acting was just really bad?

I think it was mainly just a mental disconnect.  That these types of RPGs, in the past, would not have any spoken dialogue so when it was so prevalent in Tales, I had to turn off the voices because it felt like someone standing behind me reading the text because they wanted to hear the out loud.

I specifically recall thinking, "I played the Dragon Warrior [1 - 3] and Final Fantasy [NES, SNES, FFT] games without any spoken dialogue, I don't need that.  I bet that's there for kids these days who don't have the gumption to read the text themselves and who need everything read to them.  This is lame.  Mmmm yes, quite disingenuous my good fellow."  Then I walked away while sniffing my brandy and puffing away on a cuban see-gar.  It may not have transpired exactly as that, but it was pretty close.

Which now brings me to The Elder Scrolls Adventures: Redguard, where all of the dialogue is spoken and I am perfectly fine with it.  And in a similar comparison, the spoken text is up on the screen, so it is not a subtitle-type issue with not wanting both spoken word and text on the screen at the same time.  Never once during the two hours that I have put into ESA:Redguard have I thought that the spoken dialogue was out of place.  Actually, there was one female character who spoke with an annoyingly shrill voice (Maria, Marie, I cannot recall her name, but she was in Port Hunding near the Temple of Arkay).

So what is the point of my blabbering for today?  Apparently that either I've gotten used to the idea of dialogue in video games being spoken is now okay with me.  Or that it depends on the game, as opposed to the genre of the game.  I think it will remain on a game-by-game basis and all very much hindering on whether or not the voice acting in good enough to listen to for hours on end.  Because even the script and voice "acting" in Resident Evil (1996) was humorously bad in the best possible way.


Wednesday, November 18, 2015

MIDI Week Singles: "Base" - Ken Griffey, Jr.'s Winning Run (SNES)

"Base" from Ken Griffey, Jr.'s Winning Run on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (1996)
Composer: Eveline Fischer
Record Label: Nintendo of America
Game Developer: Rare

I've never played Ken Griffey, Jr.'s Winning Run, and now that I think about it, I don't know if I ever played any baseball games on any system after the NES and Gameboy.  That being said, I cannot say how/where this song fits into the game.  It's one of three tracks from a CD of video game music available only through Nintendo Power back in the mid to late 1990s.

I picked this song, partly because I found it to be rather catchy and somewhat absurd in a way that I cannot fully explain.  The quality of the music is typical of that for Rare (that it's an MP3 track and not a MIDI track), especially when you think that the music had to be "dumbed down" in order to fit into an SNES cartridge.  The other odd thing about this music is that, to me at least, it doesn't fit in with a baseball game, unless that baseball game is on a 16-bit console from the mid 1990s, which it was.

I have no further explanation as to why this song made its way to a MIDI Week Single, but I like the song enough to share it with the rest of the world.  So there.

And deep apologies about missing the MWS posting last week and the late posting today.  Too many words to read in too few books on too many pages with not enough brain power to comprehend it all.


MTG: I have to admit that the Eldrazi look pretty awesome

I've never really gotten into Magic The Gathering mythology.  But, with the newest set: Battle for Zendikar, they're featuring the world of the Eldrazi;  Massive Eldrich horrors that look appropriately hideous.  Pretty cool stuff.  Might actually be interested in picking up one of the MTG novels in this setting.

just a post-let so you know I'm still there,


Thursday, November 5, 2015

MIDI Week Singles: "Where the Wind and Feathers Return" - Radiant Historia

"Where the Wind and Feathers Return" - Radiant Historia on the Nintendo DS (2011)
Record Label: Team Entertainment / Sony Music Distribution
Album: Radiant Historia Original Soundtrack
Composer: Yoko Shimomura
Game Developer: Atlus

This song, by far is one of my favorite's composed by Yoko Shimomura for Radiant Historia and I feel like the song was written/engineered for the player to have the feels anytime this song cued up.  There's just something about the the harp (I think it's a harp anyway) and the little tingy-bells that whenever this song comes up, you just know that something heartfelt is going to be said, expressed or happen to Stocke and friends as they try to prevent the Sand Plague from doing more damage to the world than it already has been.  And considering that this is a game about traveling between splintering timelines, you know that there are bound to be events that lead people to their deaths.

Sure, sometimes when this song started I felt obligated to feel something for the impending scene and then felt guilty if I felt annoyed by the sappiness, but I would say that the majority of the time, it really was an emotional scene between any number of characters (I did not weep however).  The one thing that I was a little disappointed about with "Where the Wind and Feathers Return" was that when the song picks up in intensity (0:36), I felt that that not only could that moment have held out for just a little longer, but that I also wanted whatever the dramatic event happening in that scene to coincide with that part of the music; but I realize that that is asking a little too much out of a DS game (no offense to the DS system and their games mind you).

So today, a day late, I share with you all this beautiful song from a great JRPG called Radiant Historia that doesn't have all of the conventions of a JRPG.


Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Monthly Update - Novembrr!

never heard of this before.  But it has 'November in the title'

The temperature finally dropped.  Dang I missed a 'Doctober' pun for last month.  Might I should retcon it. 

Still just Mario Maker and Magic for me.  Unfortunately, I'm finding myself less focused on each of these, which is kind of a hard way to be.  At least in the case of the 'Maker' aspects of both.  I keep a note pad and whenever I come up with an idea for a mario maker level, I jot it down.  I probably have 30 or more ideas in that pad.  And I have about 6 or 7 unfinished levels.  It's a weird adjustment, only starting a level but not finishing more than half of it.  My first ten levels, I just burned through, finishing in one or two sittings.  Now I find that when I don't finish a level, I just start a brand new one on my next play through.  Granted, my old levels are still in circulation, and do get a few plays every day.  But I know from experience that if I want to increase my star count, I have to make new levels and share them online.  And I do want more stars.  Right?

I guess it's just the sensation of having been on the 'ground floor.'  some of my contemporaries have pulled way ahead of me, reaching numbers of 600 stars and more, leaving my meager 100 stars in the dust.  A month ago, we were neck and neck.  It makes me wish for a weeks vacation spent hard at work on Mario Maker.  I guess that's the plight of any gamer who has a game they are really into. 

Magic is exactly the same.  Now that I have a group of people that I play with regularly, I am excited to make new decks and try them out.  Unfortunately, I have way more ideas than I have execution.  I end up with a bunch of half-finished decks.  On top of that, I split a box of the latest set, so I have a bunch of brand new cards sitting around, waiting to be put into something.  I'm starting to think that Magic Online is still the best way to play a new set, for its convenience if nothing else.  (The people I play with are never down for a proper draft game).

I've been burning through Undertale, and I think I'm nearing the end.  It is a catchy sort of game, that is for sure.  I'm already thinking about playing through again as I know there are multiple endings.  Additionally, I started to kill enemies instead of pacify them, and I've started to regret it.   I definitely want to try playing through without killing anyone.  No easy task.

In other news, the holidays are coming up, which means days off and also family visitation.  These are good things, but can also be exhausting, as my time off is limited, what with being the new guy at work.  I've also started using a personal calendar to organize myself.  Maybe that will help.

Jane and I picked up the card game 'gloom' and gave it a whirl.  Seems fun, great aesthetic.  I might do a full review after a few more plays.  I finished up 'Fringe.'  Didn't care for the last season much, but I hear that's how it happens for people.  I've moved on to the 'Judge John Hodgman' podcast, which is highly entertaining.

Okay, I have got to go to work, so I'm just gonna post this. 


Monday, November 2, 2015

Monthly Update: November 2015

Well, I was originally planning on participating in NaNoWriMo, but after looking at my November calendar, I realized that that would be an impossibility due to the combination of keeping up with school work and hanging out with friends and family who are coming to visit this month; no intended offense to our friends and family who are making the trek up here to the Pacific Northwest.  My plan was, instead of writing a novel, to write a D&D quest, which is something that I would have more success at than attempting to write an original novel.

In the gaming-verse, our D&D story is entering the final act (we're not in the final act mind you, but it's approaching) and I have a couple of ideas for when the Mines of Phandelver are no longer lost.  I also got to play Betrayal at House on the Hill and again was thoroughly entertained, although our game ran longer than the projected 60 minute length, again which is something that I'm perfectly okay with.  Long board games don't bother me as long as they can be completed in a session or two.  In other game related news, don't trust Conklederp as there's a 75% chance that she's a werewolf.

In the video gaming front, I didn't make it through as many of the free games on Steam as I had wanted to, and I am still making my way through Eleusis (which I paid money for a year or two back) and am hopefully just over half way through.  I also kind of gave up on Star Wars - Battlefront II as I'm 97% convinced that a particular level that involves libraries and Jedi scum was not properly designed to be played in the single player campaign as I have failed more times that I have been able to count and leading up to that level, I have only had to replay any given level no more than five times in order to complete all of the objectives.  I know that completing the level in singleplayer is possible because Youtube says it is possible, but how that clone trooper survives a single lightsaber attack is beyond me.  I also gave up on Star Wars: Dark Forces a while back mainly because I kept getting lost and was unable to make my way to the final objective without dying, even on the easiest difficulty setting.  No I don't suck at video games by the way.

But as long as we're talking about partly-quitting video games, I may or may not have put Fallout Tactics: Brotherhood of Steel on hold after putting 42 hours into the game.  I ultimately felt that the game was becoming repetitive in that I would return from a mission, sell all the shit I acquired in the previous mission, acquire the new mission, drive to the destination (after being attacked 20+ times) then inch-by-inch my way through the map and resetting anytime I lose a member of my party.  It almost stopped being about any story involved and instead became about not having my characters die.  I also felt that members of my group started to have all of the same attributes and any individuality was being lost, which is something very different with other squad games I've played (Final Fantasy Tactics).  So I started Fallout 2 a few days ago and after three hours, I've only reached the first city of Klamath.

I also finished (finally) Radiant Historia although I didn't find/finish all of the history/story nodes, but I did complete over 50% so I'm happy with that result.  I might write up a review for the game.  I also started 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors and am going through the game a third time, which is required to unlock other story branches (like reading through a Choose Your Own Adventure book multiple times).

Lastly, I booted up Tony Hawk 3 a few days ago after playing a bit of one of the Tony Hawk games on the PS3 with Notorious CRC and surprised myself by earning 243,000 pts on the airport stage.  This was big considering when I first beat the 150,000 high score almost 10 years ago, it took me a long time to manage the number and quality of tricks needed; I even saved the replay as I earned the final 18,000 pts in the last 3 seconds.  Maybe I need to go back and finally try and beat that god damn skatepark level to finally get to the last two stages.

So that's my November.  We'll talk more in a month.