Announcing the Kingdom Hearts Story Summary

Well, if there’s one thing the Land of Odd has been getting popular for its these Story Summaries.  Quick and easy chunks that bring you up to speed so you don’t have to go through the grit of each and every patch/expansion/questline to get the feel for the tale.  And hey, if there’s one gaming series that needed a skip button – It’s Kingdom Hearts.

Not that Kingdom Hearts is bad.  It’s just frustrating to play every entry in the series.  Before the recent 1.5 and 2.5 collections, you had a series that spanned the GameBoy Advance, Nintendo DS, Nintendo 3DS, Playstation Portable, Playstation 2 and iPhone/Android devices.  Not only is that a lot of gaming hardware, it’s also older hardware that might not be so easy to acquire anymore.  Thankfully, the updated collections for the PS3 and PS4 have managed to bundle most of the software in a single place for your playing enjoyment.  But what if you don’t want to play Kingdom Hearts the Card Game? Or figure out how to level up your Command Deck?  You don’t want to be lost come the recently announced 2018 release of Kingdom Hearts III!  Well, this guide will help you.

You can find the Kingdom Hearts Story Summary (In Chronological Order) page right here.  You can find a spoiler free timeline of the games here.

The Story Summary page also includes a new thing – a FAQ section.  You can send me questions about Kingdom Hearts and I’ll see what I can do to answer them. I know the series can get kind of confusing at points.  You can send them to me in comments, via twitter (@Vrykerion) or on Tumblr (Vrykerion).

THE RETURN OF THE KING | The Sims 4 Shakespeare Monkey Challenge #10

The Dead rise, Izzy finally goes insane and we try defiantly to order yet another pizza… or five.

Heavensward Patch Story Summary Complete

For those who have been wondering about the “Coming Soon” story summaries for Heavensward’s patches (3.1 – 3.5), your wait is now over!  All of the story summaries for the Main Scenario Questline in Heavensward are now finished and posted on the Heavensward Story Summary page.

Unlike Heavensward where the decision to write the summaries came after finishing the 3.0 MSQ, I will be doing my best to keep notes on the plotlines of Stormblood as I play through it.  Hopefully to decrease the downtime before I am able to get the next batch of story summary for the newest expansion out since as it has come to my attention, some people have been using my summaries as a way of not just catching up on the narrative but also skipping the non-voiced cutscenes and reading what happens here.  Hey, if that’s how you want to play – go for it.  Not my fifteen bucks. But I figured I should TRY to not wait until the end of the expansion before posting the Stormblood summary.

I, IZZY – The Sims 4 Shakespeare Monkey Challenge #9

How much abuse can one legendary science fiction author take?

Odd Thoughts: Optimism in Gaming

I miss when video games were fun.

Oh not the games themselves – they still are fun as heck – but more so everything surrounding them.  In recent years, gaming has been something of a ‘problematic fave’ to borrow a term.  You can enjoy the product but damn if the dubious ethics of the publishers, the foaming rage of the fandoms, and the all out tug-of-war over artistic merit doesn’t sour the whole experience a little bit.  When its gotten back to the point where people are backing away from being labeled “gamer” again (albeit for wholly different reasons) you know things have gotten bad.

I don’t get it.  I really don’t.  I don’t know if its something about my experiences or upbringing or when I got into gaming or anything but a lot of this stuff doesn’t seem that complicated to me.  Enjoy games.  Treat other people with respect. Don’t assume your view is the only valid one.  Sesame Street taught me this stuff.  But even I’ll admit that there were periods in my life where I let them slip.  I suppose none of us are without flaws.

Still it’s weird to be an outsider because of things like ‘giving the benefit of the doubt’ and ‘being optimistic about games’.  For instance, I really liked the original ending to Mass Effect 3.  I may have mentioned that on this blog a few (dozen) times.  But I really did.  It felt like a solid science fiction open ended ending that you would find in like an old Heinlein novel or something.  I never got the whole ‘your choices didn’t matter’ thing because really, the entire game was a culmination of your choices.  I bumped into faces that I did a side mission for back in ME1 and helped out or let live.  Not everything got a big dramatic cutscene but if you read all the things (Note: This was before Final Fantasy XIII taught me that gamers don’t like to read apparently.  Put down your torch, that was a joke.) your previous choices DO have an affect on things.  Like the Rachni.  If you take the Rachni back with you in ME3, the outcome is dependent on whether you saved them in ME1.  If you did, then these Rachni will remember you and benefit the war effort.  If you killed them, these are artificial Reaper controlled rachni and they will go nuts in your labs and you’ll lose precious resources from the war effort.  Yes. That’s in the game.

So how is all that the benefit of the doubt?  Well, generally I don’t just discount something because it’s obtuse or doesn’t make sense right away.  I was a fan of Neon Genesis Evangelion after all.  I suppose it got drilled into me back in film school.  There’s meaning and purpose behind things we create.  You just might not see them right away.  Take the previously mentioned Final Fantasy XIII trilogy.  Is it flawed?  Very.  Is it difficult to understand? Can be.  But if you take the time, savor it, and take in everything that it offers to you – I found it to be a magnificent game with a wonderfully fascinating story.

Even outside of game plots, there are things like DLC.  Downloadable content has been viewed almost universally as a blight on the gaming landscape.  Assumed to be lazy cash grabs or content ripped out from the finalized game in order to sell later to make additional cash.  While I can’t argue that those things have never occurred and certainly can point to a few examples where they most definitely have, there are some positives to DLC that I don’t ever think get given the time of day.  Take that “content ripped from the final game” concept.  I see that one a lot.  Especially with games like RPGs.  People argue that they should have just included it in the final game and not sold it separately, that in ‘ye olden days’ of gaming that you would get the full product at a single price.  Which isn’t really true.  A lot of the stuff that ends up being DLC is stuff that is planned for the game, but can’t be finished by date they need to go gold by (the date the game needs to be finished so they can send it to be mass produced and packaged for the actual release day).  A lot of times, studios will keep working on polishing the game after that point and push those updates out as a big ‘day one patch’.  But a lot of times content that was planned like that would just be cut or dummied out.  That happened A LOT in the old days.  Heck, there’s entire plotlines to the original Knights of the Old Republic that got dummied out, and a romance plot too.  Games can have massive unexplorable areas that were going to be used for something but there was no time to finish it.  Going back to Mass Effect, a lot of the complaints about the DLC being “on the disc” were only partially right because yes, these planned for expansions were planned for and thus their bare bones were already in place but incomplete.  All the dialogue and scenes where Kasumi Goto in Mass Effect 2 interacting with the existing missions/story were on the disc, but her model was a generic placeholder and her recruitment mission and loyalty mission where absent.

DLC is something that can – and often is – used as a second chance to save ideas from the scrap pile without having to sacrifice a release date window.  But people often assume the worst, greediest, and most scummy practices imaginable.  Again, I can’t say those horrible views are based somewhat on fact.  There have been cases of that happening.  I just think that its awfully pessimistic to paint the whole concept of post-launch content with such a negative brush based on those incidents.  Now whether you don’t think the price is worth it is a whole other debate, and really that always comes down to personal taste.  No different than ‘Is this game worth X dollars?’.  Sometimes it isn’t.  No I don’t want to spend $1.50 on a swimsuit I personally won’t ever use in Final Fantasy XIII-2 (I do have the swimsuit outfits, but that’s because they came as part of a bundle.)

I suppose a lot of this can be viewed as the ‘gaming fandom’ going through its cynical teenage years of being a long term fanbase.  But there’s always those who buck the flow, and Indy gaming being embraced so wholeheartedly is just one sign of that.  The fact that games made by small teams that don’t just become best sellers, but spawn entire fan followings solely around their games can just so that people can find something positive to enjoy in gaming still.  It’s not just a bunch of grumps spouting witty cynicisms like a bunch of jaded critics.  Gaming is something that should be enjoyable.  Be that conquering the hardest difficulty if that’s your thing, or playing on ‘Story’ difficulty because you’re interested in the story and lore.  You should play what you enjoy and how you enjoy.  Be it Braid or Boy and His Blob, Tetris or Tekken – just enjoy your games.

Of course, that’s not that there isn’t anything to be concerned about with gaming in general.  I mean, from the online threats to the unethical pressures publishers have pushed on developers, gaming as an industry and as a medium has a long way to go.  And yes, there are plenty of valid criticisms that can be discussed about games.  But if there was one thing I learned back in art school, it was that criticism is healthy for growth, and not everyone is going to like everything.  Heck, my own writing was often berating for having ‘no substance beyond being entertaining.’  I personally believe that the important thing is to keep looking forward at how games can improve, how we can enjoy our entertainment to the fullest, and be considerate of other viewpoints that will help gaming grow into a vast and diverse community where we can all enjoy things.

Then again that’s all just me.  I said I didn’t want to preach and I meant it. I’m not going to demand that my view is the right one, or the only valid one.  It’s just mine.  I just miss when games were fun.

The Quest For the Missing Pizza – The Sims 4 Shakespeare Monkey Challenge #8

So if your pizza takes 8 hours, and the delivery girl decides to bum your internet for a few hours… Should you still tip?

Introducing the FFXIV Heavensward Story Summary

I’m happy to announce that just in time for the new Final Fantasy XIV expansion Stormblood, I have managed to put together a solid story summary for the story of Heavensward.  While the “patch storylines” aren’t finished yet – namely because I haven’t played through those extensions to the Main Scenario yet – the main storyline of the expansion is now available to read here.

I don’t have a set date for when those remaining stories will be up mostly because I’m debating waiting until Stormblood is released to play through those patches since when Heavensward was released the 2.X patch story rewards were altered to give equipment to prevent having to grind item levels to progress to the next major step and since my current ilevel is sitting around 203 at the moment, and you need 230 to get through all the dungeons involved in the quests…  Yeah, I might just wait and see if I can make this a bit easier on myself.  If someone who is more active in the news for Final Fantasy XIV knows one way or the other if they plan on doing this again, do please let me know.

Otherwise, I’ll just keep on my current mission of “Get all Classes/Jobs to Level 30 then to Level 50” until Stormblood arrives.

EDIT: Upon further research, it seems that the Main Scenario Quests for Heavensward will have to be completed in order to access the Stormblood story, but you won’t need to do it to access the Samurai and Red Mage jobs.  So I’m thinking it’s pretty likely for them to include “Catch Up Gear” with the quests like they did with ARR leading into Heavensward.

Cat Herding for Dummies – The Sims 4 Shakespeare Monkey Challenge #7

With the Great Fire of Episode 6 behind us, it’s time to hunker down and make some cash.  But with everything breaking, hunger setting in and sneaky house guests that just won’t leave…  It’s a bit like… what’s that saying?  Corralling dogs?

Additional Music:
Mischief Maker – Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Mass Effect: A Funeral For a Friend

So I was not even halfway done with my ‘I finished Mass Effect Andromeda’ post (Not the final title, I assure you) when Electronic Arts announced that the Mass Effect property was pretty much dead.  Oh they didn’t use those words.  That would be dumb.  No, they said that Mass Effect – the entire franchise – is being put ‘On Hiatus’.  Which in all honesty means that they’re going to stick it on a shelf until there’s nostalgia dollars to be made from it.  Along with this news, we learned that Bioware Montreal was being gutted and the remaining staff would be support developers for other EA titles such as Battlefront or Project Dylan (the currently unnamed Bioware action game that rumors say is EA’s contender to go head-to-head with Activision’s Destiny series and The Division.)  The only development for Mass Effect: Andromeda moving forward will be bug fixes and multiplayer support.

How did we get here?  I mean, it’s not even been 3 months since the game came out.  Now there will be no DLC, no sequel for the cliffhanger ending, and pretty much an end to the entire Mass Effect idea and setting for the foreseeable future.

Well, I’m sure some people have a very good idea of how this happened.  I mean, the internet backlash was hitting this game before we even got to the release date because of the whole 10 hour preview that some people had.  Mixed that with streaming media so everyone could share in the initial reaction and boom! Great recipe for an instant flame war.  And I’m not going to sit here and hold those people solely responsible.  The game had problems at launch.  I’m not going to argue with that.  The animations could be goofy, there were issues with bugs and the inventory system was just screwy.  I mean, most of this didn’t bother me personally.  Nor did it bother a lot of people I knew personally.  But then again, I was raised on RPGs where “Facial Animation” was changing the position of an eyebrow on a 20×20 pixel head.  I remember it being a big deal when “mouths moving when they have lines” was a big advancement.  So maybe I’m a bit more forgiving of some silly animations.  Ultimately, the game was playable.  It was downright fun.  Right from launch.  The patches fixed issues as they rolled out and the fun got even better.  That’s the way I viewed it all at least.

There’s also the issue of the broken fan base over to make the game more open-world.  Right now “Open World” games are kind of a thing and its started to get some backlash against it.  That isn’t Andromeda’s fault, but it did release right as the genre’s popularity has started to decline instead of at its peak.  Really, I don’t think open world was much of a goal for the game as it was the side effect of the questionable overall design choice: An updated Mass Effect 1.  Everything from the open format of upgrading abilities, to the inventory system and ranked equipment (Ranks I-X just like ME1), and the big open worlds to drive around and explore were all pretty much just yanked from Mass Effect 1 and then peppered with some of the sensibilities of ME2 & 3.  Instead of moving forward from ME3’s gameplay, they went back and tried to revive the stuff that the second and third installments tried to push away from.  And for that reason, I imagine there was a lot of push-back from fans.  While there are some in the Bioware fandom that hold on to the classic Mass Effect as the last time the games were “RPGs” (a sentiment I disagree with. I view RPG as more of a choice of how one approaches and interacts with the game rather than a specific set of mechanics that must be followed) most of the folks I’ve spoken to over the years hold Mass Effect 2 as the pinnacle of the trilogy and many of them cite the choices to move away from things like the Mako sequences on worlds or the painful inventory system.  Going back may have made sense to the developers, especially in light of the emphasis on exploration, but I don’t think it was what a lot of fans wanted.

Speaking of the exploration, I am still gathering that there in lies the big disconnect with expectations vs reality.  Andromeda was set up to be a break off of the original Mass Effect trilogy.  The same setting but a different story, hence why it was never labeled – and Bioware heavily emphasized that it was NOT – Mass Effect 4.  Andromeda was about exploration.  Going to a new place never before seen and trying to establish a home.  This wasn’t the tale of a super-soldier trying to save the Galaxy.  This was just a random team of people who volunteered to travel nearly a millennium away from home and try to set up camp in a barely charted galaxy.  So it was a big step down in the important-ness scale.  Just as epic, but more in a scale way instead of a heroic way.  Because face it, Ryder isn’t a hero.  They’re the kid of an ostracized scientist who had greatness thrust upon them compared to Shepard who was a damn legend before the opening title dropped hence why Shepard was being considered for Spectre Status.  Ryder’s job before having the Pathfinder title dropped on their lap was Recon Specialist.  No rank, no record of glory, no nothing.  Andromeda was about new beginnings.  A theme that runs through out the game and is handled really well.  I just don’t think everybody was on board with a new beginning.

It’s one of those tough calls that you have to deal with as an artist in an entertainment industry.  Especially if your a AAA developer or working with a big movie studio.  You can make great art, but even then if no one is buying what your selling then you are just shooting yourself in the foot.  It’s the cruel reality, and not one that I personally like or support.  Electronic Arts supposedly dropped $40 million on Andromeda (That’s half of CD Projekt Red’s budget for The Witcher 3) to a brand new division of Bioware set up in Montreal to try and win back the fans that Bioware HQ in Edmonton put at risk with Mass Effect 3’s ending backlash.  They decided to dive back into the well and play it safe by retreading ground established by Mass Effect 1.  They developed a story that was easy for new comers and series veterans to get into with a brilliantly handled themes of exploring the unknown and establishing a new beginning.  They crafted a story that wrapped up both the ‘new beginning’ as well solved the primary conflict without giving everything away so fans could theorize and have something to look forward to in the future.  It created a villain with an interesting motivation (The Kett) and a mystery to ponder on without concrete answers (The Remnant). It ended the game with solving the issue of finding a home but gave a cliffhanger as to what will come next.

Mass Effect Andromeda was a good game overall.  A good game that stumbled at the starting line and it cost them big.  I honestly worry about Bioware moving forward.  After this, ME3’s ending, and The Old Republic, I imagine EA’s patience may be wearing thin.  Consumers on the other hand have higher expectations of Bioware than ever.  Things could be rough going forward for the Canadian RPG powerhouse.

A Trailer That Remembers the Face of Its Father

Which would be like…  a teaser?  The poster?  A synopsis?  I’m not entirely sure how parentage of a movie trailer works.  Anyway, I’m talking of course about the much anticipated – for me at least – Dark Tower trailer:

I’ll just say this now so you can either click away or tell me I’m wrong right away instead of getting to the bottom:  I. Loved. It.

Idris’ imposing charisma and gravitas as Roland, McConaughey’s sleazy and menacing presence as Walter/Randall/Man in Black, and just the amazing visuals of Midworld or the connection to the rest of King’s works all shining through in this short trailer.  It definitely delivers on everything I would want from a film adaptation of the Dark Tower series.

And I think that’s where there’s some debate going on about the trailer.  People aren’t happy that this seriously deviates from the source material so much.  People have had issues with the film focusing more on Jake, the movie toning down some of the more western concepts, or them being racists.  You know, pick your poison.  Overall, I wasn’t expecting a transfer of the books story to the big screen.  Because that would be terrible.  The story of the Dark Tower books barely fit into anything resembling a traditional narrative structure and more closely resemble a traditional saga where the characters go on a meandering journey to ultimate destination and have various adventures along the way (also see: The Hobbit.)  There is no easy way to break The Dark Tower into a simple beginning/middle/end.  Heck, one whole book is like 90% flashback.  Even the first novel, ‘The Gunslinger’ would work as a straight story namely because it ISN’T one.  The Gunslinger is five short stories that take place in a chronological order, but while each of the shorts have a roughly complete arc unto themselves, the whole of the narrative doesn’t.  Heck it doesn’t even really have an ending.  Not one that resolves any of the conflicts brought forth in the story at least.

And that’s the Dark Tower in the nutshell.  It lacks the structure that a film demands.  So to expect any of it to make it to the big screen without some level of heavy adaptation taking place is naive of how media adaptation is supposed to work.  That and I assume you’re a big fan of The Last Airbender.  That was pretty much just copying plot point for plot point of the entire first season of Avatar to the big screen.  (Full disclosure: I loved the Last Airbender.  I have never laughed so hard at a movie.  It wasn’t because it was good though.)

The other idea put forth about the movie that solves a lot of these conflicts would only make sense to those who have read the entire book series so this next point may have some SPOILERZ in it for those who are interested in reading the books.  The idea being introduced and seemingly confirmed by both King and the filmmakers is that this story is another one of Roland’s cycles.  Referring to the idea that entire series has been repeated an unknown amount of times until Roland gets it right by bringing the fabled Horn of Eld to the steps of the Dark Tower.  When we last see Roland at the end of the last book, his journey has begun once again but this time he actually has the Horn in hand.  While the Horn of Eld isn’t seen in the trailer (photos on the set show a horn like object in Roland’s satchel however), it doesn’t mean that this theory is bust.  After all, it wouldn’t be the first cycle where Roland lost the Horn.  But even Stephen King has hinted on his twitter that this is the next cycle after the books and that this time we’ll see Roland blow that horn and face down the Crimson King.

The one point I like about this theory is that it doesn’t tie the film makers to the events of the books.  Mid-World is still there, the old familiar faces may come and go, but those are this cycle’s versions of those people.  In the same way that Roland remembers Cuthbert fondly instead of bitterly at the end of the last book, we can’t simply assume that the events before or during the course of Roland’s last journey to the Tower will play the same.  That means the film makers have full access to the names and ideas presented in the books, but don’t have to use them or even use them the same way in the film version.

Combine all that with the fact that you can tell from the trailer that the behind-the-camera team has a lot of love for the property, and this could spell a great time for King fans and non-King fans alike.

One final aside that I’ve been pondering on with the trailer:  In one shot we see Jake wandering through an over-grown forest in the remnants of an amusement park with a giant broken down sign that reads “PENNYWISE” and a dilapidated statue of a clown holding balloons.  Of course, this is easily a reference to Stephen King’s IT that is slated for its own theatrical movie here soon.  But something struck me as odd – Is this where the clown came from?  It takes many forms in the course of the novel – a werewolf, a mummy, Bev’s Dad – all conjured from the children’s frightened minds and of course Its final physical form of some Lovecraftian horror that could only be described as “Giant Spider-like creature”.  But none of the kids were afraid of clowns.  Heck, even little Georgie wasn’t scared of Pennywise when they first met.  So where did that form come from?  We know that It comes from the Macroverse, a place described in very similar terms as Todash Space in the Dark Tower, and Its natural enemy is the Turtle, which is a reoccurring guardian deity in All-World.  So perhaps this right here is a hint to where the form of Pennywise the Dancing Clown comes from original.  Maybe this isn’t a reference to IT as much as IT is a reference to this.  Who knows.  Maybe we’ll find out in August.

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