Archive for the ‘Video Games’ Category

Thanks, Shamus!

February 20, 2019

So, Shamus Young made two posts talking about Alpha Star’s attempts to create an AI that can play Starcraft II, and how it managed to beat human players and then where a human player exploited a tendency in it to beat it. There was a lot of discussions about that in the comments, and that made me want to do AI again after it being a … few years since my last attempt. And, of course, I clearly have lots of time to spare and no other projects that I want to look at that I could be doing instead of that. Thanks, Shamus!

Anyway, I went out and bought some books on the subject, two of which are detailed books about how to do AI in general and how to do Deep Learning in Python (the last is a technical book on Deep Learning that I would have already started reading except that it starts with Linear Algebra, which is not something I want to review while watching curling …). So I have that to get to, but in pondering it and reading the comments another idea percolated in me.

The AI there focuses a lot on neural nets, as far as I can tell. Now, neural nets have been around for ages, and have waxed and waned in their popularity for AI due to their rather well-known weaknesses (I’ll talk more about that in general in a later post). But one thing that kept coming up, especially when the exploit was revealed was “Can’t you just explain to it or make a rule in it to deal with that exploit?” And the answer is that you can’t really do that with neural nets, because they don’t explicitly encode rules and don’t really have an “Explain this to me” interface. What you can do is train them on various training sets until they get the right answers, and what often makes them appealing is that they can come to right answers that you can’t figure out the reasoning behind, which makes them look smarter even though they can’t figure out the reasoning behind them either. So, perhaps, they can be very intuitive but they cannot learn by someone carefully explaining the situation to them.

But inference engines, in theory, can.

There’s also a potential issue with using a game like Starcraft II for this, because as people have pointed out the intelligent parts of it — the strategy — can get swamped by simple speed of movement or, in the vernacular, “clicking”. As is the case in curling, the best strategy in the world doesn’t matter if you can’t make the shots, and in this case while you’re working out that grand strategy someone who builds units faster and maneuvers them better will wipe you out. A Zerg rush isn’t a particularly good strategy, but if you build them fast enough and can adjust their attack faster than your opponent can you might win, even if your opponent is a better strategist than you are. In short, Starcraft II privileges tactical reasoning over broad strategic reasoning, and while tactical reasoning is important — and arguably even more so in an actual battlefield situation — broad strategic reasoning seems more intelligent … especially when some of those tactical considerations are just how quickly you can get orders to your units.

So what we’d want, if we really wanted intelligence, is a game where you have lots of time to think about it and reason out situations. There’s a reason that chess is or at least was the paradigm for artificial intelligence (with Go recently making waves). But that game can be solved by look-ahead algorithms, and look-ahead algorithms are a form of reasoning that humans can really use because we just can’t remember that much (although it has been said that chess grandmasters do, in fact, employ a greater look-ahead strategy than most people are capable of. And now I want to start playing chess again and learning how to play it better, in my obviously copious spare time). There’s also an issue that it and Go are fairly static games (as far as I can tell because I’m not a Go expert) and so things proceed pretty orderly from move to move, and so aren’t very chaotic or diverse.

Which got me thinking about the board games I have that have chaotic or random elements to them, like Battlestar Galactica or Arkham Horror. These games let you develop grand strategies, but are generally random enough that those grand strategies won’t necessarily work and you have to adjust on the fly to new situations. They’re also games that have set rules and strategies that you can explain to someone … or to an AI. So my general musings led me to a desire to build an inference engine type system that could play one of those sorts of games but that I could explain what the system did wrong to it, and see how things go. Ideally, I could have multiple agents running and explain more or less to them and see how they work out. But the main components are games where you have set overall strategies that the agents can start with, and yet the agent also has to react to situations that call for deviations, and most importantly will try to predict the actions of other players so that it can hopefully learn to adjust that when they don’t do what is expected.

Now, other than picking a game to try to implement this way — Battlestar Galactica’s traitor mechanism is a bit much to start with, while Arkham Horror being co-operative means that you don’t have to predict other players much — the problem for me is that, well, I’m pretty sure that this sort of stuff has been done before. I’m not doing anything that unique other than with the games I’m choosing. So, if I did some research, I’d find all of these and get a leg up on doing it, at least. But a quick search on books didn’t give me anything for that specifically, a search of Google will make it difficult to sort the dreck from the good stuff, and the more up-front research I try to do the less actual work I’ll be doing, and I want to do some work. Simple research is just plain boring to me when I’m doing it as a hobby. So my choices are to reinvent the wheel or else spend lots of time looking for things that might not be there or might not be what I want.

So, I’ll have to see.

Anyway, thanks Shamus for adding more things to my already overflowing list of things I want to do!

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Update on Elsinore

February 15, 2019

So, let me check on a game that I posted about back in 2016: Elsinore. In the last update, they had their final Beta build. In this update, they have released … another final Beta build. To their credit, they didn’t try to hide it, and I think that the comment that they lied about that might be a bit too harsh (unless they were actually lying and not just wrong about that), but one would have hoped that they would have been able to say something about that, or about the game, before four months have passed.

They’re also saying that they will release it at some point in 2019, which would be good for them if they make it. But it would still be 3 years late at that point. Building a game like this seems to be more complicated than they thought it would be, although pretty much anyone who knew anything about game design could have told them that it would be complicated. Still, their willingness to keep delaying it until it works is actually a good sign, as it means that either it will get released and be relatively good, or else it will never get released. So we’ll see what happens this year.

Further Thoughts on Sunrider Academy

February 6, 2019

So, I had played Sunrider Academy a bit more since I first played it and after taking a short break I returned to it playing it on weekends, in the hopes of finishing it.

Some of the same complaints that I had the first time carry over to this as well. The game still isn’t good at explaining what you’re supposed to be doing and what everything means. This leaves me a bit confused and wondering if I’ve done something wrong, because at one point it gave me the option to trigger Chigara’s arc which, since the character interested me, I immediately did. But I’ve managed to raise at least Ava to the same affection level and don’t have an option to trigger an arc with her. I also went on a date with Chigara already. Did selecting her arc lock me into her? Or are the arcs time-based instead of affection-based? And I found that I had to try to improve the readiness of some of the clubs in order to trigger new scenes, and in fact because I hadn’t been reporting progress I ended up triggering an event with Ava later than it was supposed to happen (the scene references something that already happened). So I’m a little confused about what’s going on. I like Chigara, so if I’ve accidentally locked myself into her arc that’s fine, but that seems like an annoying way to build a game like this.

Still, events have become more common which makes the game seem less grindy, which was a problem early on. And the characters are interesting enough, although Asaga is getting on my nerves, which is why I’m now trying to avoid advancing affection with her, especially since for the longest time her affection was by far the highest out of all of them. The two I find most appealing are Chigara and Ava, and unlocking the “Charm” option seems to be making it a lot easier to advance their affection. The date with Chigara was interesting and funny, with the two of them stumbling through an awkward and shy date. Like “Sakura Wars: So Long My Love”, the characters and the main character are all pretty eccentric, but Kayto is less so than the main character of that game and all of the girls are far more normal and relatable than the girls in that game, so the eccentricities are far less overwhelming.

So far, the game is entertaining enough, at least on Easy, as that lets me avoid the increasing death-march of stress-failure-stress-sick-death. This means that I can focus more on just playing the game rather than on managing stress and the like. I’d like things to open up a bit more and get more events, but I’ll play it through without consulting a guide and see how it ends up.

Thought Process As I Choose a New Game …

January 30, 2019

So, as already noted I’m going to pick a new game to play. I’m biased towards RPGs, want to actually roleplay in it, and can’t play more than an hour or so at a time. This post is a semi-real-time account of the thought process I’m going through to pick that game. It’s not quite real-time for three reasons:

1) The post is going to come out a few days after I’ve picked the game, so it’s not directly in real-time.

2) My mind never shuts off, so I have been and possibly will be thinking about it while not writing the post.

3) This will be edited to avoid being too repetitive.

But, hopefully, it will reflect my thought process for choosing things like this, while allowing me to work through it at the same time, which I was going to do anyway.

So, the time restriction limits me to PC games where I can pretty much save anywhere. To get a good list of those to look at, I looked at my list of video games and also filtered my GOG games list for RPGs.

As I already said, I tried Wizardry 8, but I screwed up the voices — I accidentally gave Skye/Daisy/Quake a voice that was perfect for Simmons, reminding me of that every time she said something — and didn’t want to redo it, and decided that I really wanted to roleplay in a game anyway.

The best PC game for roleplaying that I can access right now is The Old Republic. Add to that that I’ve been rewatching — or, rather, relistening to — Chuck Sonnenberg’s runs through the game and this seems like a really strong contender. The problem is that I don’t think I could play it for only an hour or so a night and get anywhere. It takes me 3 – 4 hours with the new model to finish one planet, which is about an hour or so per area, but it’s really going to feel like I’m rushing out to do something and then running back to the cantina to get rest XP. So while it’s a possibility I don’t think it’ll work.

I could play Knights of the Old Republic again, but right now I’m watching Agents of SHIELD which encourages me to create a character from that show, and I already did Coulson in it, and so also played it not too long ago. I could play Sith Lords instead, but I had started that one after my KotOR run with May and found myself disliking the thought of doing the early quests and dropped it, which is likely to happen again. Still, starting KotOR with a new character might work.

I could play Bloodlines again, as there’s quite a bit of roleplaying in that game. Unfortunately, there’s also so much combat that playing it for only an hour or so will probably get frustrating at times.

There’s also some of the old Black Isle/Bioware games. Baldur’s Gate is a game that I probably should play, but it annoys me enough that I should probably skip it. The same thing is true, although less so, for the Fallouts. Baldur’s Gate 2 is an option but … I don’t know. There’s always the Icewind Dale games, although the first one is better for roleplaying while the second one has more classes and so has more interesting character creation. I could also try to play Torment, which is probably the best of the lot for roleplaying but is a game that I’ve never actually been able to get into.

I could also try to play Arcanum again. I didn’t mind it the first time, but the searching was a bit like Baldur’s Gate’s, which gets grindy.

There’s also the Gold Box AD&D games, which would potentially have decent roleplaying and are games that I’d like to play and finish. But I think Icewind Dale’s roleplaying is better.

There’s also the Might and Magic games, but I think the roleplaying is a bit light in them if I recall correctly.

There’s also Age of Decadence which is supposed to be strong for roleplaying, but I’m not sure that I want to play something new that I have to learn right now, which also is the case for the Krondor games.

So, I think that Might and Magic is out, because there are games I’d rather play than them. I’ll leave them on my list for when I want to play and finish games (weekends). And my preferring Icewind Dale leaves out the Gold Box games, for now at least. I think I’ll drop Torment, too.

Since Icewind Dale is coming up so often, let’s see if those games will play on my old PC, as Wizardry 8 wouldn’t install requiring me to buy it from GOG to try it.

And it looks like Icewind Dale II will install and run, but Icewind Dale won’t (it acts the same way as Wizardry 8 did). I don’t really want to buy the Enhanced Version anyway and the price is too high. But let me take a risk and try to install it on my laptop to see if that works.

It turns out it does. So I think I can narrow it down to Icewind Dale, Icewind Dale 2, or KoTOR with an Agents of SHIELD character (I’m leaning towards Simmons). I could create a pretty decent party with either Icewind Dale or Icewind Dale II, but there’s something appealing about roleplaying a game with Simmons as the main character. Although TOR or Sith Lords would probably be better for that.

Of course, taking the time to install Icewind Dale is kinda pointless if I don’t play it. Then again, it’s small and I will probably want to play it again at some point.

Playing as Simmons just seems way too appealing right now, especially since she’d be such a different character than I normally play and it’d be a completely different personality from Revan so that twist would be interesting, and KotOR allows for some interesting roleplaying. So that’s my choice: KotOR as Simmons.

So that’s how I go about making these decisions, which is probably a bit odd and too detailed to make sense to most people.

Picking Video Games … Again

January 25, 2019

So, coming out of my recent vacation, it was time to figure out what game I was going to play. I originally started replaying Persona 5, since I had two timeslots where I could play a longer game and I figured that I could make good progress in it before the Scotties and finish it then while watching the curling. But then I lost one of those two timeslots and decided that I would rather watch the curling than play a game during it, but would need that time to finish Persona 5. So that was out.

With only one timeslot to play games for a significant time at a stretch — 3 hours or so — most of my console games ended up not being a good fit, as they would generally be too long to play for only 3 hours a week but wouldn’t fit into the roughly an hour at a time timeslots that I have the rest of the week. So that left me with some of my PC games to play, which worked out because I did want to play some of them and finish them.

I decided to play Sunrider Academy, since I had simply let it lapse for the past couple of months, but since I let it lapse because it could drag I decided to only play it on weekends, because then I’d have more guaranteed time and so be able to push through and finish it but it wouldn’t be the only game I was playing. I then decided what game to play for the other three days, and decided that I didn’t really want to do strategy games and decided that I wanted to play an RPG, and Wizardry 8 kept calling to me, so I started playing a game of it creating a party with characters from Agents of SHIELD.

And I quickly stopped playing it, for two reasons:

1) I messed up some of the voices, and didn’t want to have to recreate the characters again, and the fun of Wizardry 8 is having the characters spontaneously talk like their characters would.

2) I decided that I actually wanted to play an RPG where I could roleplay, and Wizardry 8 is not that sort of game.

So, back to the drawing board there. The good thing is that there was a lot of snow and bad weather this week, so my schedule got messed up and I couldn’t really play games a lot anyway, so there I didn’t really lose much. Hopefully I’ll figure this out for next week.

Game Association

January 23, 2019

I haven’t talked about a video from Extra Credits for a while, so let me look at a recent one today. The video is about “The Catharsis of Doing”, and talks about how games by their nature get us to actually do things, which then can affect us in different ways than simply watching a movie or reading a book can. This, of course, is at its base rather obvious. Chuck Sonnenberg, for example, talks about how Dragon Age Origins showing you the impacts of your choices as your army heads out for the final battle (in part 10) makes that incredibly epic, pointing out that if you see the dwarves marching that means that you chose to not save the Forge and allow the creation of golems instead, and that the mages being there instead of Templars means that you managed to save the mages. So, it is definitely the case that you doing things does make things different than just passively watching other people do it. But then that raised a question for me: do what extent are you, the player, actually doing it?

Because most of the examples in the video, and even Chuck’s example, rely heavily on the player associating themselves strongly with the character they are playing, so much so that they really see themselves to be the character in the game. If a game is going to make you feel regret for the choice you made, then it’s going to have to be the case that the character is you and not a character you are playing. If you feel frustrated over not being able to get over a hurdle in a game, or feel like a success because you did, then that game and game session is going to have to become part of your life and one of the things that are a crucial part of it. And if you feel good for making the choices that lead to the army that you have, then again it’s going to be you, as the player, who decided that, and not your character.

This way of thinking, I now realize, is rather foreign to me, because I tend to play not as myself but as character. I played 9 or 10 characters in The Old Republic, none of which were me in any way (despite a friend making that assumption when I showed him my first character, which I was trying to play as Corran Horn). Even in the games that are closer to me — for example, where I use my own name — I’m not really me. I might try to make decisions as if I was me, but in general I’m always asking myself what my character would do, not what I would do.

Sure, when I’m just playing a game and focusing on the gameplay, then failing at it feels like my own failure, and that can impact my mood. But even then, if games are supposed to be an escape from the world if I’m feeling frustrated I know very well to avoid playing games that will frustrate me more, and it is far more often the case that frustrations in the real world will make me less able to tolerate frustration in a game than that frustration in a game will add to my frustrations in the real world, because it’s only a game, after all. And it’s hard for me to feel regret in a game because it’s never me doing it, but instead is my character doing it. For example, one of my TOR characters was a Michael Garibaldi ex-pat — who was the brother of my Sith Warrior — who started out in the Empire, got drummed out of the military for drunkenness and then went to the Republic as a Smuggler once had a choice in a quest to side with either an attractive Sith or an attractive Jedi. He didn’t have any real loyalty to either side, and spent his time flirting madly with both of them. When it became clear that the Jedi wasn’t going to offer him a tryst as a reward but that the Sith was, he sided with the Sith and killed the Jedi. Now, this is a pretty despicable thing to do, but I didn’t feel any guilt or regret over doing it, because I didn’t do it. That character might have regretted it later when he reformed, but I didn’t.

For me, in general, when I take an action in a game I’m either doing it as a character in a game, or am doing it as part of the game itself. I might take an evil action just to see what happens if I do — like killing a romanced Carth at the end of Knights of the Old Republic as a Dark Side character — or else to get a mechanical advantage in the game. But I don’t strongly associate myself with characters in a game, whether RPGs or other games. They are not me, and I am not them.

But I’m starting to realize that for many people this is not the case. From the complaints about not being “represented” in games to this video, it seems to me that for many people their escapism isn’t into a story of another world or of something that is not them, but is in fact them themselves. They might be trying to escape from their life into a world where they can have a better life, not a world that isn’t their life. So if that life doesn’t go the way they’d like it to, when they do things in that life that doesn’t align with their view of themselves and their morality, when the character in that life simply can’t be them for whatever reason, then the illusion of that being a separate and better life is shattered and their escapism and any kind of catharsis from that is lost.

The thing is, we know that we can have escapism without having to make that sort of strong association. Books, movies and TV shows, as the video points out, don’t allow for that and yet have always been excellent escapist media. By allowing the player to strongly associate themselves with the characters in the game, games allow for a different type of escapism, but I’m not sure that that sort of escapism is a good thing. It seems to me that the negatives pointed out in the video follow precisely from that sort of association, and yet if we, as they advise, try to remember that it’s just a game then the positive forms of catharsis that they talk about are likely going to be lost as well. Unless you think of your character as you, you will not get the “good” kinds of catharsis from your character doing things or achieving things, but once you do make that association you’ll also get the “bad” kinds of catharsis from your character doing things you wouldn’t or failing to achieve things. You can’t have one without the other.

I think this ties back into the “assumed empathy” that I talked about last week: people perhaps having less and less ability or less and less desire to associate themselves emotionally with people who are not them or not like them. This encourages them to instead of relating to the character make themselves the character and relate to the game and plot and emotional resonances that way. I don’t think this is a good thing, because it risks taking away the fun of the game, the fun of doing things that you wouldn’t do normally and in fact have little interest in doing just for the heck of it. It also seems to me to make the outcomes of the game have far too much importance. For me, my interest in finishing the Persona games had nothing to do with the games or my life in them itself, but instead from the external commitment I had made to do so. So when I couldn’t quite finish Persona or abandoned Persona 2 that was a personal failure not because my character who is me failed, but because I didn’t achieve a personal goal of mine. But I could be consoled in that by considering that in deciding to abandon them I had taken into account all of my desires and goals and capabilities and decided what was more important to me, and could make plans to do it later. That’s because it was all me as me, and the details of the game itself were completely separate from that; the goals of the characters were not important goals for me as me because _I_ wasn’t doing anything in the game itself. Only the characters were.

As I said, associating strongly with the character in a game is a foreign concept to me, so I don’t know if my impression of how those who do it do it is accurate. But if it is that way, then a failure in a game or a perma-death of a character could be devastating to people who feel that their lives are ruined because of it. That can’t be healthy.

Should I Boycott Ideological Entertainment?

January 17, 2019

So I’ve been talking a bit about ideologically infused entertainment this week, talking about Doctor Who becoming Social Justice Oriented and a bit about how the Persona games, in general, aren’t. Recently, I came across a post at Vox Populi talking about Marvel inserting a drag queen into its comic with reactions to this, especially in the comments, calling for boycotting Marvel. This raises the question: you’ve found that either a new work that you were considering buying or an existing series is or has become ideologically infused, and in particular to an ideology that you aren’t in agreement with (whether that’s Left, Right, Front, Back or whatever). What should you do? Should you boycott it?

The first thing to think about is whether or not it really is ideologically infused. If you just look at this specific Marvel example, that’s not really enough to conclude that it’s ideologically infused. Drag queens as characters aren’t uncommon. After all, Persona 5 includes one and we wouldn’t call that game ideologically infused. The important thing to remember is that while the notion that all media is ideologically infused (or political) is just plain wrong, creators have their own views and biases and sometimes, no matter how careful they are, those views will bleed through. Just because a work expresses positively an idea you dislike or denigrates an idea you like doesn’t mean that it’s pushing that as an ideology. It just might be a creator unconsciously including an idea that they hold that you don’t. It doesn’t seem to be reasonable to stop consuming an entertainment media because they happen to hold different ideas than you do, or at least that’s not reasonable for me.

Now, people will protest that in the Marvel example they’ve done plenty to prove that they are, in general, ideologically infused, which isn’t an unfair complaint. So, what do you do then? Well, what we need to consider here is that the worst ideologically infused works are essentially deliberate propaganda: they are works designed to present a specific view and encourage you to adopt it. And what I think, for me, is that I shouldn’t boycott propaganda works for being propaganda works, but instead should judge them just like I’d judge any other work of entertainment: Are they entertaining or not? If I’m being entertained by them regardless, then I don’t see any reason to stop consuming them. And if I’m not being entertained by them, then the boycott problem solves itself.

I have two main justifications for this:

1) Most works that are deliberately ideologically infused aren’t very entertaining anyway. So the very worst of the lot will solve themselves anyway.

2) If I recognize that something is just propaganda, it’s not likely to impact my actual thinking. In fact, once I recognize the views that it’s trying to promote, I’m actually quite likely to spend my time arguing against them rather than giving in. So there seems little risk of the propaganda having its intended effect on me, so I can indeed treat it like any other form of entertainment.

Now, the objection will arise here that if I and others still buy it, then the companies will continue to produce it. If we don’t like ideologically infused media — and I don’t — then the only way to make people stop producing it is to vote with our dollars and not support those attempts. For me, my counter is that if it’s entertaining, then it is fulfilling the purpose of entertaining, and so is worth my dollars. I don’t feel the need to vote with my dollars for things other than “entertaining” when it comes to my entertainment.

But this is one of those things that is actually subjective. If you don’t like something that a company does and want to stop giving it your money, knock yourself out. We all have our own desires and principles and lines we won’t cross. For me, though, when it comes to entertainment, my line is entertaining. I don’t want to put more thought than that into my entertainment. If you do, then that’s fine, but you don’t really have an argument saying that I shouldn’t.

If I have to put too much effort into filtering my entertainment media, then all I’m going to do is retreat to the things I already have and already like. Ultimately, this is what will kill ideologically infused media. The more work buying entertainment media and being entertained becomes, the more people will find other ways to be entertained … and ideological infusion of entertainment media always adds more work, both in buying it and consuming it.

Persona as an example of actual empathy

January 16, 2019

So, earlier I talked about assumed versus actual empathy as related to Social Justice Oriented works. Today I want to talk about an example where real empathy is aimed for and required in order to make the stories work, by talking about the Persona series.

Starting from Persona 3, the Persona series incorporates S-links as an important part of the overall game, which involve the player character getting to know people and helping them through various issues they are having. This is not only limited to your teammates — in fact, in base Persona 3 most of your teammates aren’t S-links — but also to people that you meet, either in school or outside of it. Even among your teammates, there is a very wide range of personalities and issues that you have to deal with, and of course this is even more true when they are expanded to include even more people. There is no way that the player is going to be able to simply rely on those people being like them or like people they would normally hang around with. And yet, the S-links only work if you can actually relate to those people and their issues. So if you can’t rely on them being like you or your friends, how can you possibly relate to them?

As discussed in my comments on Doctor Who, what good works do is not just give you people who are like you so that you can relate to and feel empathy for them, but instead try to build empathy by having you understand them. S-links last for at least 10 encounters (if not more) and in general all of them build through you coming to know them and understand them and their issues. As such, it’s always made clear what their issues are, how it impacts them, and how the resolution works for them. Given this, you don’t have to have experienced those things to feel sorry for them or to be happy when their problems are solved. You don’t have to be faced with an arranged marriage that you don’t want, guilty over potentially contributing to the death of a student by stopping tutoring them, looking for a former partner who disappeared looking for a story, disappointed over working hard to improve your physical looks only to find that people still don’t like you, or dying from a disease while working to leave some kind of legacy to understand and enjoy the relationships with those people. You relate to them not because they are like you, but because their stories resonate to deep emotions that we all have, even if the situations that spawn them are different.

In Persona 5, the game even tries to generate empathy for the villains, with the villains being people who, yes, did despicable things, but they are presented as having disordered cognitions, corrupted versions of themselves that drove a lot of that, and when those distorted desires are repaired they reform. For the most part, the main villains are still seen as villains while the more minor villains that you find in Mementos get fully reformed. The only real exception here is Haru’s father, who seems to be more properly reformed … but this reformation is necessary for us to really feel the shock and horror at his death later. But we don’t have to be him or even be able to relate to someone that wealthy to understand it, or to understand Haru’s horror at having her hopes that his reformation would take things back to the way things were before dashed when he dies.

Now, of course, many of the S-links tap into stories that have been done again and again in various media, so we recognize the archetypes and situations in there, and so can get away without developing it as much as some other stories might. But even those familiar stories often started with a work developing an emotional situation that wasn’t necessarily common. Many of the familiar stories here are stories that tap deep into very common emotions but are such that we can apply them to a wide variety of people in a wide variety of positions, with a wide variety of possible variants on them to keep them from getting stale. But even that relies on us being able to translate the experiences of others into the more familiar experiences that trigger those emotional and empathetic responses in us.

Given this, it’s no wonder that in the Social Justice Oriented review of Persona 5 that I talked about that the author was concerned about the phrasing of the attack on Shiho while declaring the S-links boring and monotonous. She misses all of the actual empathy and blames it on missing assumed empathy, which sadly seems common, as I’ve said, in Social Justice Oriented works and criticism.

Final Thoughts on the Persona Dancing Games …

January 9, 2019

So at one point I decided to play through all the tracks and unlock and purchase as much of the costumes I could in the Free Play portion of Persona 4 Dancing All Night. It took me a fair bit of time and I didn’t do as well in that game as I did in the other Persona games, but I got most of what I wanted.

The big thing I want to talk about here is the difference between earning costumes and the like and purchasing them. The advantage of purchasing them is that you don’t end up getting things that you don’t want for characters that you have little intention of ever using. The disadvantage is that you get no sense of accomplishment for actually unlocking those things, and the only way to get those things is to do things to get more money that you can spend on those things, which is less than thrilling. Call it a wash.

Overall, the big problem with these games is the lack of replayability. In Dancing All Night you might want to replay the main story again, but there’s little reason to replay the tracks in Free Play unless you really like the dancing and/or want to get better at those tracks. In Dancing in Starlight and Dancing in Moonlight, the only story progression comes from the S-links, but once you’ve unlocked them they stay unlocked so all you’d be doing is watching them again without actually doing any of the dancing, which would be rather dull. So there’s not much replayability here unless you’re a huge fan of dancing games, and I’m not even sure that it’s that great a dancing game compared to the other ones available.

Ultimately, they were worth getting and playing, but I can’t really see when I might play them again.

What I Finished, What I Played in 2018

January 2, 2019

This year, I’m going to go all out with my list of things played in 2018. I’m going to talk a bit more in detail about my playing them, and might even have links!

(The fact that I had to look back through my Video Game category posts to figure out what I had actually played has nothing to do with my linking to my game posts about the games [grin]).

This year was a bit of an odd year for me wrt games. I seemed to have gone through spurts where I played a fair bit of games and then long stretches where I didn’t play anything. And this year was a year where I decided to try to accomplish things and so I played a lot less games just for fun, but had fun anyway.

The big game this year was Blue Reflection. A Persona-style game that supposedly was trying to hit that “girl audience” model, that had potential but couldn’t really hold a candle to the Persona games. This is the game that is closest to a pure and complete finish for me of a new game that I hadn’t played before for 2018, and it was worth playing. But it made me muse about why it’s so hard to make Persona-style games that come even close to the later Persona games. Which struck me even stronger when I replayed Persona 3 and found it to be far superior despite being 12 years old.

Of course, then I also tried to play the original Persona game and Persona 2. I struggled to a semi-ending in the former and gave up on the latter, and despite my planning to return to it have yet to do so. The problem with the former was radically varying difficulty levels, where I went from having an easy time with the game to getting TPKed in the span of two encounters. This always ruins a game for me and was a major reason for me abandoning Record of Agarest War 2. For the latter, the encounter rate was just too high to let me get into that game, which wasn’t overcome by the somewhat lackluster at least early story. Which is sad, because those were the two games that strongly encouraged me to fix my PSP. That I also started playing the PSP version of Persona 3 and abandoned it as well didn’t make me feel much better.

I also ended up starting at least one game of and finishing three games total of Dragon Age Origins. The big impetus for finishing them all off was my being inspired by the SF Debris analysis of Dragon Age 2 to replay and do an analysis of that game. While Blue Reflection is the biggest new game of the year, the Dragon Age games are the ones that contributed the most to the blog in 2018.

I also managed to get more Persona time in, with the Persona 3 and Persona 5 dancing games, as well as replaying the story mode of Persona 4 dancing game. For dancing games, they were enjoyable enough.

I started two games later in the year, with Cultist Simulator and Sunrider Academy. Both of those games demanded a bit more of my time than I could give them at the time, and so have languished a bit.

Finally, I hit some games for a short time. Strategy games Hearts of Iron 2, Master of Orion 2 and Alpha Centauri, as well as the adventure game Spellcasting 101.

So that’s what I was playing and finishing in 2018. I’m reworking my schedule to fit various sorts of gaming — as well as other things in — so we’ll see what happens with that next year.