Sunday, April 10, 2011

[S ...illy] Appraise

Lately I have gotten really into a webcomic/interactive fiction/flash movie/game/thing called Homestuck. I suppose if I had to describe it I would call it a nonsensical clusterfuck of egregious sesquipedalian loquaciousness and Weird Time Shit. But in the best (and most intentionally hilarious) way possible. I gave some one a headache to someone just trying to explain the basic plot. I think I got as far as explaining how Kernelsprites were prototyped before she groaned a begged me to stop. And yes, it has it's own wiki that I linked to for those terms. It needs one.

Really though, the plot isn't what really draws me in. I mean it's generally well written, but as I said before time travel is a plot device that I usually despise. Partly because I think fate and predestination paradoxes fly in the face of a whole bunch of metaphysical things I hold to be true, but also it's because this kind of crackpot temporal nonsense is just old and worn out by now. There are only so many clever things you can do with those kind of rules, and really pretty much all of them are already covered by Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure and that came out when I was ten.

Homestuck does manage to do some slightly interesting things here and there, mostly related to how two completely different universes with their own timelines that are independent of one another interact in strange non-linear ways, but it doesn't really go anywhere that amazingly surprising with it, but it comes ever so close. I think it would be more clever in the end if the total timeline evolved in the same way the story unfolded, or in other words, make unobserved parts of the future and past unwritten with the characters filling in the blanks by observing across time. Literally, what you don't know, doesn't exist. This would lead I think to all sorts of really interesting stuff, but thats clearly not now it works in the story even if that's exactly how the story seems to be written and told. I am not unconvinced this won't end up being what happens after all. Vriska (OMG spoiler alert!) is the only character that actually seems to be close to doing that. Even then though, I guess it's not at all different form what Bill and Ted did, namely insert there own stable time loops into time.

But again, the plot isn't what really draws me in. What really draws me in are the characters and the style. The characters are really likable, or at least likably hatable. And there sure are a lot of them. Of course the stars are the four kids, the nerdy one, the sarcastic one, the cool one, and the hyper one. Later they are trolled over the internet by some incredibly odd characters who go on to steal the show and have incredible amounts of fanart done of them. Not that there isn't a incredible amount of fanart of the kids too but not nearly as much as the trolls.

I think though personally what I think of as the best part is the style and presentation. It starts a bit slow, and can rely on long text logs at times for most of the story bits, but most every page is at least minimally animated, and every once and a while instead of a image it will have a fully animated flash movie, each accompanied by a nice piece of really good music, and usually with far more dynamic and expressive artwork. Just look at almost any of the pages listed in the sound credits page and you will find a good 90% of them are mind blowingly awesome. Spoilers aside, I think if anything sums up the whole comic in one video it's this (youtube version if you rather watch that). The fact that every single frame is in fact not random cool/silly stuff and builds on the the story so far (with the possible, exception of the part with the squid things that appears out of nowhere, and even THEY are somewhat important over all) is the really telling thing here. Every. Single. Frame. Also they have compilation CDs of all the music ever used, and tons more that isn't but may be someday, most of it all made by fans, and almost all of it completely awesome.

The thing that gets me is, it's really not that different from some of the things I was thinking of doing with my hack. with less psychology and philosophy and more time travel, but still the same kind of style. Something that starts off silly, goes a million directions at once, becomes incredibly complex, but never really stops being silly. Of course I couldn't compare with the scope of homestuck, and I really don't think I want it to. And I can't compare with the production values and fanbase either, not unless I really crack down and start seriously spending every moment of every day on it, and probably change it form a romhack to something else. But lately I have been questioning if I should even bother to try anything as crazy as I had planned, and Homestuck proves if nothing else, it's possible.

It also proves though, that there are inherent problems with this type of thing. Because although I bore though it and became obsessed enough at it to finish and understand it, let's face it, a lot of people won't. And that's fine. Even the author understands that. He also wrote this as a counterpart to homestuck after all, and a lot of extremely silly and simple things on the side.

I think in the end, the thing I can take away from all this, is that sometimes people just like things even if no one else will for their own reasons. And it's a hard thing to admit, because I still like to try to feel superior to people who like stupid boybands and lady gaga, even if I know it's not as simple sometimes as people not knowing any better (but I still think they wouldn't attract quite as much attention if they did).

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