Archive for the ‘Video Games’ Category

First Thoughts on Trails of Cold Steel

February 6, 2017

So, I’ve started playing Trails of Cold Steel on the Vita, and so far it’s entertaining enough, but I think it suffers from a problem that I’ve been having with new games lately: For the most part, it reminds me of other games that are better or that I’d rather play than it.

The character models and how they work in cutscenes really remind me of Suikoden III. The calendar dates and how they move remind me of Persona 3 and Persona 4, as does the concept of “Bonding Events”. The Bonding Events themselves remind me a lot of Conception II, as does the dungeon crawling (although, so far, it’s less grindy). The problem is that Suikoden III is far more open world then Trails of Cold Steel is, the dates matter more in the Personas since you have a daily routine, and also the character relationships matter more because you have to find the time to spend with whomever you want to spend time with, and you get immediate in-game benefits for advancing S-links, and the dating relationships are deeper, at least so far, in Conception II. All of this means that the game keeps reminding me of better or deeper games that I could be playing instead. That’s not the way to create a pleasant gaming experience [grin].

I think part of the issue is that I’d like to see more games borrow some of the good elements from my old favourites, but few of those games end up doing more with the elements. Instead, they end up including them, but making them more shallow and providing less depth while providing little to nothing new to compensate. This, then, leads you to see those elements, think fondly of them … and then recall that there were other games that did them better. If a game does something new or takes the original ideas and does something unique with them, then that doesn’t trigger. Lost Dimension is probably the best example of this, as it takes the standard JRPG combat and social link tropes and uses them in a unique way by adding in the traitor element. Trails of Cold Steel doesn’t do that.

That being said, the game is still entertaining. The biggest issue other than the above is that too much is hidden. It isn’t clear what the bonding points and events are going to give me and what the consequences of doing a Bonding Event with one character or another will actually mean in the long run. It suffers from having a very set character with a set personality and even a clear hint of a relationship thing forming with Alisa while leaving it up to you to decide who to talk to — for the most part — in the free days you get. There’s not enough vagueness in the character to make that have meaning, and again the game is not clear on what the consequences of your choices are. Also, there are Hidden Quests for you to do, but it isn’t clear on what doing them actually does for you. Thus, in order to avoid missing out on something really, really cool, I’m using a walkthrough to ensure that I get everything. This is less than fun.

But the characters are interesting, for the most part. I find myself liking Laura a lot, and also Emma and Alisa. Jusis and Machias are annoying — but are supposed to be — and the others are interesting enough, if Fie is too eccentric for my tastes. The quests are relatively interesting, and the Field Trips to different places breaks things up enough to add to it as well. The story is just developing, and I hope they can deliver on all the things they’ve promised.

Tropes vs Women: Sinister Seductress

February 1, 2017

The next video of Anita Sarkeesian’s that I’d like to examine is the one on the “Sinister Seductress”. To be honest, on re-reading it to post about it it seems to me that Sarkeesian kinda mailed this one in. It bridges different topics on the matter as if they could easily be subsumed under the same topic, but doesn’t really work to do that. Sure, there’s potentially a link between using sexual elements in a disturbing way to bring horror and using a sexually seductive exterior to hide an inner horror, which you can link to female characters and particularly villains using sexuality to achieve their ends, but the main problem is that using sexuality to generate horror is quite different than using it as a tactic and plot element to show how a female villain achieves her ends, and even the horror cases rely on radically different elements in order to achieve their end. Getting from those disparate tropes to one overwhelming case is going to be tough …

With all of these character types, their femaleness or sexuality is an intrinsic part of what is intended to make them dangerous or repulsive. As a result, when male heroes defeat them, their victory is often explicitly gendered, emphasizing that the male protagonist has overcome the female threat and reasserted his dominance and control.

Of course, it’s entirely possible to have female villains who don’t reinforce the idea that female sexuality or femaleness itself is threatening or repulsive.

… unless, of course, you simply assert that the main thrust behind these disparate elements is an attempt to make femaleness or female sexuality repulsive or dangerous. Then you can do it without, well, really arguing for or understanding why these elements are used.

Let’s look at how Sarkeesian talks about the first element, in talking about Doom 3’s Vagary:

One of those new monsters was the Vagary, a monstrosity with the upper half of a naked woman and the lower half of a giant spider, who also happens to be pregnant with a demon fetus in her abdomen.

It’s no mistake that the Vagary blends female sexuality and fertility with elements designed to be unsettling or horrifying. The book The Making of Doom 3 reveals that the game’s creative team summed up the driving concept for the Vagary with the equation, “sexy + gross = creepy.” What the makers of Doom 3 may not have realized is that this equation was in no way new, original, or innovative. On the contrary, by singling out the Vagary, the only female enemy in the game, for her gender and using this to make her uniquely repulsive, the designers were participating in a very long tradition of creating female creatures who function to demonize femaleness itself.

Well, chances are that they already realized the link between sexual attraction and disgust that can be an important element in horror. If you take something that the viewer or player would normally find sexually attractive and pervert it in such a way that it is, in fact, disgusting, that can engender a specific horror reaction; one reacts stronger to the disgust than one would to something that is just merely disgusting. But the main reason for this is that it is the juxtaposition of the highly appealing and desirable sexual elements with the gross ones; normally, one would find it incredibly appealing, but not in the way it has been presented. In that sense it doesn’t serve to demonize femaleness because it relies on us, in fact, revering it. It can be argued that this works better for female sexuality than for male because in general neither men nor women find female sexuality — at least sexual presentations — inherently disgusting, but both men and women find male sexuality itself inherently disgusting and/or something to be feared. It’s only if you wouldn’t normally find, for example, naked breasts on your screen something disgusting, to be feared, or to be looked away from that your urge to look away now strikes you as particularly horrifying. Thus, it relies on female sexuality not being demonized.

And this carries on to the second category, which is the externally sexually desirable exterior hiding the monster inside. If people — men particularly — spend a lot of time and effort to try to get sex from them, it ends up changing from someone getting something wonderful to having that all utterly dashed by evil, which then feeds into the horror. However, the link between this and female sexuality in particular is a little weak. Sarkeesian lists some examples:

Among the most famous female mythological creatures are the Sirens, whose voices were irresistibly alluring to men who sailed near their island and heard their songs. But the music of the Sirens was as dangerous as it was captivating, and the sailors who were seduced by the sound soon found themselves shipwrecked and stranded. Some interpretations characterize the Sirens as cannibals who murdered the shipwrecked men and feasted on their flesh.

And there are endless other mythological creatures created explicitly to demonize women such as the succubus: a female demon who sexually lures and seduces men; the harpy: a screeching bird creature with the face of a woman; and of course the classic witch, a dangerous myth that resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of real women across Europe and the American colonies in the 16th and 17th centuries.

Well, first, I’d like to point out the oddity of listing “witches” here, when later Sarkeesian again talks about how great and non-stereotypical Kreia from KotOR 2 is … despite her being old, unattractive, harsh, and someone who relies heavily on magic and, in fact, often “black” magic (Dark Side powers). Sure, she’s arguably Grey, but her powers lean more Dark Side than Light Side, as you’d expect from, well, the main villain of the piece. How is it that Kreia is non-stereotypical, while someone like Morinth from Mass Effect 2 is, and how does Kreia escape critical analysis as the main villain — and, for a long time, a party member — while Morinth, an option side character gets called out as being particularly problematic? Even when, as Shamus Young says her potential introduction is clearly a major plot point for the character you’re really supposed to recruit, recruiting her is something that almost no characters have any reason to do — good characters won’t want to recruit a psychopath over a space paladin, and evil characters have no reason to trust to want to put up with Morinth’s tendencies — and the main victim — given much empathy through dialogue with various characters — and the only one that has to be involved is a woman. Sarkeesian would have much more reason to complain about Samara’s outfit than about Morinth (which, yes, Shamus complains about as well).

Second, there are no shortage of male monsters that fulfill similar lines. For example, we have a direct link from succubi to incubi, which is the male version and works in pretty much the same way. And mixes of human and monster are often seen as, well, monstrous, and so are often used in horror. You can’t get from harpies to demonization of femaleness.

And finally, while she mentions the Sirens, she ignores the long standing ur-example of the “monster behind the incredibly attractive mask”: vampires. Despite being a self-identified Buffy the Vampire Slayer enthusiast. At any rate, the prototypical vampire is a strangely attractive man who seduces women and kills or turns them into his servants. While I’m sure that Sarkeesian can find some misogyny there, what she can’t find is demonization of female sexuality in the vampire itself. It is more reasonable to think of vampires as representing what was the worst view of male sexuality: the outwardly charming exterior that hides the demon inside that defiles the innocent women who fall for it.

Now, I’m not going to argue that vampires demonize male sexuality, because that would be a stupid argument. What I am going to argue is that the mix of sex and monsters, titillation and horror, is a long standing and effective on in horror, that has nothing to do with demonizing sexuality. Like the first case, it relies on sexuality being desirable to be the bait in the trap, and the horror often comes from the conflicting feelings of attraction and fear. There’s a reason why a lot of vampire seduction scenes are, in fact, so seductive.

So, we have to turn then to the final category and the one that is most related to the title of the video: female villains that use their sexuality to their advantage in order to get what they want:

This tradition of sexualized, evil women in the temptress mold includes characters ranging from the Dark Queen of the Battletoads games to Elizebet from Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2. In Hitman: Absolution, if players track the target, Layla, to a secret room in the penthouse, she strips for Agent 47 in an attempt to distract him before drawing a gun and trying to kill him.

The problem with these representations is not that they depict female characters who are sexual. It’s the way that sexuality is presented, as a threat or a weapon rather than as something to be enjoyed by these women and those they choose to consensually share it with. It’s a false notion of female sexuality rooted in ancient misogynistic ideas about women as deceptive and evil.

Um, except that these women are aware that they are attractive, are aware that they can use that to get what they want, and are not averse to using it to get what they want. Morinth is a bad example because she wasn’t a psychopath just using sex to get what she wanted — killing people — but instead was someone who needed to feed on people. She’s definitely more in the “vampire” camp than the “vamp” camp. But all of these women villains are, in fact, comfortable with their sex and sexuality, so much so that they are willing to use it to their advantage whenever it would do so. The standard criticism of this dynamic is actually the opposite, that it presents the world as “bad girls” are comfortable with — and enjoy — their sexuality in any way they can while “good girls” save it for marriage or for “the right man”. But these “bad girls” in fact treat their sexuality more the way Sarkeesian would want them to, despite her protests otherwise.

Once again, Sarkeesian misunderstands the tropes she is criticizing, to the point of criticizing one trope for the things that she ought to like instead of the things she ought not to like. Given this, it is unlikely that she could change these tropes to something that would maintain the purpose of the tropes and thus the unique elements they provide while removing the things that she finds problematic, because she finds the use of any aspect of the trope itself problematic, not the problematic elements themselves. But these tropes exist and are popular for reasons, and I am not convinced that the reasons Sarkeesian asserts for their popularity are the right ones, to say the least.

Tropes vs Women: All the Slender Ladies

January 25, 2017

After a few months off because I was really busy, let me return to my discussions of Anita Sarkeesian’s “Tropes vs Women” series. In this one, Sarkeesian takes on body diversity and laments that it seems that there are a variety of male body types represented but that the women are all slender and arguably traditionally attractive.

Now, I’m not going to argue against body diversity. I really like the fact that when creating a character you can create using a wide variety of body types, faces, costumes, and so on and so forth. This was one of the best things about “City of Heroes”, as allowing that allowed for various superheroes and superheroines, with various powers and backstories, and even allowed you to emulate more heroes that you would otherwise. So while I’m not going to agree with Sarkeesian’s standard tough line about it all being so that they can be sexually appealing to straight male players, I think that having the choice of a wide variety of body types is good, whether that be for your male, female, or invited transgender species characters.

So there might not be much to talk about … oh:

When female characters’ bodies are liberated from the need to uphold narrow, limiting cultural beauty standards, the resulting range of representations can not only make games themselves more interesting; it can encourage us to see all women as the desirable, autonomous, fully human individuals that we are.

So this is about more than just allowing people to build their characters as they see fit, and in some sense being able to see people like themselves in games. We’re supposed to see women of all body types as desirable. This means that we aren’t going to give people the choice when building their characters, but are instead going to create characters with those body types and put them in those roles regardless of what the player — or society — really thinks someone in that role should be like.

To highlight the potential problem with this, let’s look at her examples of male body diversity. Specifically, let’s look at Street Fighter:

In Ultra Street Fighter IV, characters such as Dhalsim, Hakan, E. Honda, Rufus and Vega represent a significant range of male body types.

Except … these were pretty much all cultural or racial stereotypes. E. Honda is heavy because he’s the stereotypical sumo wrestler. Dhalsim, down to his powers, is a stereotype of India, and likely Hindu mysticism. Vega is a stereotypical Spaniard. Arguing that these represent a good example of a range of male body types is a rather odd argument to make since they are only that way because of racial stereotypes.

Which is a point that Sarkeesian misses. While she argues that male body diversity exists to allow male characters to show off their personalities, the problem is that it’s usually the other way around: the developers pick a personality and then pick a body type to emphasize that purported personality. This is usually based around a stereotypical idea of what body types go with those personalities. More importantly, this is often used to mock those body types and personalities, or to take a stereotypical idea of them in culture to do the emotional work for the writers … which is exactly the sort of thing she criticizes the character Jo Slade for doing.

Additionally, this reveals something that you can do for women that you can’t do as easily for men. The reason that they change the body types for men is that it’s harder — though not impossible — to represent differing personalities in any other way for men. For women, a lot of the visual difference in personality comes down strictly to clothing and hairstyle, but for men clothing doesn’t vary that much, and so it’s a lot harder to indicate personality that way. So it’s not unreasonable for them to stick with the same rough body type that most people find attractive in some way for women and use varying styles to reflect varying personality types. Note that in games that do rely heavily on costume and style to differentiate the personalities of male characters — the Persona games, for example — the body types don’t vary that much.

At any rate, in order to treat female characters the same as male characters here means treating female characters as stereotypically as male characters are treated. It’s interesting to note, then, that one of Sarkeesian’s examples here is of Kreia, who is presented in personality and appearance as a stereotypical witch. Note that we can contrast that with another Bioware character that fills the same “mentor” role — Wynne from Dragon Age — and note that that stereotype is not used. Flemeth and Morrigan are the witches … and don’t conform to the stereotype in appearance (Morrigan rather, ahem, visibly so). Again, Sarkeesian’s analysis seems to be based on shallow personal preference rather than real, detailed analysis, since she doesn’t mention Wynne at all and talks about how great Kreia is in multiple videos.

So, Sarkeesian is certainly not going to want women of differing body types presented as simple stereotypes nor as objects of ridicule. In order to have them be seen as, for example, desirable, she’s not going to want to give characters the option to skip them, either as playable characters or as romance options. If she goes as far as she usually wants to, this would mean creating, say, heavy women as the main character or as the main — if not only — romance option. This clashes with player choice. How many players really want to play as a heavier character? Do even heavier players, in fact, really want to play as a heavier character? Or would they rather play as someone who is at least more conventionally attractive than they are? If games are power fantasy — as so many of those criticizing games suggest — then even the audience Sarkeesian would want to appeal to here might not actually want to be forced into that role. Ironically, it might be the traditional straight male audience that might find that option surprisingly refreshing.

And the romance option becomes more problematic, because it might run into the issue that the player is forced into romancing an option that neither they nor their character would find appealing. We’ve already run into this in RPGs, which is one reason for the increasing diversity of romance options. But even doing that has its issues. If you don’t match the body type to its “stereotype” (personality), the character might be off-putting. If you do, then that’s stereotyping and not what Sarkeesian ought to want. It also runs the risk of a problem experienced with Samantha Traynor from Mass Effect 3, where male players found her the most appealing option — and, in some cases, the only appealing option — but couldn’t romance her because she was same-sex only (in my case, my Shepard was a lesbian female and so didn’t have that problem). The best way to do what Sarkeesian wants is to give the least physically attractive characters the most appealing personalities, but this could leave players with no reasonable romance option … an issue that happened to me a couple of times in “The Old Republic”. While this sometimes can’t be avoided, it hurts the game and the game playing experience if it happens. Since romance options are almost always determined by a combination of physical attractiveness and personality — like real-life romance options — this approach would make that more likely to occur.

At the end of the day, in general more player choice is good and less is bad. Sarkeesian’s attempt to insert Social Justice goals into games, however, works against player choice, or else all her desired gains vanish as most people holding the views she wants to change simply ignore all of the content … unless she forces it on them. But then it might ruin the experience even for those people she wants to help with her changes. I’m not sure a clearer example of Social Justice vs Games can be found.

What I Finished, What I Played in 2016

January 23, 2017

This year I finished Dragon Age: Inquisition, Conception II, Knights of the Fallen Empire, XBlaze: Code Embryo and Huniepop. I just played Cross Edge, Record of Agarest War Zero (a “just played” yet again),Corpse Party: Blood Drive, Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines, Valkyria Chronicles Remastered and Pinball Arcade, a game that I picked up and have enjoyed playing even though it doesn’t include my favourite table, the Star Wars one.

I didn’t really finish that much this year, although you might have to add the last The Old Republic class stories to that list. But it wasn’t a bad year, although my stack of games keeps growing and I didn’t really play a lot of games on my vacation … and am likely to busy enough again this year that I might not have that much time to play games. We’ll have to see.

Final Thoughts: Knights of the Fallen Empire

December 28, 2016

This story arc was of such quality that not only am I going to cancel my subscription to “The Old Republic”, but I’m hesitant to try the next Mass Effect or Dragon Age game in case it turns out the same way.

(more…)

First Thoughts: Knights of the Fallen Empire

December 21, 2016

By the time this post gets posted, I hope to have finished the entire sixteen chapters of Knights of the Fallen Empire. I started it early in December, creating a level 60 character based on Isabelle from Babylon 5. A little background on the character:

My original Sith Sorcerer was based on Galen from Crusade and other Babylon 5 works. The general idea was similar to the technomages in Babylon 5: they were cyborgs who were created to serve the Sith and so had implants that allowed them to work or at least appear to work the Force. Galen was the motivating force behind all of my other characters, recruiting them to work to unify the Republic and the Empire, knowing that the violence was pointless and that they’d need to work together to face a larger threat.

At the beginning of Knights of the Fallen Empire, he was busy on a mission so Isabelle took his ship and crew and went after the Emperor, leading to her capture and imprisonment for 5 years before being released. In-game, Galen waits despondently, going about his other duties, waiting for her to send him a message in the Force, as she promised, but hasn’t. So, a lot like the novel series on the technomages.

So, with a background that’s so much more fun than the actual background, what do I think of Knights of the Fallen Empire so far?

Meh.

The Old Republic’s combat, I think we can all agree, is not exactly entertaining. We put up with it to get from place to place and to get the levels and credits and equipment we need to get on with the rest of the game, and we keep moving around to new quests and planets enough that it doesn’t really matter. But we’re at level 60 here. We don’t really need more XP or more credits. I already have about 300,000 credits starting from 0, about half-way through the chapters, and I could get more from one of my other characters. At times, it seems like there’s combat just for the sake of combat here, and that’s the last thing we need in a story like this.

The story is serviceable, but not particularly interesting. It hits a lot of the standard tropes shown in the class stories, and the characters are somewhat interesting, but it really can’t hold a candle to the more focused RPGs like Mass Effect and Dragon Age in that regard. It also moves too quickly to be that interesting as well. We seem to have combat sequences to pad out the time, but that doesn’t leave too much space between story elements for us to be shocked at betrayals.

Ultimately, it’s okay, but it would almost have been better to not do anything if they weren’t prepared to do a full-on KotOR-style RPG. This hybrid of MMORPG and pure RPG-elements doesn’t really work.

All my scheduled games are PC now.

November 30, 2016

(Loosely to the tune of “All My Rowdy Friends” by Hank Williams Jr.)

All my scheduled games are PC now
That I can only really play in the middle room
So I can’t really play while watchin’ TV
While sitting in the living room

I myself have seen my console days
And those games are still at the top of the page
When I need to find a game just to play around
But none of them are scheduled right now
And all my scheduled games are PC now

And I think I could play a Persona game
But I’ve got too many games from Good Old Games
So many that I can’t keep ’em straight

And even though I’m home more these days
See none of them are scheduled right now
And all my scheduled games are PC now

And the leftovers annoy more then they used to
And Bloodlines and TOR took the place of Wii and PS4
And it seems like I really don’t do things quite like I used to do
And none of those are scheduled right now
And all scheduled games are PC now

Yeah, I think I could play Fatal Frame
But those Good Old Games don’t cost a lot of cash
Don’t crash like they did back in 2008

And right now I’m a Toreador playin’ in L.A.
And none of those games are scheduled now
‘Cause all my scheduled games are PC now

And the winner is …

October 10, 2016

… Valkyria Chronicles Remastered, along with Record of Agarest War and Record of Agarest War 2.

I still wanted to play on the PS3 or PS4, because, well, it and the Vita are the easiest to play while watching TV, and the next couple of months will have lots of sports to watch, and I didn’t want to have to sacrifice one for the other. I also knew that I’d always be able to have something on TV no matter what, so it just generally worked the best. But I kept wanting to play Dragon Age: Origins again, but kept balking when faced with the fact that I’d want to play the entire series and that would mean that I’d have to play Inquisition again. I also considered Mass Effect, but while I could tolerate ME2 and ME3 better than DAI, I also didn’t want to play those games as badly. I considered the Persona games — starting from Persona — but wasn’t sure that I’d enjoy the first two games. I also considered a mix of games, but finally remembered that I had Valkyira Chronicles and that it might be fun, and also that while Record of Agarest War was grindy, grinding while watching sports wasn’t all that bad. Thus, the decision.

I started playing Valkyria Chronicles on Saturday. The game is … interesting. The gameplay is unique, as the combat is a hybrid of turn-based strategy and shooter. You select a squad member to “activate” in turn — as long as you have Command Points — and then you get dropped into essentially a shooter, where all enemies that can shoot at that character do shoot at that character, unless you drop into an action mode — like shooting an enemy — at which point the game pauses. And when the enemy is moving, your soldiers get to shoot at them. Thus, I learned in the second combat mission that sometimes it’s best to not activate some of your soldiers because then they will only get shot at during actual enemy combat actions, but will indeed still get to shoot at the enemy as they move. Sure, you might be able to do more damage if you get to shoot during both phases … but you take damage then, too.

That being said, that I had to replay the second mission so many times suggests that the combat might end up being too hard for me to finish the game.

I’m not that fond of the graphics in the cutscenes, with semi-realistic anime figures over almost crayon-drawing backgrounds. But the characters seem interesting, at least. And you get to fill out a squad with characters that not only have their own classes, and not only have their own properties that give bonuses in certain cases, but also like some of their squadmates, which presumably also gives some bonuses. That’s an impressive amount of personalization of those squadmates. The only thing that would make it better, at least for me, would be the ability to create your own squadmates.

Anyway, we’ll see how the game goes, and if I manage to get into/through the Agarest War games after that.

(If anyone is wondering about the context for this post, it’s here.)

Busy Work/Gaming

September 23, 2016

So, recently, I’ve become very, very busy. This was a combination of work becoming really busy and the normal “one-or-twice a year” things that I have to do in September/October, well, obviously, coming due. Normally, I deal with those things by taking vacation around that time, but this year the powers-that-be put a busy time in September and October — as should be obvious from the second sentence of the post — and I’ve already talked about why taking vacation in the busy times really doesn’t work for me. Suffice it to say that with those things coming up and with the work thing, I’m pretty busy right now.

But I still want to do things other than work, like the Hugo analysis and reading (yes, it is still on-going). And one of the things that I really wanted to do was play some games, because after finishing The Old Republic I hadn’t really been playing anything … and even then I was pretty much only playing TOR. So, given that this state is likely to persist for about another month and a half, as per my wont, I made a schedule for it. And discovered that I had a decent block of time weekend afternoons/evenings to play some games. Great! Now all I have to do is choose a game.

The first consideration for me was “Am I going to want to watch TV in those timeblocks?” Because if I didn’t, then PC games work well, and I even have VTMB and KotOR2 games in progress that I could finish, which would be a big plus for me. But if I did, then console/Vita games work better, because while I can play PC games and watch TV that involves me cranking up the volume and mostly ignoring it, so background TV? Good. Semi-interested TV? Bad.

And it turns out that baseball season is ending and the playoffs will run during that time, and I actually like watching the baseball playoffs. And they tend to run at about those times. So it is likely that I’d actually want to watch, and if there’s something on TV that I want to watch I often tend to, well watch that instead of doing what I wanted to do. So that made me lean console. On the other hand, the baseball often ends by the time I’d be starting to play, which might leave me with nothing to watch, which would make me lean PC. However, with the CFL ramping down and the NHL and NFL starting up there’d almost always be some kind of sports on, and in the rare cases where there wasn’t I’m sure I’d be able to find something to have on just for noise so … console/Vita it is.

So, I had been doing a number of things to remind me of the Persona series — watching P4: The Animation, listening to the soundtracks, etc — and so thought that it might be a good idea to replay P4: Golden. Except … I almost finished watching the Anime before revamping my watching habits as part of my rescheduling, and so when playing it I’m really just playing the story that I just watched. Sure, I’ve not only done that before but even enjoyed it before, but right now I’m busy and tired and, well, am just not up for doing that. So I need something else.

I considered playing Dragon Age again … but then I’d want to do the entire series which means that I’d have to struggle with the Dragon Age Keep again and have to deal with Dragon Age: Inquisition again. Yeah, let’s not. So then, maybe Mass Effect? But then I’d have to deal with the stupid resource gathering in ME2 again. Still, I think I could tolerate that more than I could tolerate Dragon Age again.

But what else? Persona 3? The dungeons are grindy and boring, and I only have two 3 hour blocks a week and want to feel like I’m getting somewhere. Conception II? Same problem, only more so. Dungeon Travellers? I think I’d have to start over because I’ve forgotten what secret areas I’ve found. Valhalla Knights? Maybe, but the shopkeeper influence mini-game can be tough on the fingers. Lost Dimension? Replaying it after you’ve seen the entire story isn’t that appealing. Agarest War? That “grinding” issue again. Skyrim? Hmmm … but I’d have to find it first. Oblivion? Maybe. Overlord? Can you play that for three hours and only three hours in a session? LA Noire? Same idea. Saint’s Row? Maybe.

I could always go and play PS2 games, but I moved my PS2 off to make room for the PS4, so that’s a bit problematic, and something that I’d only want to do if I didn’t have anything else to do. Go back to PC games? Maybe. TOR again? I hope not [grin].

Anyway, this post is here mostly because my reasons for rejecting Dragon Age and Mass Effect amuse me, and I needed to write a blog post at some point [grin].

To All the MMOs I’ve Loved Before …

September 21, 2016

To all the MMOs I’ve loved before.
That I played for months or more.
I’m glad they came along.
I dedicate this song.
To all the MMOs I’ve loved before.

So, after having finished all of the class stories in The Old Republic, I ended up musing about the MMOs I’ve played that I’ve really, really liked. And it turns out that there have been three of them, that I’ve loved for (mostly) completely different reasons.

Dark Age of Camelot: This was the first MMO that I ever played. I was drawn to it not because it was an MMO, but because it created three legendary/mythological realms that also happened to be among my favourites. I’ve always been a huge fan of Arthurian legend, and obviously given the game this MMO was going to have that as a major component. But the other two realms — Norse and Celtic — were also among my favourites. The whole “online” thing was a detriment, and not a benefit … but no one else was doing anything like this and no one else was even likely to do anything like this. If I wanted it, I was gonna hafta play this and put up with those icky “other players” that I had heard about.

The game itself lived up to expectations, at least in terms of setting and the link to the legends. The realms were noticeably different, and the classes mapped nice to the legends and, even better, were interestingly different between realms. Classes of the same basic role still managed to look and play differently in a way that linked them to the legends. Given this, I kept creating new character after new character to play around with different concepts.

The gameplay, however, didn’t suit me. It was a bit too hard to solo in the game — which is understandable, since you were never meant to solo — and, more importantly, there was no real overarching story to the game to push you to the next area. Yes, you were encouraged to go to new areas and do new things, but there was no story to follow, and you mostly did that to get enough levels to participate in Realm vs Realm … which I had no interest in. I also constantly got lost because the game — like most MMOs at the time — didn’t give you quest markers, the death penalty was annoying, and I was constantly cash-strapped.

This was my first MMO, and it set the stage for my altitis, because it was always so much more fun to start a different character in a different class in a different realm than it was to actually play a character to the higher levels and even into RvR, at least for me. A game with less diversity would have bored me when it got too hard (I’m looking at you, World of Warcraft), but Dark Age of Camelot kept me coming back to try out new classes and new characters:

City of Heroes: If Dark Age of Camelot started my altitis, this is the one that cemented it. The wide variety of costume and appearance options made creating new characters as actual characters far too easy. The varied powersets worked to create actual characters, and also played differently between classes and often between primary and secondary powerset combinations in the same class. New powersets allowed for new characters, making it all the more tempting to start over with a new character.

While soloing still wasn’t encouraged, it wasn’t as hard as it was in Dark Age of Camelot. Blasters had the hardest time, at least in my experience. There were overarching stories for each area and starting area that were fun, and I loved the few task forces that I managed to play.

However, at higher levels, again, soloing became too hard. Also, again, there was no overarching story to draw you from area to area, so you moved on when you had a high enough level. And finally, my highest level character got stuck in one of the cases where if you were high enough level to move on but your level was a little low for the quests and enemies you had to face.

Given the diversity and the fact that the introductory quest lines were fun, starting new characters became my standard approach to the game. This was my favourite MMO.

Star Wars: The Old Republic: With respect to everything that I loved about the previous two MMOs, The Old Republic is worse. There is less diversity in classes and settings and appearance. But it has two big advantages over the others. The first is that it is much more solo friendly. And the second is that it has a clear and interesting set of class stories that push you on to the next planet and, ultimately, to the end game. Of the three, it’s the game I love the least, but also the game that I’ve actually hit max level in.

The heyday of MMOs seems to be fading a bit; I don’t hear as much about new ones as I used to. Maybe I’m just not tuned in enough, though. At any rate, I wonder if I’ll ever find MMOs that I’ll love as much as these … all of which I either can’t play anymore or, at least, likely won’t play again, or for much longer (TOR).