Sunday, December 26, 2010

Net Chaotic Neutrality

I was watching C-span again, and I saw a FCC debate about "Net Neutrality". I really hate the Net Neutrality debate, because it's bullshit. 100% bullshit.

The basic debate is that someone got the idea that ISPs could boost some sites or services over others. That caused everyone to freak out and scream about censorship and the end of the Internet. Okay it's a tad more complex then that, but that's the basic idea.

There are two main reasons why the whole argument is bullshit:
1. If a ISP does something to block or slow down sites in ways that consumers don't like, those consumers are more then free to choose another ISP.
2. People WILL find a way around any sort of block or slowdown. Any attempt to make some programs work faster will be emulated with other programs. Hackers will always find a way to bypass anything thrown at them.
3. People on the internet do not play by the rules. Attempt to control them and they will destroy you. Period. You really thing any company will survive 4chan's rage when they are put on a shit list?

In short, Net Neutrality is bullshit because the net is already neutral. In fact it's chaotic neutral. Laws and rules mean nothing to the internet, nor does money or social status. The internet will not die unless it's users abandon it.

Saturday, December 25, 2010


For a while now I have been caught up in a dilemma regarding my PSP. See people have made all sorts of stuff for the PSP, and much of it is actually much better then the official stuff made for it.

But Sony wants to make sure all the software run on the device is sanctioned by them. They claim they want to stop piracy but as they already have various ways of encrypting games and allowing limited "user mode" access, it's obvious the real reason is something else. I have heard that Sony has a rather odd strategy of undercharging for the device and making most money with development kits. As a result of course, hackers can't help but bypass Sony's silly little protection, which just opens the device up to pirates, where as if they just allowed limited user mode homebrew, most hackers wouldn't bother.

Anyway, the result of this was that every time Sony would limit the device, hackers found a way to unlock it. Then Sony would scramble to fix the bugs hackers exploited, and hackers would come up with new ways to bypass it. Up until a while ago the hackers always ended up on top. But my PSP was wearing down and last year I got a new one to replace it. This time hacking became harder and harder, needing all sorts of special stuff. I never got into homebrew as much after that.

Now, today I got some new games that require an upgrade to play which will make me unable to use exploits without buying some dumb game I have no interest in. I have heard promises of a new thing that may come out soon that will totally open up the psp again. But reliable information is becoming harder and harder to find as the psp hacking community fills up with false hope and crappy news. So you know what? Screw it. Now I have a laptop. If the exploit I hope for comes out, great. If not, oh well I will have to settle for playing the actual games.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Registry Locks

Attention software programmers: If you want to use window's registry system to store data, do me and yourself a huge favor:


It's a badly designed badly implemented system filled with idiotic obscure CLSIDs and stupid shit, and if I have to clean up another botched install by deleting obscure keys no one can find, I will seriously hunt you all down and force you all to program software with the use in mind for once.

You know back in the day we put configuration in a file in the same directory of the application. That people, ya know, knew where it was and how to edit it. I know! Allowing the user to modify stuff! How crazy and primitive! Also we could delete stuff without worrying about tedious uninstall processes. So glad we got out of that and decided to make things 500 times more complicated! That sure improved user efficiency! We even had system configuration in files and people could actually change it with a text editor! Surly that is madness! I mean all the service people would be out of a job if configuration settings were actually easy to fix!

There is only one appropriate thing to do at this point

Thursday, December 16, 2010


Creepy, isn't it?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Exploring the Metaverse

Virtual Reality is one of those things people used to think was cool, but now is almost universally acknowledged as a stupid idea. Even putting aside the silly goggles and huge gyroscope equipment made to make you feel in the game, which isn't necessary anyway because, as anyone who plays games seriously will tell you, it's easy to get caught up in the experience on your own (I have felt the heat of Norfair plenty of times without fancy neural interfaces). Despite (or maybe even because of) all the silly Hollywood crap where people become trapped in some virtual reality, the interest in that kind of thing is rapidly draining away. Maybe I will feel different when there is a non-invasive full neural interface that let me feel sex over the internet or something, cause goodness knows I am not getting any in real life. Also I would be a girl of course. Er I mean... anyway moving on...

But although the idea of hooking yourself up to a computer sounds sillier and sillier, using computers to make neat virtual worlds to play around with has not. Games seem to be going more in the wide open sandbox direction, and MMORPGs are becoming as much if not more for the social interaction then the game it's self.

But sometimes it goes farther then that. There are programs like Second Life which, while they have gameplay elements, really have no game to them at all. A long while ago, I played around with Second Life. It was fun to build and script things and occasionally to play with people in various role playing games that people liked doing. The problem was in my mind that it didn't really go anywhere. Everyone I met there I only knew from in the world, and while I fiddled around designing stuff I had no real goal or artistic vision. So I got bored and left, as I tend to do with all online things after a while. I lasted longer then some games though. Maybe cause I liked building stuff.

Second Life had some noticeable problems though. For one thing all the world is user constructed and almost everything can be brought with real money. I guess MMORPGs are doing that too and you can often find players selling in-game things for money, but in this system your not paying for something you have to grind to get, your paying for essentially art and/or tools.

A fairly interesting digital rights management system is in place that remembers the owner and creator of each type of object, and assigns permissions to them. The owner can restrict your ability to change or copy the object as they wish (along with other things). There is one important difference between this system and most digital rights management systems. Most others try and control something you have on your computer, but this only is for connecting to the shared world. Honestly if digital rights management worked in such a way with other things it might not be a problem.

Surprisingly enough, it actually sort of WORKS this way, although some programs can capture copies of the object, but I am not sure if all the information can be retained. Scripts are run on the server, so you may never see them, but almost everything else can be captured on a client I guess. But if you abuse copying other people's stuff, they will just kick you off the world and won't let you back in.

For this reason, whole companies can spring up providing virtual world content, and even some real life companies get into it, especially clothing manufactures and fashion designers. The problem is, almost everything sold is useless. Not only is there a lot of free stuff that does the same thing, it's a frigging imaginary world for goodness sake. Do people really care about making up their digital avatar that much? I guess so but it seems silly to me. Even some of the more "useful" tools really aren't worth any thing. The most useful thing I ever made was a special invisible ball that could let me hear things people said from far away and could also say things so I could make it look like something else was talking if I was clever. I also made commands to make it vanish with a command if I needed. Honestly it was a pretty cool thing, but I am sure others have made something better and I never got all the bugs worked out. Even still about the only think I could use it for is spying and pulling pranks.

And that brings me to another problem. The users. Half of the people in it join stupid little clubs and spend time dressing up and doing stupid stuff. A few play games, but they arn't really very interesting ones and most of the users are either sex freaks who like to do things with fake 3D dongs and fake vaginas, which you can buy in vending machines... beat that Japan! You may have panties but Second Life has whole private parts! Others usually sit around and talk about stupid stuff or just do nothing. Sometimes you can even earn money by sitting and doing nothing. No joke. But it takes forever so unless you want to stay online 24 hours a day for a dollor, don't bother.

And worse, Second Life has such a bad reputation and people have nothing better to do so there are often waves of greifer attacks which fill the map with self replication penises or send people in to orbit. You think the first would be easy to fix by having replication limits and commands to mass delete items for admins, but apparently they never thought that far ahead. Also there is a combat system but no one ever uses it because users are basically unrestricted with what kind of objects they can make and how powerful they can be. Funny thing, objects and users do have an "energy" number that is used when they do something, and in theory you should be able to use this to enforce some sort of limit on things, but they don't.

Still, I have often thought about looking into it again, now that OpenSim exists. It is nice to make things, but if I could do that by setting up a private local OpenSim server to play with is there a point to the whole online thing? And without some game features and such I think I will quickly be bored. Maybe I should look more into Gerry's Mod instead, I hear that has interesting movie features, but I would have to install steam and stuff again.

Eh too lazy for both anyhow. Should get back to hacking.

Monday, December 6, 2010


And now, random thought theater:

Really I think one of the biggest problems with the universe is people think there is a problem with the universe. There is just no real ideal state and people assume something is wrong because it's not "perfect". But the universe works exactly the way it's intended to. It's just a chaotic place and it's us who sort things into "good" and "bad". So really, I wish people would realize there is no "way it is meant to be", and instead focus on the "way it could be".

I had a dream a while ago that I was a friend with a sort of artsy-fartsy musician type. He experimented with different sounds and musical styles and asked me if I had any interesting suggestions for his next song. The answer I came up with is something I would really like to see done. Basically I suggested the next time he came up with a song, to document his creative process and the various revisions from first writing it down or entering it into a computer to each major revision and addition, as well as documenting all the tools, programs, and sound sources he used. I really think that would be neat to see. I woke up shortly after so I didn't really see the result in my dream though.

I wrote a review on the Quest For Glory series the other day, mostly talking about how it avoided a lot of the pitfalls of the adventure game genre and added a interesting new spin on it with roleplaying game stuff. I also wrote a review of One Must Fall a while ago. Both introduce lots of character growth and customization to a otherwise rather uninteresting genre. I guess I just like that sort of thing.

Going way way back, Roger Ebert (who should need no introduction) once made comments about video games not being art (which he has since party taken back). I have already ranted about if they could or not, and came with the conclusion that they could (but not always for the reasons people expect). But thats not what I wanted to comment on. I wanted to comment on the reaction he got. Even though his arguments are misguided (as he himself pointed out later), I think the idea that he is simply "old" or "out of touch" is sort of sad. The fact is, people seem to insert a wedge between generations or social groups. The "old" think games are trash and won't play them, the "young" think older things are likewise crap. In fact this is the exact kind of thing I mentioned before between the government and the people. And it's not that they can't understand one another, they just don't even try. Oh well.

The other day I found a online copy of the Principia Discordia, which is pretty neat because I always wanted to read it, though most of it seems like fluff. It always gets me thinking that maybe I should start my own religion, one that combined my metaphysical ramblings with more of a structured mythology. The point would be not literal truth but to teach people how to construct their own religius ideas, and the consequences of using them. I donno.

Anyway yeah.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Oh Shoot, Shoot 'Em Ups.

Today I stumbled across a thread about a game project related to a subject of one of my previous blog posts. What surprised me is what type of game it was. Instead of something like an RPG or such it was a shoot 'em up. A bullet hell shoot 'em up even. Since I just complained about beat 'em ups, it seems quite fitting I complain about shoot 'em ups too.

Now unlike beat 'em ups, shoot 'em ups aren't such an exclusive group. But then again, last time I was really referring to an extremely narrow selection of games that has mostly died out nowadays. No More Heroes was brought up a comment, and I said I don't consider it a beat 'em up because it was "too different". I feel I should clarify what I mean, and better clarify how I classify a shoot 'em up in turn, because they are more similar in nature then just the names.

Both beat 'em ups and shoot 'em ups belong in the more general genre of "action games" along with other categories (including platform games like super mario world which my hack is based on). An action game in fact a rather vague and widely applied label, and all sorts of games could be said to be action games as long as they have, well, action. But beat 'em ups, shoot 'em ups, and other categories are not. They have a particular narrower meaning. And it's more in depth then their name would suggest also.

Both beat 'em ups and shoot 'em ups are defined partly by their roots, and partly on their focus. With roots it's primarily that beat 'em ups and shoot 'em ups get basic gameplay elements form old arcade games. Even if they tweak the formula and add new gimmicks, there is usually a definite heritage of ideas that can be traced back directly to an old classic. That is not to say new ideas aren't good and don't happen, it's just that you can see a definite evolutionary line. For focus it's mostly a matter of cutting out everything but one element of combat. In beat 'em ups it's close range combat, in shoot 'em ups it's long range combat. Almost everything outside this focus is usually more or less excluded.

Small side note: Fighting games are like beat 'em ups, except fighters focus on one on one and/or player vrs player while beat 'em ups focus on one vrs. many, and player vrs. mooks. But games can be considered both at once, such as the Super Smash Bros. series (infact I sort of count it as a platformer as well). I still don't think No More Heros has the arcade roots or the exclusive focus to be called a beat 'em up though.

Getting back to what I was saying, shoot 'em ups aren't necessarily as exclusive as beat 'em ups, generally because there are a lot more ways you can handle ranged combat and a lot more diverse classic shoot 'em ups that branched out into a lot of sub-categories. Beat 'em ups never really evolved past River City Ransom and were replaced with newer games that, while still action games involving fights with multible mooks, were totally different in execution and focus. Thats why there is nothing really as universally "wrong" with shoot 'em ups that pops up in most games. But there still is a problem I have with shoot 'em ups in general that has to be looked at.

I suspect people like shoot 'em ups a lot of the time not because shoot 'em ups are good, but because they are simple.

Oh sure, bullet hell games like (most of) the Touhou series are filled with mathematically complex patterns and can be insanely hard, but the gameplay is still brain dead simple. Now I know not everyone likes games like Dwarf Fortress where the online wiki is needed to have the slightest clue what is going on, and thats exactly why shoot 'em ups usually exclude everything but shooting. But there is a fine line between tightly focused and boring. It's probably just me, but I want something else to do besides shooting things. I have always thought Touhou's fangame spin offs like MegaMari were far more interesting. MegaMari isn't a complex game, but it still has so much more involved gameplay just because you have to navigate around and explore, things considered shoot 'em ups almost never do. Not that it's the best game ever, but it's still more interesting then the main Touhou games seem to me.

It's not that I hate shoot 'em ups though. I still find the main Touhou fairly fun, I just wish they would throw me a bone sometime and actually have something besides waves of bullets to get excited about. Any old game can do that if you let it.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Beat It, Beat 'Em Ups.

I stumbled across a free little beat 'em up not to long ago. Okay I admit, it was an x-rated one... I was looking for smut, so sue me. But that's not the point. Although I do question a game that basically makes you avoid doing the one thing you want to actually see in order to win... but anyway. Playing it a little I was reminded of all that is wrong with beat 'em up games. Now I don't think the genre is necessarily bad, hell one of my favorite games River City Ransom and Shadow over Mystara are basically a beat 'em up crossed with an RPG, and honestly the RPG bits could be removed and you would still have a solid game (less so in Shadow over Mystara, where half the coolness is the stuff you can get, but I think it still stands true). There are just a few things that annoy me that beat 'em ups do that I really hate. So I am going to make a list for all the game designers out there that read my blog. Which by my calculations is none at all. Well screw it, I'm doing it anyway.


5. Linearity
Often in beat 'em ups, you do nothing but go forward with no side paths or exploration, often without anything but wave of wave of attacks. Maybe it's just me, but I found the open world approach of River City Ransom and the branching paths with hidden rooms of Shadow over Mystara a lot more enjoyable.

4. Boss enemies with insane priority and range.
Yeah I know a lot of beat 'em ups were coin eaters but I would like to have bosses that are possible without dieing 50 times or using that cheap flying kick move over and over. A boss who you cannot frigging hit except by cheesing the system is not a fun boss.

3. Illogical invincibility frames.
One annoying thing about beat 'em up games is that under certain conditions, such as during some attacks or when knocked to the ground or other things, players and enemies will take no damage from anything and will not react to attacks, regardless if it would be logical to be able to hit them. One thing about River City Ransom that made it fun is how BRUTAL the fighting could be, largely because you could air-juggle enemies and hit them on the ground, things you usually cannot do in most beat 'em ups. Usually, combat in beat 'em ups is more like hitting them, waiting until they get up, and kitting them again, or having some enemy do it to you, which is in the end little better then turn-based combat. And that brings me to my next point.

2. Illogical knockdowns
In some beat 'em ups almost EVERY attack will knock you flat on your ass for no reason, or yours will do the same to enemies. There is no staggering or attempt at a sense of balance involved, just down you go. This contributes even more to the turn-like flow of some beat 'em ups, and takes away all sense of skill or stratagy when you are just knocking down enemies with a flying kick. Also the time you spend helpless on the ground is often just way too much as well.

1. Locking the scrolling for encounters.
Seriously, why is this considered a good idea? Not only do you not have the freedom to progress though the game as you please, enemies have an annoying tendency to go off the edge of the screen where you can't see or hit them. I know letting you blow past all of the enemies makes the game a tad to easy to just skip stuff, but at LEAST use locked doors or real barriers, and not this scroll locking bullshit. Heaven forbid make your levels more then one long linear sequence of encounters and instead actually think about obstacles now and then.

(It occurs to me that 3 and 2 could apply to some fighting games also, but much less so because they tend to have very short knockdown times and usually don't abuse invincibility frames THAT much.)

Monday, November 22, 2010

Turn on the Fan

I admit I can be a huge nerd sometimes, and at times I can go overboard and become a little crazy about things. I mean the main character of my hack is a catgirl for goodness sakes. Although I originally intended to deconstruct and/or parody the concept at first, I have become so endeared to Jiggles' character it became more of a reconstruction and attempt to make the actual catgirl stock character actually mean something. God how nerdy is that?

But whats worse, I found myself inserting fan wanky elements from other works into my story. For example did you know Killo's castle "Killovania" is more then justr a clever name? It's literally a rebuilt version of Castlevania. He actually went in to the Castlevania universe and yanked part of Choas that was left behind after Soma rejected becoming the darklord. Yeah seriously. And Zuru, the character who runs the shop in my hack, is actually the daughter of Zara, a minor character in Quest for Glory. Not making this up, I wrote all that stuff into the backstory of my hack.

You see, Killo is sort of a representation of me as a person who plays games. He "crosses dimentions" and "projects" himself into different worlds, which is how he mostly gained all his power and knowledge. Every time I play a game, I imagine Killo actually keeps any abilities or sometimes items I find or learn in that game, to the point where he now has tons and tons of them. Sometimes I do things in games JUST to get these imaginary abilities and items, even if they aren't useful in the game it's self, it's useful for my imaginary meta-game where Killo collects them. Jiggles also has gained a bunch of her abilities from me playing her in other games. For example, I sort of want to give her some abilities and items she got in Drawn to Life and her whole outfit and some more items and powers comes from my time playing her in Gaia Online and it's MMORPG minigame (which I might add I haven't touched in ages). So yeah, I am a geek.

I also had a few ideas for fan works. Here are a few:

1. A Quest for Glory fangame sequel staring the son or daughter of the hero and his queen taking place years after the hero marries and becomes king in QFG5. I thought a good deal about this but never worked on it. It would feature a duel-class system where you choose one for the father (out of Fighter/Mage/Thief/Paladin) and one for the mother (where you choose a class representing one of the 4 brides in QFG5, which is basically Fighter/Dark Mage/Dancer/White Mage) and it would decide the appearance of the child and it's abilities based on that (as well maybe the politics and appearance of your home city based on it). The world would be more open and vast but less detailed, using backgrounds and areas form all 5 games, and a OW map to travel.

2. A SaGa crossover fangame that involved a bunch of characters from various SaGa games in a entirely new story. Only thing I really thought about that well is Asellus' role, where she is the chosen leader of her people after the defeat of the Charm Lord and she, being half-mystic, the only one of her people able to coexist with humans (possibly making most Mystics unable to stand sunlight).

3. A sequel to Secret of Evermore, because good god it needs one, bad. Possibly since all the characters form earth left at the end, it would involve several playable characters from the different time period themed towns as they join forces to confront a new evil. Possible characters: Girl from Prehistoria with a grass skirt and top who uses a spear, a thief/pirate from Crustacia who uses daggers, a gladiator from Nobilia who uses swords, a knight from Ebon keep who uses an axe, and, of course, a robot dog from Omnitopia. Yeah I know the dog went home, it's an actualy robot. It's cool goddamnit.

Anyway, yeah, I should get out more.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

It's Not Polite to Point

Lately one question seems to enter my mind more then any other: Whats the point? Now I am not a pessimist, and I don't think life is pointless (except maybe when I was a teenager, which is par for the course). Well, okay I sort of think life is pointless, but only in a vague way that has nothing to do with our lives. Basically, I think life doesn't really need a point overall, because thats sort of not the point. See my point?

Okay, okay, look at it this way. Whatever the reason life may exist it has little to do with my OWN life directly. It's up to the individual to find their own point. Or not. In any case, my problem is in motivation not an existential crisis. I got most of my existential crises over with over the last 10 years or so. Nor do I (or even at my worst teenage years) have serious thoughts of suicide or anything.

In fact let me talk about suicide for a moment, because I actually see my fair share of people talking about it online, and I often try to talk them out of it (even if I don't really think they would actually do it). The basic arguments I make is that: 1. Suicide is basically giving up, 2. Things do change (often whether you want them to or not I may add), and 3. There is no proof it will actually solve anything. So there. Don't commit suicide. In fact I rather recommend homicide to be quite honest. But just barely, and only because arguments 2 and 3 apply to it, but 1 only applies most of the time. Lucky for me, while desperate times may call for desperate, measures, my time is no where near desperate. So let's just put the whole mess of killing behind me... though it's nice to know if I were staving I would sooner cut people up and eat them then kill myself, isn't it? ^_^ Okay that joke was in bad taste... And so is this one! *SHOT* Okay okay...

Anyway, extremely dark humor aside, talking about various kinds of -cide is not what I wanted to rant about. It was the fact that a lot of things I think of as pointless, even if life on the whole is not. In fact, I quite enjoy my decedent lifestyle. Living off the government, not working or going to school, you know. It's just, actually doing anything with my life, well, that's sort of the spot I am having trouble with. And I think there are a few interesting reasons for this.

A major one is that I think a lot of the motivation behind people comes from social pressures and cues. In my last rant I talked a bit about the Hikikomori/NEET problem in Japan, but I didn't really get in to details. In anime and some real life pictures I have seen, they seem to live constantly surrounded by clutter. The other day I was looking around my apartment and realized just how much it looked like in the depictions I have seen. A pile of trash and empty bottles on the table, trash over the floor, etc. Of course I cleaned up a bit since then, I basically have to. If I don't I get yelled at. Another thing I neglect is showers. But I hardly sweet, and not many people comment on it, so I usually assume they simply don't notice (and they usually don't I think). No doubt if I had regular friends or - god forbid - a girlfriend, that would change very quick.

Whats more I think is motivation to do other things, like work or projects like my hack, would be a lot higher if I had anyone who actively cared. I would probably write in this blog more if more people commented too (hint hint). Let's face it, other human beings are at least %75 to %80 (maybe more) of why people do things. No matter if it's friends or family, or even strangers online, people's motivations are primarily related to other people. Not all of it's for the benefit of said other people mind you, some just want an audience, or enjoy making them suffer. But regardless, other people are usually involved somehow. There are still some motivations that run deeper then that. Basic survival is one, creating something for your own personal satisfaction is another. And those two may be reducible to a simple drive to exist (and continue to exist in some way even after you die).

And as for my hack, well, I think that kinda was a mix of the two. I started it both because I wanted to be part of a great community, and also because I wanted to explore or spread some of my ideas and philosophical nonsense. Jiggles herself is both a character I have RPed several times and also part of a more philosophical outlook on things. The reason why I continue to work on hacking is primarily because of the community (and also the tools are nice and I like asm but still), and the reason I want to tell the story is primarily because of a kind of wish to tell things that hopefully people will take to heart.

The problem is, on both counts I am undermined by things. On the hacking side, I feel I do a more effective job almost making small patches and helping out people, and on the story side I find I do a more effective job just telling people by basic ideas. So I have been sort of in this mood of not really wanting to do any actually work on my hack, despite the fact it really is ultimately my goal.

So what can I do? I think if people were more interested in it directly, or maybe even worked with me on it, I may do a much better job of being motivated to work on it. Maybe thats my problem, I am just no good doing things on my own. I may have ideas, and maybe even talent, but I am just not focused or motivated enough to do stuff. But at the same time, I don't know if I want to work with anyone else either. I am often lazy, and I am controlling, always wanting to follow MY idea, not someone else's. Hence why I didn't join any of the various community projects sprouting up. Besides that, I think I have been drifting away from the community as a whole, mostly because I only post and go on IRC occasionally as most of the time I just don't care to talk.

Though it could also be mostly just being lazy and/or tired a lot. Maybe I also need some time to get back in the mood for hacking. In any case, I haven't completely given up yet, and my deadline is when the world ends in 2012. After that well... If I am still alive, I will see what happens.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Isn't it NEET?

Since I was dangerously behind on my Anime quota, I desided to watch Welcome to the N.H.K., a short show about a Hikikomori/NEET (two phrases that may very well describe me as well) and the girl who loves him desperately clings on to him because he is the one person she knows more pathetic then she is. Though many misadventures, the somewhat screwed up cast goes though a few psychotic episodes, has a few amusing happenstances, and finally manages to fix most of there problems and ends up in a somewhat happy ending though the power of friendship. You know, standard anime stuff. Well almost.

I kind of have a problem with some of the subtext though. Like a lot of anime, there seems to be an underlining subtext of conformity and social unity. Largely this is probably related to the Japanese culture that spawned anime. It is interesting to compare Japanese values and ideals with American ones on this point. Japanese values typically involve more looking out for the collective, and American values typically involve looking out for the individual. This of course, a gross oversimplification, but it's a general starting point.

For the Japanese for example, shaming people is a big deal. People don't typically worry about failing for the sake of their own failure as much as shaming their family, friends, or coworkers, or even people they don't know, and this is seen as normal and expected. For Americans the very idea is almost laughable. It still exists of course, but for the most part Americans are more concern with their OWN status rather then the status of others. In other words, Americans, if their mom catches them in a dirty act is more concerned about what she thinks of them, while the Japanese may well be concerned about what people would think of her. This is of course only a rough expression of something that bound to be more complex in reality, and I have not studied Japanese culture above watching some anime here and there and often looking up things that they reference. Anyway what I am getting at is that the way people act in anime can often not mesh with our ideas on how people should behave and this DOES apply in some ways to people in real life too.

So getting back to subtext then. For me, there are a few problematic elements over and over in anime:

1. "Power of Friendship" - In some ways, I can understand this. The connections between people IS a powerful and important motivator and source of people's desire to accomplish things. The problem is, it can go so far as having people without friends as either worthless or downright evil. Friendship and love DOES motivate people, but it's not the ONLY thing that does, and it's no guarantee that it will make you GOOD. Though Jiggles would disagree.

2. "It can't be helped" - This phrase is uttered again and again (almost surely ironically at least a quarter of the time) in almost every anime whenever a character gives in to some request. No matter how outrageous the request or how untrustworthy the requester, the character will utter this an begrudgingly go along with whatever is requested. Now half the time this is exactly the point of course, to have a character be an extreme doormat for everyone who has any request. The problem is, almost every anime usually has a main character like this and some animes have EVERY character like this in some degree.

3. Loose lips sink people - Although to be sure this also happens in America, the persistent staple of anime of a character overhearing gossip about themselves and being absolutely TORN APART AS IF THEY WERE RIPPED OPEN AND LEFT FOR DEAD. Look, people say dumb things. We all know that. But what makes it worse is the apparent Japanese idea that people have NO worth EXCEPT though their peers. At least America ATTEMPTS to make people reject that notion. In anime the solution is that at least ONE other person needs you.

Now I don't know about you, but I see a very sinister subtext scattered though all this: That people are only worth anything if they are part of the group. There are many other examples, and quite a few that work just as well with American culture, so it isn't just a problem with Japan. Though America tends to try and glorify the individual more, but that just leads to laziness, apathy, and lack of work ethic overall, and I don't think I need to explain examples for that (hint: one is writing this blog).

What makes this worse, and what many people blame for it, is the out of control consumerism. In Japan anime, games, music, manga, and other such things seem to consume large chunks of people's lives, and of course, this in-group dynamic is profitable for this. Everyone buys the same stuff watches the same things, ect. This is why anime and Japanese games is so filled with stuff like Pokemon, which practically makes buying things into the whole MESSAGE. Of course we can't blame only Japan for that, after all, the USA practically gave them the idea. This also seems to extend to the work force as well. It's a common stereotype, seemingly enforced in Japan, that the Japanese workforce is like a brutal devourer of souls, where salaryman are often worked half to death in insanely long workdays for barely enough pay for their families. Also the school system doesn't seem much better. Once again, this is not so much different then in America, but the difference is, I don't think Americans put up with it quite as much.

It's this sort of condition that, I think, is the primary catalyst for the emergence of Hikikomori and NEETs. And here I think it's where my biggest gripe with Welcome to the N.H.K. comes in. It seems to imply these people are simply disconnected from the world. To me it seems almost like the opposite. Here in America, for better or for worse, if you were to try that sort of lifestyle, you would have a few big problems. In Japan, it seems, parents are more willing to pay an allowance and/or let their children stay at home until nearly middle age or older. In America, while it does happen, it's usually not without making the child get some kind of income. The only reason I am able to pay for an apartment is mostly because I get disability benefits, and somewhat because I am in a government housing program. And do I get to sit around doing nothing all day? Well mostly, but I am visited daily by a sort of social worker, and made to clean up after myself for the most part. And I am encouraged by nearly everyone to get a job anyway. Japan seems to have solved this problem in the past with "Problem? What problem?" and suddenly recently decided to say "Ohhhh that problem! I hadn't noticed! Er... Maybe it's that they aren't feed right?"

So what do I propose? Make people WANT to work by fixing the workforce and the education system, and that goes for EVERYBODY. The problem now is, not enough people are seeing how it is worth it. As for me though, I am happy being a lazy bum. Long Live the N.H.K.!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Leave Me Elona

Since I wrote about Pokemon Mystery Dungeon, I have sort of been in the mood to play more roguelikes. One game I heard interesting things about is a quirky little independent Japanese game called "Elona". Apparently it is short for "Eternal League of Nefia" but that would really be "Elon" though I guess using Japanese lettering it would be more like "E-Le/Re-O-Ne" which is slightly closer. Maybe "Elona" results form some method of transcribing the letters E L and N as "E-Lo/Ro-Na". I really have no idea. But it sounds cool anyway. They could have just named it Nefia I guess but that isn't as catchy, and I can't make as good of a pun with it.

Annnnyway, Elona apparently takes after "Ancient Domains Of Mystery" in many ways but I never played that so I have no idea how apt the comparison is. Although it plays like a roguelike, it actually feels in some ways closer to a more traditional RPG. Although randomized dungeons exist, most of them seem like short side areas. The vast majority of the game is traveling on a non-random overworld map traveling between non-random towns, although there is some randomness in play even in non-random areas. All things considered, I am not sure I like this set up as much as just having one dungeon approach like in Nethack, or the one hub town with a few dungeon areas like Pokemon Mystery Dungeon. It seems to have much less focus then other roguelikes I have played. On the other hand it allows a more open ended experience.

Because of the open nature of the game, there are a lot of extra things you can do, such as build a house which gets ranked based on what furniture you place in it to get a bigger monthly salary, as well as buying farms to grow crops and ranches where you can breed monsters or other "pets" that you catch. You can even combine pets using a "Gene Machine" to give them better stats, new equipment slots, and new skills. There are a ton of skills to learn and use that can let you gather materials and make items. The downside of all this is that the game very quickly becomes grind-tastic. You need to basically farm money to get deeds for buildings and practice like crazy at skills to make them improve. The game quickly becomes doing the same thing over and over again, which is usually not a problem for Nethack and only is a problem in Pokemon Mystery Dungeon if you are trying to recruit Pokemon. Another thing you have to deal with in Elona is taxes that are billed to you every once and a while, requiring you to take a side trip to pay them or risk becoming a criminal which will cause guards to attack you in towns. Elona seems to be set up for major long term play, and even death only serves to reduce your stats and gold rather then making you start over (though I save-scum like crazy anyway). One gripe I have is it uses a level system like most of the Elder Scrolls games where your level goes up as you practice skills. Really I never understood why people use this system, it makes levels next to useless as leveling up really doesn't do that much. I rather just drop levels altogether. After all if you can already raise skills and stats by practice, why bother having levels?

Elona also has a very odd sense of humor and is filled with odd references and objects that probably won't make much sense unless your Japanese or into Japanese stuff. There are balls you can throw at weak enemies to capture them and make them your pet, "Little Sisters" that join you if you read their diary, a few anime reffrences, and even a man in black leather who will self-destruct himself on you yelling "Foooooo!", referencing a notorious Japanese comedian. There is also Bioshock reffrences by way of Big Daddy and Little Sister monsters. Piled on that, are quite a few sexual references and such. One early event lets you choose a pet from a cat, a dog, a bear, and a little girl (The little girl is the best one because she can equip stuff). Leash and stethoscope items can be used witch make pets blush and call you a pervert. You can unleash pets by using the leash again causing them to mutter something that seems to indicate they secretly enjoy it. You can also marry your pets and ask them to "make a gene" by spending the night with them (and gene files can be used to carry over items to a new game). Gender also has no apparent effect on any of this, so any pairing will work. The game is overall not as well thought out as Nethack in regards to special tricks. In addition to gender and such not mattering for things, I noticed non-organic monsters can still bleed for example.

Overall one of the things I like best about Elona is it's interface. Rather then use simple text, Elona uses graphics, although the animation is more limited then Mystery Dungeon games. The controls, while still similar to Nethack in function, are much simpler thanks to being able to scroll though different inventory modes and menu of tasks that call be pulled up with relatively few button presses. This means that the number of buttons needed is relatively few, and they can be mapped to a gamepad as well, which allows play without even touching the keyboard. Biggest problem I have is I think it should bring up the targeting selector if you don't have a target rather then auto target, but you can manually target things with a button anyway.

In general, despite any gripes, I have been having fun with the game. I am playing a Fairy Pianist (because I am crazy), which is maximized for charisma and such rather then combat, which allows me to have tons of pets to do most of the fighting. Although with a throwing star weapon that causes bleeding, I find I can do okay in combat, though I usually rely on my pets to do most of the damage. In addition, though almost everything kills me in one or two hits because I have very low HP, my evasion rate is very high. Though whenever I try and play my music in public, I usually get hit by a rock and die, though I can practice with my pets fine.

Also I liked the picture I drew today. I think it's cute. :3

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Last President

The President sighed as she packed her things. "It figures the first female president would be the last one" she noted with bitter irony. Still it could have been worse, she was alive and the United States was ending peacefully instead of being torn apart by war.

Looking at The White House one last time, she thought of the long history of the once great nation. The ideals it fought for, at least, were not dead. That pride of being an American... that still was something she could hold on too, even as the nation splintered and broke apart. The White House would still remain, maintained and preserved, if only for it's historical value.

The nation as a whole though, was ending. It was doomed ever since what was known as "The Second Great Depression" had started. The nation had survived one, but this time, as congress bickered and bucked heads about the solution, the number of people who struggled with unemployment and financial trouble grew and grew. A gap was forming between the people and their government. Politicians spend more time advocating their own party's position then helping the problem, and law after law was passed attempting to save the problem that were just ignored or misunderstood. One party wanted to spend more money on programs, the other wanted to cut taxes for the rich and get rid of regulation.

After a while the people at large stopped caring. Then a bold new movement was born, if the nation could not solve their problems, they cried, what use is it? Slowly they began to distance themselves from the government. First, they advocated changing banks to local-run banks. Once people began to follow it, they started to advocate investing only in the community and withhold their money from federal organizations. After a while the more radical members simply stopped paying federal taxes. The movement gained great power in local and state governments who started to give less and less to the federal government. Of course, the federal government panicked and tried to suppress the movement, but this just fueled it's resolve.

The President sighed again. Her campaign platform was one of reform, and of attempting to make a peace between the incressingly independent local wonderments and the federal one. Of course her predecessors were more hard line, almost going as far as causing another civil war. The result was that even more states went rogue, and while the military commanders were all for it, the solders were more loyal to their states then their nation. In the end, there were two choices: Become a police state, or give in. Both were resisted, and she offered voters a third choice. but she had failed. Despite reforms and changes the states were too self sufficient now to rejoin the crumbling union. Though hard negotiations, a compromise was reached where the United States would exist as merely a body of representatives for common issues akin to the United Nations, but each state had it's own taxes and laws independent of any federal control. The army was restructured into a peacekeeping force governed by all states. The congress was preserved as a delegation but it's power was greatly reduced. The supreme court would only relate to lawful between states. As for her office of President, it had no place in this new system.

She accepted this because this was the best solution, but to her, this was the end of the United States of America that was founded all those years ago by colonists from england. The constitution was finally broken and the states would likely drift apart and may even declare war on each other some day. At least she could take solace in the fact that it's ideals were still being upheld, but for how long she wondered?

(I could probably expand this a bit with details and more reasons, but the basic message of this story is clear enough. I just thought I would write a little story about how I think the nation is going to end :P)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Pokémon Magical Mystery Tour

I have been playing Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Time lately. I got it a few years ago, but never seriously played though it until now. Since that time, a slightly updated version was released don't think it's really worth buying at this point, since I already "won" the main game in Time and am going though the post-game content (which is actually between 25% to 50% of the game and includes extra story bits... they always gotta go that extra mile). There are also apparently three new games coming out for the wii, but I probably won't be playing them as I haven't played anything on my wii in ages and don't feel like dealing with it. I also played though Blue Rescue Team quite some time ago, but besides the plot and some of the details, there really isn't that much difference. I will say I found Blue/Red's story a bit more touching though, even if a lot of elements seem to cross over a tiny bit.

In any case, I have to say as far as roguelikes go, the games are quite watered down and boring compared to most, even compared to most of the other "Mystery Dungeon" games. Most dungeons have no traps, and the items you can collect are mostly uninteresting. Whats worse is they completely took out needing to identify items, which was one of the cornerstone roguelike gameplay elements. The games do somewhat make up for it with a bigger focus on followers and character building, as is fitting to a Pokémon game. Like the main Pokémon games, you can get almost any enemy to join you, though instead of catching them, they just randomly sometimes join you when you defeat them. Each of them learn different moves just like the main Pokémon games, and some can evolve, although now you have to wait until the post-game to do so. In Blue/Red (btw, incase you didn't figurer it out, like the main Pokémon games most of the games are in pairs or triplets that is more or less the exact same game with different features or Pokémon) you are somewhat limited by who you can get to join you by each needing one of several "friend areas" that need to be unlocked before they will join, but that was done away with in Time/Darkness. I am not sure if that is a good thing or not overall, but it does make the party organization interface a lot less tedious, but it also means you can get anyone to join anytime you find them.

I think the games' biggest flaw is just that they are much too easy, especially for roguelikes, which are basically meant to kick your ass in as many nasty ways as possible. Not that it's totally a cakewalk, but as I said, though most of the game traps are missing, needing to identify items is completely gone, and you even keep most of your stuff if you die. I mean I know nethack-style "You accidentally bumped into the wrong thing. Too bad, you die. Start over from square one." stuff is a little much, but most of the other Mystery Dungeon games offer a good balance between starting over from scratch and death being nothing. Also the games don't autosave when you enter a dungeon like Izuna does.

By the way, I have Izuna 2, and it is absolutely fantastic... I kind of wish it had a follower system like Pokémon Mystery Dungeon though. Just tag switching between two partners is kinda lame compared to having an actual follower. Although the follower system in Pokémon Mystery Dungeon is not perfect either, as you can never directly control what they do. Chocobo's Dungeon 2 (which is basically Mystery Dungeon mixed with Final Fantasy... they sure do make a lot of crossover games with other corporations) did something interesting and had a partner character who could be controlled by another player, but it was sort of odd because the turn-based nature of the game and the two controller inputs often didn't work together that well. Ideally, I would like to see something like in Ultima 6, where you could more or less control each party member in turn if you wanted and could switch in and out of combat mode. It's a game mechanic I would like to see used more often because I feel it's a good balance between turn-based and real time combat. That reminds me of another little gripe about Pokémon Mystery Dungeon's followers, namely that to get them to go after enemies, you have to switch around a tactic setting, which is annoying if you constantly want to switch between "follow me" and "go after foes". If set to "follow me" they will never attack unless the enemy is in their range. Also sometimes their pathfinding if they are too far away will make them wander aimlessly and get killed, which can happen if you go in a U shaped corridor or such while one is behind a wall... it's complex to explain, but bassily they try and follow you in a direct line without moving around a bend in the road.

I also miss the ability to "fuse" equipment like in some of the other Mystery Dungeon games. Fusion works by combining two items into one that does the effects and has the power of both, Both Chocobo's Dungeon 2 (although you can't seem to be able to tranfer weapon's abliltys, just some attributes) and Shiren the Wanderer (which, along with it's squeals, are probably the only non-crossover games in the Mystery Dungeon series) as well as probably others have this feature. Izuna has a interesting gameplay mechanic that works in almost the same way, at least in regard to transferring a weapons special ability, but is a bit more limited because each weapon has a limited number of slots that can be used to attach ofuda to, including ones you get by transforming weapons that give you the weapon's special ability (you can "burn-in" some to increase a weapon's stats, but abilities are not transfered this way). Of course in Pokémon Mystery Dungeon, the only type of "equipment" is held items anyway, witch are more like collars in other Mystery Dungeon games which could never be fused anyway. In Pokémon Mystery Dungeon you can link moves, but thats not really the same thing.

You know though all my complaining, I still find the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon games fun. In fact I find them more fun then the normal Pokémon games, which I often find involves a lot of tedious walking from place to place and backtracking whenever I suddenly find I need some HM move or something. In Pokémon Mystery Dungeon there is basically only one town and various random areas you can go to on a map. Also since combat is seamlessly integrated into exploring and never random, it usually is a heck of a lot faster and less tedious. Also I just really really like roguelikes.

Lastly, on the subject of roguelikes in general I have to say they really need to find more advanced dungeon generation methods. The "rooms connected to corridors" method gets old fast. Though a roguelike is always fun more because of the stuff in the dungeons then the dungeons themselves.

Also Lastly, on the subject of Pokémon, is it just me or does do the designs for pokemon get more and more retarded? I mean seriously what is this? Are all those random metal spikes really necessary? All of the later legendaries seem to have odd metal parts, but then I am not always fond of some of the original Pokémon ether.

(Note: From now on, I will try and make my pictograph link to any source image I may have used either as reference or directly traced as I did the last two times)

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Desperately Seiken Densetsu

I was watching some videos of Seiken Densetsu 3 and some comments reminded me of complaints I had with the various games in the series so I thought I would do one of my pointless rants about it like I did with the SaGa games.

You may remember in my SaGa rant I compared the series, which is known both as the "Mana" series in the US and the "Seiken Densetsu" (usually translated as: "Holy Sword Legend") series in japan (I'll leave it up to you as to what name better reflects the series, but the titular "Holy Sword" seems to have become much less important as the series went on), as the "the lovable bouncy tree-hugging hippie child" in Squaresoft's little family of games. What I mean by that is, of the three main Square series, it's easily the most storybook-like. While not always lighthearted, it usually is far less serious and more fantastic. That, and it also has a giant tree who's power gets abused as one of it's most important recurring plot elements.

The plot usually goes like this: There is some giant tree that may or may not be actually a form of the goddess that created the world and has power over all of the world's mana, but bad guys want the power and stuff. One interesting thing is unlike the Final Fantasy and the Saga series, there is apparently some overall timeline of events and inter-game continuity. I say "apparently" because there are so many contradictions and strange inconsistencies that it's hard to tell. But the plot is really not that interesting overall so, whatever.

The gameplay of each game save some of the later ones can be classified as an "Action-RPG" style game, where battles are real time and you move around. Unlike most "Action-RPG" games, most of them are more RPG then action though some elements of Zelda-like action still remains.

The problem with the series is each of the games has at least one notable flaw. And since I did it for SaGa, let's step though each game.

Number 1 - Seiken Densetsu: Final Fantasy Gaiden/Final Fantasy Adventure:
If there is one word that can describe this game it's this: Primitive. Of course, it was a gameboy game, and 80% of the games on the system can be described the same way. In this game's case, however fun it might be (and it is fun), it lacks almost all the features people may expect from other games in the series, or indeed most other games in the genre. A good example of this is, you talk to NPCs by running into them. There doesn't seem to be any collison detection with those people too, so you may end up in a situation where you get stuck inside them and they talk to you over and over. Very very annoying. At least it uses a button to attack, unlike some games. Otherwise the gameplay is almost identical to the first Zelda game only with the addition of different weapons, spells, some usable items, and a special attack you can do by letting a bar fill up. There are partners that follow you sometimes but they mostly just throw attacks at random. Enemies do too in a method like the first Zelda, without any sort of AI at all. You could gain experience and level up, which let you choose from 4 stats to upgrade. As for the story you play a guy who is a slave gladiator for a guy named Dark Lord, you escape, discover a plot to find the mana tree, and have to protect a girl who is the only one who can open a way to it with the help of a member of the "Gemma Knights". Overall the game is entertaining but, as I said, primitive as hell. Almost to the level of some armature programmer's first game. Interestingly, it was originally developed as a NES game but moved to the gameboy later. It also was considered a spin off of the Final Fantasy games and re-uses some of the sprites and characters from some of them.

Number 2 - Seiken Densetsu 2/Secret of Mana
The next game makes the leap to the SNES and is said to be one of Squaresoft's classic SNES games. It is also apparently a direct sequel to the first game as there are several plot hooks that make reference to it, however there are also several ones that seem to contradict it. The plot revolves around a "Mana Fortress" that was once built as a weapon ages ago which destroyed the world pretty much and a group of bad guys (who may or may not be the same empire Dark Lord ruled) who are trying to find it. Then your character pulls the Mana Sword from somewhere and is tasked by the Gemma Knights to repair it. And their are seeds inside Mana Palaces that are related to something, and elemental spirits that teach magic, and stuff. I donno. The gameplay is interesting because you have three characters in your party and you can control them one at a time or have other players control them. Weapons and magic can be leveled up by use, and there are a verity of weapon types and magic as well as equipment and items. The are a few annoying quirks with the gameplay that annoy me though. One is that when you hit something, you have to wait a bit before your attacks are at full power again. If you don't, your attacks become much weaker. There is a stamina counter measured in percentages that effects how powerful your attacks are. This all is fine in theory, but the problem is that every time you attack it goes down to 0 and hitting a enemy causes it to enter a stun frame which only registers hits after they get out of it. You can MAKE hits on them while they are stunned, but for some dumb reason it doesn't actually show damage until after they return to normal. This means you can rapidly whack enemies and they will get stuck being stunned for a long while after you stop hitting them. This serves to slow down combat to a crawl sometimes. The other huge problem is spells freeze their in place and cannot be blocked or dodged in any way, and the boss battles become spell spamfests for both sides very quickly, making the action again slow down like crazy. Also because spells are unavoidable, some early boss battles become almost impossible because you have no healing and no way to use skill to avoid damage. Overall, it's a good game but can get annoying as hell. Fun fact: Apparently it was developed for a SNES CD addon that never was finished. I wish I could see what was cut so it could fit on a cartridge.

Number 2.5 - Secret of Evermore
Not really part of the series, but I put Final Fantasy 2 in my SaGa rant so and I am putting this here. So there. Secret of Evermore is a SNES game developed by the American branch of Squaresoft back in the day, and may very well be the ONLY game developed by said branch. Although it's gameplay is based heavily on Secret of Mana, it's setting and story is completely different, and seems more to take from old scifi movies and historical settings then the colorful lush fantasy worlds of the Mana series. The story involves a dopey b-movie nut and his pet dog who stumbles across a abandoned mansion and finds a machine that transports him into some kind of virtual world called Evermore created by a mad scientist. One interesting thing is though the story is wacky and lighthearted, the music and graphics are very dramatic and dark, which creates an striking contrast between the goofball characters and the incredibly sinister environments. Kind of like Samurai Jack. The gameplay is almost exactly like Secret of Mana but a bit less annoying in that enemies no longer are locked in stun animations, or at least not as much. One interesting thing is spells come in the form of alchemy formulas which use a system not unlike the Ultima series where instead of MP, spells use combinations of special ingredient items. While this makes it harder to use spells as you can't just rest at an inn to recover them, it makes spells a bit more balanced in my opinion. Some people dislike this game, but I like it better then Secret of Mana in a lot of ways. Also one of the forms your dog can take is a K-9 inspired robot toaster dog who fires FRICKIN LASER BEAMS. HOW CAN YOU NOT LOVE THAT?!?

Number 3 - Seiken Densetsu 3
Also for the SNES, Seiken Densetsu 3 is the only one which was never translated, mostly because it used heavily compressed text and was too big for American carts (though some people still unfairly blame Secret of Evermore for being a substitute for it). It wasn't until ages later people learned of it's existence and translated it, and is was considered the most technically difficult translation effort to date. Only though massive effort by a genius ASM hacker did it ever get finished. Of course nowadays ROM translations are relatively commonplace this game was one of the first really big breakthroughs in game translation. But enough about that, let's talk about the game it's self. The story apparently takes place ages before both the other two games, but really has no connection aside from the Mana Tree/Sword and the elemental spirits. The story involves a bunch of villains all going after "Mana Stones" for various reasons and six heroes who try and stop them, although you can only play three of them at a time. The interesting thing is there is some non-linearity in parts and some branching paths. Each hero has his or her own intro if you choose them as the first character and his or her own little section neer the end of the game. In addition the story branches into three paths at the end each with it's own final boss and it's own (almost) final dungeon. The 6 heros are divided into 3 male/female pairs and each pair takes one of these paths. In addition to that each hero can do two class changes to either light or dark, and depending on your choice you get different spells or abilities. This makes the replay value higher then normal but there is still not much difference between all the options. The gameplay is much more refined from Secret of Mana and flows better, but the different weapons and interchangeable armor is gone, as well as weapon and spell levels. The combat is somewhat faster and yet also slower as instead of stamina, each time you hit there is simply a short pause before you can hit again, making rapid attacks impossible but also making the time between attacks shorter. Oddly, the short pause doesn't happen if you don't actually hit anything. Also you don't actually need to aim your attacks this time, as it automatically faces the nearest enemy. You can even hold the button to automatically run up to one. One thing I liked is they brought back choosing what stats you level up, making your growth customizable somewhat. It still has flaws though. It still suffers from spell spam problems, maybe even worse then Secret of Mana did, but now spells just pause the whole game rather then making their target float in place unable to move. This means you will probably spend much more time spamming on the menu button hoping to open it before bosses pause the game, but Secret of Mana sort of had that problem too and it didn't bother pausing at all so its probably slightly less annoying overall. The game also has the problem that as much as one level can make a difference between enemies being almost impossible to kill and being a cakewalk. If you are as much as a few levels under an enemy, they will take 1 HP from most anything. If you are a few levels over, they almost always die in one hit. The later areas can be extremely annoying for this reason. One of the biggest flaws is after a while the story sort of petters out and sends you to a long annoying enemy-infested area after another doing some task or another and offers little in the way of anything new or interesting for a while. It seems like 50% of the game is filler, and not very entertaining filler. Overall good, but lacking, especially later in the game where it becomes way to tedious to be at all fun. It's still probably the best of the series though, because it's all downhill from here.

Number 4 - Legend of Mana
If there ever is a game I have mixed feelings about it's this one. Released for the first Playstation, this game certainly has an edge in the eye candy department. Wonderful hand-painted backgrounds, cool music, flashy effects, huge bosses, ect. The problem is, the game isn't really that good. First of all, the story tries to do a SaGa-style thing where everything is more or less a collection of sidequests. It is siad to take places ages before even Seiken Densetsu 3, but it's impossible to tell really. Apparently the world has been more or less destroyed following a war involving mana and everything in it has been turned into these artifact things. I think. It never really is clear. Anyway you can find and place these artifact things on a world map to rebuild the world, but there is almost no point to this except some special things involving "mana levels" which is never really explained. Yeah this game likes to not really explain things. Unlike SaGa however, there really doesn't seem to be any explanations at all no matter how hard you look. Anyway, things happen, and then suddenly you use the Mana Sword as an artifact to make the Mana Tree and fight the dark version of the Mana Goddess. And thats about it. Yeah. Well okay there appears to be lots of backstory and side quests but none of it really builds to anything, unlike most of the SaGa games where there is usually at least one main thread connecting everything that happens. There are however three "main" quest threads that lead to the final battle, but they are sort of unrelated to anything but themselves. Gameplay-wise Legend of Mana actually has a fair amount of depth to it. You can learn special moves and attacks, forge weapons, make magical spells by combining instruments with cards given from elemental spirits (which in this game seem to be creature types and not unique characters), make yourself a robot-like golem partner, capture and raise monsters, and even harvest fruit. The problem is that all of that is almost entirely pointless because combat is a complete joke. Combat in Legend of Mana resembles a old arcade-style beat 'em up in almost every way. It even annoyingly locks the screen when you encounter enemies in a similar style to old arcade games. The thing that is different is combat is easy as hell. Like even way beyond Symphony of the Night level easy. Enemies mull around and attack very rarely (with the exemption of zombies who will kill your ass dead. Frigging zombies... They are always annoying in all the games in the series) and do almost nothing to avoid hits. You can repeatedly attack most enemies with your weakest attack and they will do almost nothing to you. Bosses are no better, letting you wail on them almost without retaliation. In addition special techniques and boss attacks have long flashy pointless animations that play before they are used, letting any target easily step out of the way far before the attack. Then they have a pointless cooldown animation after also. And during all this, the user can't be harmed at all. The thing is, this is not even the animation of the attack it's self I am talking about, just the pre-attack and post-attack flashes. They are pointless, useless, annoying, and idiotic in every way and who ever thought such things are a good idea in a realtime game is a complete idiot. The thing is though there are lots of short attacks without those problems anyway so it just makes those attacks utterly retarded. Bosses usually use nothing BUT those types of attacks making boss fights ridiculously easy because you can just mash the button and back off when he starts to use an attack then go back and mash some more. If there is any game I wish had the source code available somewhere it is this one, because this game more then any other is one that has the potential to be good if it were just done RIGHT.

Number 5 - Shin'yaku Seiken Densetsu/Sword of Mana
This game is a Gameboy Advanced remake of the first game. It somehow managed to ruin it. I know, I am shocked too. Maybe it's the infusion of extra angst to the story line. Maybe it's the altering of the basic but functional magic system to one that is dependent on the weapon you have equipped and is much less useful in general. Maybe it's the fact that it is utterly boring and ridiculously easy. I donno. How did they mess up this game? The original was simple and fun, if they had done the same thing with some of the annoying aspects fixed it would have been great, but somehow they ruined it. After this game, my love for the series was over. Legend of Mana was disappointing but had they fixed it's problems I would forgive them. But this... this is just... UGHHH!

Number 6 - Children of Mana
A sort of realtime semi-rougelike game for the DS, only the dungeons are boring as hell (and possibly not random, I forget, but they might as well be, because they look repetitive enough). It's biggest problem is there are only a handful of different items and spells to get. One interesting thing is it has a sort of bouncy physics system in play and you can knock enemies and objects around into one another, which is sorta fun, but never gets used for anything interesting. It also reuses a lot of graphics from Seiken Densetsu 3. Over all a lazy attempt to cash in on the name.

Number 7, 8, and 9 - Friends of Mana, Seiken Densetsu 4/Dawn of Mana, Heroes of Mana
Never played any of these, and likely never will (I may take a look at Heroes of Mana, but I doubt it). Friends of Mana is a strange mobile phone MMORPG. Japan stop with these strange MMO games I will never be able to play already, I am getting sick of it! At least develop for flash, java, or something else I can use on my PC too. Seriously. Anyway it doesn't even have it's own wiki page so bah. Dawn of Mana is for the Playstation 2 and apparently the official forth game in the series, even though I was pretty sure Legend of Mana was known as Seiken Densetsu 4 at one point. Anyway it apparently gets rid of all the RPG elements and is just pure action. So yeah. Pass. Heroes of Mana is a real time stratagy game like Warcraft (not World of) for the DS. I never like those types of games very much, but if there is enough RPG stuff too, it may be fun. I will need to check for videos of it or something.

So there you go. As you can see, I felt the series was always kind of flawed and it rapidly went to crap after 3 and never recovered, but hey, maybe one day they will get it right. Heres hoping.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

What happens when figments of my imagination get bored

The following is a collection of notes written about various subjects by Zuru, current maintainer and researcher of the library in “Killovania”.

The statements herein are based on my own opinion and research primarily conducted with the books within this library which maybe unreliable as they are actually manifestations of knowledge accumulated in the mind of the entity known as “Killo Zapit” and as such may be unreliable, however a good portion is actually partial text of other work and is, if unreliable, at least interesting and worthy of study (I would not advice browsing if you are easily offended or disturbed however).

About Other Worlds:

Often other worlds can be strange places, filled with exotic creatures or strange objects, but also just as often filled with things that are familiar, or even outright identical. Traveling between worlds or just observing them though magical means can be quite confusing for people who don't exactly understand what other worlds actually are and why they behave like they do.

As a mage, I am used to using the term “world” informally, as magic users often do, to refer to a number of things. As magic is often used to transcend dimensional barriers as often as to cross physical space, often without being able to tell the difference, the use of the word “world” to refer only to a planet in space as people from universes without magic or equivalent technology often do strikes me as slightly odd, but on the other hand I realized the precise meaning of the terms are often unclear.

Magic users and mystics can refer to other planets in space, other universes, nearby planes, alternate realities, and even states of being as different “worlds”. Thus the term “world” can be thought of as any sort of distinct space, physical, mental or even, rarely, in time, for which a stark boundary exists. For example the “spirit world”, while often occupying the same physical space as another world, is none the less distinct from it because of the class of beings that inhabit it, or the rules that govern it, and there is definitely a sort of barrier between them.

Thus a world is not the same as a “planet”. A “planet” refers only to a physical mass of matter. Though all planets are also worlds, not all worlds are planets. Also there can be more then one world on a given planet. Some people think of a planet requiring a particular shape and size to really count. Usually they need to be round balls, or in some universes, flat circles or squares. Also small rocks, and even some large ones, don't seem to count. There are also “stars” which, at least in most universes, are basically balls of fire and fuel, but they mostly don't count as real matter in magical terms. Of course in terms of science, they actually do count as matter, but are sill not counted as planets. In any case, in some magical systems, planets are thought of as a warped vision of an infinite plane, or a goodly realm, which is really flat but only appears as a circle. Similarity “stars” are similar or actual holes in a massive sphere surrounding the universe, or sometimes even spirits of the dead. It is sometimes hard to tell, without visiting or observing them close up, if this is literally true in exotic magical universes or if this is just a folk explanation.

The term “universe” is much more technical, but shares much of the same ideas as a “world”. The difference is scope and particulars. A “universe” can basically be described as a world that is physically closed, or in other words, there is no way to plot a path from it to another universe. A “plane” is similar accept that planes can “touch” in certain places and in certain conditions. When planes touch at a point, both planes share that point and things can pass between them. Alternate timelines can act this way, as well as planes that serve as an afterlife. Magically, universes are often travailed simply by a process of “connection” where if some aspect of a universe is shared with another, they are in theory connected, but this doesn't always works the way people might expect. Often only projection is possible this way, and limited projection at that. Planer travel works more directly, but if two universes shares a plane, it may be considered one universe by some schools of thought, but it is also thought that if universes to share planes moving though a plane to another universe doesn't count as directly moving from one to the other directly. A system of such indirect links can be known as a “multiverse”. Some schools of thought even discard the concept of planes and just use universes in it's place with a multiverse being like a universe. It usually simply depends on how easy it is to travel between different planes either people consider planes part of their universe or other universes all together.
All of these different types of worlds follow a hierarchy of sorts, from closer to farther, but this isn't a measure of distance so much as a measure of connection. Two planets for example can be quite different, but often follow the same physical and magical laws, unless something about the planet it's self alters those laws. Different planes however, don't often follow all same laws, but usually follow at least some of the same ones, or a general set of them that is slightly different in the details. Other universes don't have to follow the same laws at all, although they can, and there does seem to be a few that repeatedly crop up. For other multiverses, if such a term is applicable, all bets are off. But even then, there is usually one thing that connects everything. Well maybe two or three... it's hard to tell. But what I am talking about is “magic”.

About Reality, Science, Magic:

If there is one thing any true scholar of magic has to deal with eventually, it's the notions of what is real and what is not. Depending on how magic works or is thought to work in any given world, this may not seem like a problem. If all magic comes from a god, or from the planet, or such, people have at least one thing they can latch on to as real. But one might ask: Where does a gods power come from? Where did the planet's power come from? Then people might realize, that they don't really know for sure. This is probably the reason powerful magic users tend to go mad. At least on my world, it was a real possibility and even the sane ones could be... eccentric.

That is one reason why we are often taught, along with magic, philosophy and mental discipline. In order to resist the implications of a power that can change reality as if it were words on paper that can be erased or rewritten. The analogy is apt, because in some ways thats exactly what we are. Possibly in all ways. Of course that is not to say that nothing is ever real, just that it isn't that simple. There are many worlds where there is thought to be no magic. This isn't quite as it appears however. Magic can take many forms, even forms that appear at first glance to be pure science.

But first, I should explain exactly what “magic” and “science” are. Most people I think, have a general idea of what magic is. Magic is, basically, attempting to find the underlining force that controls reality to observe and manipulate it. Science is, in some ways, the complete opposite: Attempting to observe and manipulate things in order to find their underlining source. There is actually a fair bit of hostility between people who practice them despite the fact they are ultimately attempting almost the same thing. One wise may once said "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”. The usefulness of one over the other is not really fixed. Sometimes, magic is more powerful, and sometimes science is. It all depends on how responsive this underlining source is to direct contact.

Sometimes, people can change reality just by thinking, and sometimes, they never can, except by using things already in their reality. The problem is, if you can change anything just by thinking, nothing really lasts or has substance. Things become unstable and fade or pop into existence only to vanish. Such is the world of human thoughts and dreams. On the other hand when you never can change anything, things become almost completely unable to be changed at all. No progress or real change is possible except by what already exists. In the worst case, time and matter don't really exist at all. There is just nothingness and no way anything can ever be. Luckily most worlds are between the two extremes. Things can change but not without effort.

In my personal experience with magic and other worlds, I came face to face with the possibility that I, and my world, were nothing more then a story written by a being from a “real world” beyond my grasp. It is a disturbing notion but an inevitable one for someone who bends reality and pushes the boundaries of knowledge. It was a possibility my magic training had long prepared me for though. Some people simply reject such a possibility. But such is just denial. I decided instead to look into it.

First, I have to acknowledge that, indeed, this “real world” in fact exists and indeed, I am part of something written about there. But does that mean that I don't have my own existence too? Killo, the one who's library I use for my research at least thinks a valid argument can be made that I exist at least as an idea, and there is no way to tell if that alone is not enough to exist. An interesting idea, but a little unsatisfactory. As an idea, I too may vanish as one who only exist in a mind or dream. However, Killo also thinks if we world to write down a record of my thoughts, this idea can become something a bit more real. This seems to be the way new worlds are born. The one called Muse seems to think so.

As Killo also points out, even in this “real world” there is a element of “magic” that seems intertwined with it. Besides the ideas which have trickled down into written word and other worlds, some seeming almost as real as this “real world”, such things such as the possible spotting of ghosts, strange spiritual beliefs, and even some elements of it's science such as quantum mechanics, point to a world that is at least somewhat unreal.

This “real world” may be simply the base of a world tree of ideas, branching upward and outward into worlds that while less real, still exist in their own way. However I wonder if Killo is making excuses for his own existence as much as mine. In any case, my thought must come from somewhere even if it is from someone's head (who, by the way, is also typing this document, so any topographical errors can be blamed on him). In any case, I have a headache from thinking about it, so I think I will drop this line of thought for now (though a figment getting a headache is interesting in it's self).

(If you got though all that, try clicking on the pictograph)

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Adventures in the Third Dimension!

Today I downloaded Blender on a whim, even though my past experience with such 3d software hasn't been very good. The only 3d stuff I ever got the hang of is Half-life level editing, and that was ages ago. As I should have expected, Blender's interface is counterintuitive and filled with hidden keyboard shortcuts and strange little icons. Plus you can't even seem to select things like you would expect but dragging with the mouse, and moving things was a bit screwy until I figured out how handles work, but they were STILL a bit screwy.

How much is just bad interface design and how much is me not being used to it I am not sure. I mean the basics of doing stuff in 3D should be simple, you make a top, front, side, and 3d view, then create primitives and line them up. Why is blender making that simple task so frustrating? I am sure my brother would do better, he has actually schooling on this stuff. It also stands out in my mind that little to know programs of this sort use a right click context menu for objects, or allow you to punch in values for things like Doom and Half-life level editing tools do (or at least not that I see).

Of course even if the interface were intuitive to me, the actual method of modeling is usually not. Most people, at least according to what I have seen and what my brother has told me, use a sculpting-style method of cutting parts off a shape until you get what you want. That method I feel I probably couldn't master as I don't have the foresight, although it should work for detailing better. Another method which is usually included is Constructive solid geometry which is very helpful for simple shapes but probably less so for complex ones. There are also methods for making curves but how you define curves right in 3d is a bit of a mystery to me.

One thing I would like to see more of is modeling with voxels either using basic height-maps or slices. That way it become much easier to draw a basic shape. Of course it still needs a bit of planning and extra set up to do something complex, like say, a human shape. There also exotic modeler programs for things like this, and such. I really have to look into this stuff more.

Monday, September 20, 2010


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Ya know what I'm saying?