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Why is there so much self-existential angst about what makes a game, among developers and critics? "It's not a game; it's a toy." "It's not a game; it's interactive poetry."

Of course now that I know that video games were originally created by nerds for nerds, everything falls into place.

Did movie guys ever have these problems?
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... will theoretically occur.

It all started when I got this paper assignment which said to argue something about video games in less than 4000 words (actually 3750, but as far as I'm concerned, I won't make that goal). What began as a humble(?) examination of the conception of fun and art has since ballooned in direct proportion to how many reasonably intelligent-sounding developer/reviewer blogs I could cram in (not to mention all the indie games I could link to. Must.... resist... further... bloat).

And as such, it will be appearing here before it appears in the class blog itself (where I think it's supposed to go eventually). You have been duly warned.
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Whenever I come home for a break, Dad shows me various anime he's found over the course of the semester/whatever. So I'm blogging about it because I have nothing better to do. Today's anime is Lovely Complex, the high school romance of an amazon and a midget. Tongue-in-cheek, and energetic, with seemingly infinite awkwardness interspersed with the romantic elements.

Hitting the highlights:

-The girl realizes her feelings by the fifth episode, and confesses to the guy by the seventh (it then takes another two episodes for him to realize that she's confessed, and then she chases him for another twelve, while he dithers like the more usual anime idiot, and they finally go out in episode 19).

-ThoseTwoGirls spend a lot of time pushing the main couple together, but they also spend a lot of time with their respective beaus (even if most of their dialogue revolves around the main couple)

-Trashes a lot of romantic concepts. Fireworks festivals, Valentines Days, and even a TrappedInAFreezer come and go... and are all incredibly awkward letdowns. Some of the sweetest scenes arise spontaneously.

-Couple starts out knowing each other and become friends over similar interests before any chemistry happens.

-Drawing style's less BESM and more BEBM, especially the main character, who is frequently drawn with buckteeth or pokey lips. Otherwise fairly outlandish, a la Azumanga Daioh.

-They introduce a "cool bishounen crush" in the first episode, and by the end of it he's turned into a total dork. (an adorable dork, naturally) Everyone else, of course, is also a total dork.

-The girl's a gamer with a taste for dating sims (and apparently console RPGs, given the way she talks in her sleep); everyone worries about her being obsessed, and... nothing happens.

-Despite many comical misunderstandings, the only thing that threatens to break up couples is self-admittedly stupid mistakes and worries about the future. (all three main couples have to worry about diverging paths)

-They leave the BeautifulAllAlong scene until like the last episode.

-The major conflict is over two episodes before the end, which lets them shift to a secondary couple's trauma.

-Coincidential meetings happen about as often as they do in other anime. Eh.

Chilly

Nov. 18th, 2008 08:27 pm
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It is rather cold today. There was a little snow outside the window during Law & Econ, and a lot of snow outside the window during the video game class. Now it down in the negative-C range.

People refer to this temperature (and those below it) as "bitter cold" but I've never understood the phrase. It is sweet and pure, a bit like spring water. It is silent and bright, like the snow that treads on its heels.

I like its effect on me. My legs work swiftly and without complaint. My mind works even faster. Facing a cold night is like facing fear. Everything in my body threatens to lock up, until I tell it, "No, relax; we've got this."

And indeed we do. Chill washes over me, but I am still there. And I am more me than I will be once I enter the building and the oppressive warmth swaths my mind in a blanket of lethargy.

For the moment, I am face-to-face with perfection and clarity. It is unmistakably hostile, but that's fine.

As I suspect I will be sick of it too, by mid-January.
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From my senior conference advisor:

We are running a test of our music game on face book today at 5pm today (Monday). If you are free today at this time, please join in with people from all over the world and check it out!! If at any point the game stalls or freezes please hit refresh (the arrow on a circle) at the top of your browser and start playing again.

The application in question is Herd the Music. A link to it is here. There is also an related survey.

As I am given to understand, you can play at any time, but if you play at 5 you might have a chance to play with real people as opposed to sycophantic Bob-bots.

Also "Herd the Music" as a title is both overly cute and underly memorable, but I've said this before.
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Your challenge is to write crossover fanfiction combining Step by Step and 1984.
The story should use a party as a plot device!

Generated by the Terrible Crossover Fanfiction Idea Generator


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Thank you, internet, for the clarification. It's not that I resent the idea of an inexperienced, gender-swapped Bush clone a heart-attackbeat away from the presidency, I'm just jealous that she's prettier than I am. Also, it's no big deal to make rape victims pay for their own rape-kits; they like, totally were asking for it. And, besides, omg, look at that hair; it's so last season.

I think I'm going to declare today another "satire day."
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Finally figured out what bothers me about WoD: How so much of the fiction jeers hackneyed cliches then turns right around, trips, and falls into a deeper pit of cliched hackneyness that is somehow more "authentic" than the old one.

This is also what bothers me about the ''Exalted'' tagline "Don't listen to those old men who say the world used to be a dull and boring place, full of dirty peasants; it was actually REALLY COOL." (the added irony of course is that ''Exalted'' used to be a setting that was so profoundly fucked up in so many creative ways, the best case scenario was its eventual transformation into the WoD. There's a Sour Grapes trope in there somewhere, but I'm too tired to care)
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I think the problem I have right now is the same one I had in high school when I was trying to be a "writer" except playing freeware games is a lot more fun than reading peoples' crappy fiction and poetry. Also there's less stupid drama.
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I haven't been working on the code for Vector so much as kept busy by trying different games just long enough to run out of new things to do. For some games, this is very short.

And most of the code work has been organizing things I should have done a while back.

Game Maker is a toy, but it is a toy that I desperately need. Its principles are simpler than any modern game engine, mostly because modern game engines are built under the assumption that you know all the little organizational conventions borne of working with raw code. Game Maker lets you do anything you want--upon which you make the conventions out of convenience.

Let me give a simple example. Game Maker is event-driven by design. Every object you make has events attached to it which drive various behaviors, from "press 'w' to move up" to "if the monster reaches 0 HP, destroy it". For a simple game, you can add every event to every object that requires it, and you'll do okay.

For more complex games, however, this doesn't cut it. If you press 'ENTER' are you typing in a character's name? Are you selecting an attack? Are you inspecting an object? If you make all objects call the 'press ENTER key' event you have a clusterfuck.

The easiest way to sort everyone out is to have an event handler (built into most game engines on some level) which passes control from your character, to your menu, to the limited control you have over a cutscene. But Game Maker doesn't ever give you one; you have to design it yourself. It's things like this that make me think about just what it is I'm doing.

And I think I have an answer. One of my previously unstated goals concerning Vector is to make CRPG CTB-style1 combat interesting. That means getting rid of just about everything else--at least for an initial release. One interesting game I played recently took the approach of dividing itself into segments--essentially separate games with the same character and gameplay. But each new segment added depth to the combat system, making it look like a platformer at first, and gaining elements of an RPG (your "super attack" that required charging became "magic" that you could customize) as it went on. I should probably copy the philosophy if not the result. Well, it's a start.

1 - CTB stands for Conditional Turn Based. Basically it means that after every character's turn, that character's new initiative number is calculated from that point, based on speed and the action type. FFX is the most famous example (FFT had a primitive version); Shadow Hearts 2 and other RPGs followed suit. It's simple elegant, it's miles ahead of the and Squeenix can burn for ditching it in FFXI and FFXII and replacing it with half-assed attempts at "real-time-but-not-really-ha-ha."
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Dear shounen anime,

STOP WRITING FEMALE CHARACTERS.

Seriously. You embarrass yourself every time. It's not funny anymore. Technically, it never was. Just get rid of all the female characters and continue with the male ones. See, I get to see Ho Yay and straight dudes get to see action and stuff. It's win-win. Really.

If you're worried that sex doesn't sell, put in a scantily-dressed spirit with DD-breasts and a sexy voice. In the opening credits and first episode. And then never show her again.

Then maybe I won't have the impulse to sic flaming monkeys on your stupid island.
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To pass the time, I'm playing various indie RPGs. Or RPG-likes, at least.

It is interesting that according to 365 Days of Free games Cave Story is not an RPG (despite having experience determine damage, hit point intervals of 5, and fetch-quests) and Eternal Daughter is (despite resembling a platformer in most respects).

There are other differences too, naturally. Cave Story is a delightful gem of the game that highlights the appeal of simple, clean old-school games. Eternal Daughter, on the other hand, shows exactly why Nintendo Hard games went out of fashion. It replaces content with difficulty and it's not particularly well designed. The protagonist has the durability of Mario and her enemies have the durability of Castlevania bosses.

Any recommendations for indie PCRPGs?
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Working title: Vector to Tomorrow

Story: a couple students (mage and alchemist, respectively; those who've played my DnD campaign will recognize the alchemist) unwittingly find themselves caught up in a secret invasion of their own school. They are sent to report the matter to the princess of a nearby kingdom, with a single bodyguard to protect them.

The player is actually the mage's black cat. As the game is console-RPG style, the story will be fairly linear except at certain points, most of which serve to drive the relationship/romance mechanic (yes, there will be a Ho Yay option)

Controls: Mouse and keyboard. I intend to eventually allow the player to freely switch between the two control schemes.

System: I will take GREAT PAINS to avoid any semblance of real-time in the battle system. Other than that, it will probably look a lot like a cross between Grandia 2 and Chrono Trigger.

Character classes will be represented by various instructive books. Any character can learn new classes by "equipping" that class's book. Boss fights and other story-driven events will result in general experience, which will result gaining basic techniques for the equipped book. All other experience will be earned by using the techniques learned in the books, and again, that experience can only go to that book.

Graphics: The game will probably look a lot like if you remade Chrono Trigger with vector graphics as the sprites. Same 3rd-person top-down perspective, non-isomorphic but still gives the impression of 3D.

Other than that, not much is settled. I'm still struggling between having entirely 1D levels and allowing for a little 2D. The main issue is graphical; the protagonists look terrible when facing forward/backward, and making animations for all of them will be annoying.
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Might as well talk about the game.

I've had the general idea for years, and for a while tried to cobble together a simple 2D version in Java using a few tutorials. But it was very buggy, and then I lost the whole thing, so I scrapped it and started looking for engines.

3D was no good; models are annoying to make and it's even harder to make everything (lighting and suchlike) look good.

The game is a console-type RPG, but RPG Maker provides too much of a framework to a very unimaginative game. I don't just want to be a content whore.

So I use Game Maker instead. It is cheap ($20 for full version), easy to learn (the scripting language is syntactically similar to C), flexible, and most importantly, does not provide anything that you don't want it to. Also its desperately understaffed, terrible website is endearing.
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If you've been online and talked to me in the past few weeks, and have asked me what I was doing at the time, you probably know that I am making a video game.

I can't say much about it (it's name isn't settled yet, so it will probably be referred to as "my game" in the indeterminable future), but the main dude looks like a CLAMP protagonist as drawn by Rich Burlew.

I also got a Twitter account (uname: Cromage), and was at a loss for what to do with it besides stalk other people before I realized that I could make updates about my game. It should be playable (albeit shitty) in the next couple months, although all the interesting functionality won't be there. So I'll just put updates there, starting with a bit of rough artwork.

Oh, and do these twitter things support text formatting?
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Breaking news: on this grand internet of ours, in a series of separate incidents, there are people complaining about mistaken elitists, and there are people complaining about people who complain about elitists mistakenly. As I know some damn smart people in both groups, I am compelled to explain this phenomenon. (and bored, and getting to the stage of work where there's nothing left to do except grandstand about the work I've done)

It's easy to see the point of people who complain about elitism. Just go to any webcomic forum and several of the larger blogs, and you'll find at least one elitist fanboy wanker who has taken up the cause of the author, climbed into the ivory tower, and now throws rocks at everyone who argues with him.

On the other hand, what happens to people who have rocks thrown at them? They start throwing rocks back. Some people choose to reject elitism so strongly that it does more harm than good.

Let's look at an internet example of this: Visitors stumble across private fora (or public fora about unusual topics), get screamed at, and leave, rarin' to blog about how intolerant and elitist the community was. They run into this attitude enough, and they learn to expect it from everyone.

The kicker is, your average internet forum has more newbies over the course of its lifetime than members during any one point. So more people actually get cheesed off by this assholish behavior than there are assholes, resulting in more potential trigger-happy anti-elites than elitist targets. (how many of those potential anti-elites become actual anti-elites is another story, one that needs to be told with care to avoid the Multiplicity Law of Loud Idiots)

And as such, anti-elites chase the tails of the elites, throw tomatoes at the wrong people, observers get offended, and so on and so forth. A depressing turn of events.

...

Now, a reasonable response to this all goes something like, "But Amber, maybe people complaining about anti-elitism are elitists themselves!"

Yeah, maybe, but that's boring (not to mention uncharitable), I try not to make boring entries (have I succeeded?), and I haven't written a public entry in a month.

That's all I have to say; without evidence, no theory can hold. What are your recent accounts with both elitism and anti-elitism?
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So I "found" a copy of DnD 4E. Initial impressions to follow, as bullet-points:

DnD Related Crap )

Last I checked, there were still discount core-sets still around at Amazon; maybe I'll pick one up.
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So. After reading the first two books of Otherland, Snow Crash, and the setting of Shadowrun, I'm just about ready to give up on cyberpunk. Too soon? Should I actually bother reading Neuromancer, or will I laugh just as loudly as I did at Shadowrun? ((granted, there are at least no elves in Neuromancer)
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Stuff like this.

Questions, comments, accolades, and death threats all given equal consideration.

*nerdgasm*

Jan. 25th, 2008 12:57 am
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Okay, normally I don't link things that I know everyone on my f-list reads, but...

Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

That is all.
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