Seriously, I am here, working on a few longer blogs, but I am in a flux of many things. If there were only more hours in the day I would still be fucked, as I have many things on my plate.
Biggest one was moving into a new apartment and I am still organizing everything and cleaning it all up. Plus I started a new job (sure it only goes through October, but a paycheck is a paycheck) and it is a fun one, but has lots of late hours. I am still working on my scripts, polishing them up and digging through old ones that need to be rewritten. Finally to top it off, I am messing around with the Fate Core system with friends into making a setting that we may be bringing forth if we can get it all smoothed out sometime early next year.
And Halloween season is upon us, my favorite time of the year (back off Christmas, I saw you putting your shit in Target already), so I need to go shopping for some kick ass decorations to hang in the new place.
So thank you all who has decided to follow my tiny ass blog, I promise I am working on some things, and I will have some new posts coming up in the next few days.
Til next time, may Cthulhu never dress nicer than you… shit, too late.
Dark Souls… this is a game I just love, and it was not an easy love at first. But in the end, this game won me over with its brand of tough love, making me work through the game with only a tiny bit of help from the internet forums. (OK, maybe more than a tiny bit.) My last post ended with a bit about Dark Souls and I decided to elaborate on it a bit.
First off, I love hard games, always have, always will. But they have to be fair in their cruelty; no cheap hits, invisible enemies, or dumb ass flying levels with electrified fences. I played Castlevania, Contra, Metal Gear, and others with glee, always having a sense of accomplishment when I finished those games. But the days like that were long gone, and the new era of games came in… more open worlds, not as straight forward, easy to get lost as you wander around exploring. Metal Gear Solid, Grand Theft Auto 3, Devil May Cry, and Resident Evil… loved them, the marriage of gameplay and storytelling was so cool. I was excited about the direction games were going and I couldn’t wait to see what was next.
Well, the games got bigger, more elaborate, more cut scenes, quick time events, dialogue trees, choices galore; which I loved… at first. The newer Metal Gear Solid games, Fallout 3, new Grand Theft Auto games… don’t get me wrong, great games and design, but I just wasn’t into them anymore. First NPCs would just tell you where to go (take a left at the tree, go 63 paces, and you will find the Pebble of Supreme Ant Might, bring it here and I will tell you where to find the boss who has taken your love), mini maps that showed too much, maps that would put big markers where to go next, then finally the damn arrows/compass/glowing path on the ground to follow so you don’t get lost. I understand why the developers did it, the worlds they had created had became so large, it was too easy to lost and never find your way around.
As these worlds became larger and took as developers would say, 500+ hours of gameplay to explore; I grew into adulthood, got a job, and my time had to be managed a bit more. Gone were the days of spending all my time to complete a game and see everything it had to offer. Now I know people will say that I should be happy then, more bang for my buck, and be done bitching about it. Problem is, while I loved Fallout 3 at first (I love post apocalyptic themes, Road Warrior rules!), I became bored with it after about 70 hours. Monsters were easy to beat, there was no real threat of death, I could just go back to my nearest save if something went wrong, and I completely forgot that my main mission at first was to find Liam Neeson to soothe my character’s daddy issues, or something like that.
The last super open world game I gave a try was Skyrim… I am not a fan. I mean a huge dragon breathes fire on you and you laugh it off and continue to hack/slash your way as if nothing happen? Fucking boring. And don’t give me that shit about, well I see that mountain over there in the distance? I can walk all the way over to it and climb to the top of it. Was there anything of importance on top of said peak? Um, No. Then why the fuck would I want to walk a hundred miles and climb a large ass mountain if it does not move the plot along of the game? I wouldn’t truth be told, if something does not develop the character you are playing, introduce a new story element or character, then it should not be in the game. It is all just fat, useless subplots and nonsensical areas to explore, all just to pad a game’s playing time to make it seem more than it is. I was feeling like adventure games were becoming the soulless, bloated Hollywood movies I despise.
Then I played Dark Souls… I was not ready for it. I died often and quickly, usually by a lowly hollow that would gladly gut me as I forgot to put up my shield to meet his attack. I was frustrated, my warrior was weak, his moves limited, I did not know where to go (Why won’t that guy at the bonfire tell me where to go? He just keeps telling me I am probably going to just die.), what do you mean I can fall off the ledge of the path I was walking on!?! That’s it, fuck this game, I am out of here.
But I kept coming back to it, something kept bringing me back to try just one more time. First I learned that my moveset wasn’t so limited, it was actually quite varied; I had to fight smarter, as any enemy would capitalize on one of my mistakes. That was the first thing that got me, the enemies weren’t really overpowered, I just had to be patient and smart on the way I fought. No more charging head first without a care in the world, I would approach each room with caution, believing whatever laid in the dark would rend me limb from limb. I loved the gameplay, and as I practiced I became quite good at killing the creatures that stood before me. That was the beauty of the gameplay, the fact that even as I got more powerful, a few lowly hollows could give me fits if I played poorly.
After I actually learned the flow of combat, I was able to start to appreciate the world of Dark Souls more fully. Those ramblings of the man by the bonfire or the crazy undead merchant were filled with clues if you listened. I wasn’t beaten over the head with useless dialogue or subjected to endless hours of cut scenes. The NPCs were real characters with their own goals or problems and I was just a visitor in their story. They weren’t waiting around to give me a mission, they had their own shit to do whether I was there to help or not. Neither were they indestructible nor necessary to finish the game, as you could fight and kill them, even the merchants and blacksmiths (though their wares were very helpful in finishing the game). Almost every item description gave a bit more insight into the lore of the world, but left enough unsaid allowing me to fill them in with my own theories. Go on the forums of Dark Souls and you will see tons of posts on how players interpret the back story of Dark Souls. Most of them are plausible, from the hints you are given in the game; allowing the gamer to make the world they are playing in more personal.
The game is quite large and open, but not enough that I would wander needlessly or completely lose my way. See that big mountain over there in the distance with nothing on it? Fuck going there, I want to go to those creepy ruins poking out of that forest over there, much more interesting. There was no map or arrows pointing the way for me to go; I had to go forth with what little information I had gleaned from my adventure. Almost every direction I went moved the plot along and seemed vital to the game, even if not needed (the descent down that damn tree to Ash Lake for example). The developers had cut away most of the fat and had left a lean, mean game, ready to hook you in before tearing you apart.
That is just the single player aspect too, as Dark Souls has an ingenious co-op, not so co-op multiplayer mode. If you are connected online and having trouble with a particular area, then munch on a bit of humanity, become human, and look for a white symbol on the ground to summon someone to help you. But the catch is now you are open to be invaded by some of the less friendly players, looking to kill you for fun and profit. Never have I been so paranoid than when I saw the INVADED BY words come up on my screen, I became jumpy, waiting for this red glowing menace to jump out and kill me with one blow. I LOVED IT… never has a game made online play so seamless with the single player campaign.
Sure not every part of Dark Souls is rosy or perfect… frame rate in Blighttown, those fucking invisible bridges in the Crystal Cave, and the lag that could become an annoyance with online battles; those are minor quibbles in what is a great game. This is a game that challenges you, inspires your imagination, and gives you a sense of accomplishment when you complete it. This may be one of the most satisfying games that I have ever owned.
As I side note, I did get to play a demo of Dark Souls II at San Diego Comic Con and I can’t wait for March 2014 to get here for it was glorious. But I do not want From Software to rush the game… I want them to take their time to make a game that is just as amazing and memorable as the first Dark Souls (just don’t take too long please).
Til next time, skipping down an escalator while drunk may be detrimental to your health…
I love to create… whether it be a script, short story, or even a poem. I can list off a laundry list of books, comics, RPGs, and such that have inspired me. Those are for another time, for I want to talk about a great influence on my ability to build a world, the wonderful invention called the video game.
I remember being a young lad in the early ’80s, roaming the arcades with a pocket full of quarters looking to play some games; Robotron: 2084, Joust, Ghost ‘n Goblins were some particular favorites of mine. (I could do a huge list of favorite games, but then it would be a bit of a boring read.) The one thing about most of these games from this time period is that they either had no story at all or such a bare bones one, that it’s plot could fit on a matchbook. Now before people start reaming me… but Shawn, they only had like all of a 96k of memory… I know that, that is not what I am talking about though. I never had the problem with the lack of story, because I would make one up for the game myself or build upon the minuscule story provided.
I use to sit down, imagine stories, draw (badly) comics of my favorite games; I would give elaborate back stories to these simplistic, pixelated creatures that captured my attention. One of my favorite games was Joust… I love it not only for the game play, but also for it’s bat shit insanity. The evil Bounders, Hunters, and fearsome Shadow Lords fly on vultures, looking to conquer the kingdom of floating (in some cases unstable) floating rocks. Opposing these minions of doom are two brave and fearless knights on their mighty birds of prey… the ostrich and stork?!? (Now I admit, not quite as cool as vultures, but hey, they were thinking outside of the box on this one.) Then should you slay your enemy, he shall drop a large egg, upon given enough time shall hatch into a full grown knight with a lance. Should you meander too long in your quest, a terribly drawn pterodactyl shall arrive to eat you. (Give me $200 million dollars and Johnny Depp… come on Hollywood, I’ll even let you put Michael Bay on as an executive producer.)
Now me being me, I tended to make up stories for the bad guys more often than not, they were just cooler to me, but there was was one that garnered the most attention from me: the dreaded Lava Troll. Once the bridge was burned away, if one was to fly too close to the lava, the disembodied hand of the troll would reach up, grab the bird by the legs and attempt to drag them to a fiery death. There was no story for him, but he fascinated me; he was a mysterious, murderous, elusive monster that I wanted to know more about. I had no need to be force fed his story or what he looked like beyond the hand that appeared above the lava. I let my mind fill in the blanks, made the story of how the troll came to live in the lava pits, I made him a truly horrifying monster in my imagination, one that even terrified the mighty Shadow Lords.
Needless to say I often give credit to early video games for helping foster my imagination. But as games evolved, more memory was available, and programmers weren’t so limited; I saw a change in the way I imagined the world I was playing in at that time. Before I start, let me say I do love a lot of the new games out now, I really do, there are amazing games, beautifully crafted and fully realized worlds. And there is my problem, the world is so fully realized, I don’t have to imagine a story for the characters or the places I am exploring. The story wasn’t personal anymore, my character had a name and story forced down my throat through enough excessive exposition to fill the next George R.R. Martin novel (come on George, I am waiting for The Winds of Winter). The creators tell you everything about the world and where to go, so that you do not miss a single glorious thing that they have programmed… why thank you Kardon wandering knight of the Wounded Walrus, would you like to help me? I need you to go to a rocky island in the Lagoon of Doom and pick up the Dandelion of Yellowishness that only grows there, so that I can make a soup that will prevent the Mushroom people from eating you. The coordinates are 55 degrees north by 112 degrees west… check your mini map for the big blue triangle to show you where this forgotten, forbidden island is located. If that is too hard, then follow this glowing green arrow trail to your final destination. Okay, maybe it is not that extreme, but you get the point; no exploring, no need to imagine what may await you. Plus all these prompts showing you where to go, kind of takes you out of the game and the story and don’t even get me started about cut scenes (for a while I swear ratio of cut scenes to actual game play time was about 3 to 1). But I shall not get side tracked on that issue right now, I shall save it for a different time.
I believe I have over analyzed this one a bit, and it is far from being my final say on the subject. But to summarize, I believe that video games are a great way to develop people’s imaginations, if they are allowed to create their own back story in the world the developers have created. And believe it or not, I am not talking about just the older, barely there story games of yonder years. In fact my favorite game at the moment that lets me create characters and fuel my imagination by creating back stories for them is the amazing Dark Souls. (Seriously, the game is awesome, at least when I am not tempted to throw my controller against the wall.) My thoughts on that game will be in a future blog post.
Til next time, tequila is a great substitute for apple juice.