Category Archives: Gaming

Video Games, RPGs like D&D, Other MMOs

Welcome to the (Live) Show!

I apologize for being quiet around here lately.  Between my real job picking up with a big new project and my own little side adventure I’ll be getting into in the moment, I haven’t had a lot of time to post.  It happens.  But hey, that’s just the bad news.  The good news is you’ll have a chance to see a lot more of me coming soon if you enjoy my trademark wit, dry observations, and eccentric ramblings.

We are going live on Twitch!

Previously I had been testing the waters out with the Premiere system – kind of like YouTube videos on Twitch but with the videos premiering “Live” at a set point before being added to an archive.  Now the current plan is still to do those, but augment it with nights where I’ll be broadcasting games live.  The premieres will be used for migrating my YouTube archive over to Twitch, weeks were I know I won’t be available, or for videos I need to do more post-production work on like the Sims 4 videos where I have overlays showing how much money I have and how far into my challenge I am.  That in mind, my Twitch Schedule both here and on my Twitch page will make note of when a broadcast is Live or a Premiere.

The schedule is still remaining a static every 2nd and 4th wednesday at 6pm PST.  If you’re interested, you can always go and give me a follow on Twitch.  It doesn’t cost anything (that’s ‘Subscribing’) and you can set it up to let you know when I go live with a broadcast.

The reason this has taken so long is that well, I’m a stickler for appearance.  Regardless of whether its a source of income or not, I work hard to make the visuals and flow of this website something that’s at least aesthetically pleasing to me.  I like it when I can present myself in a way that I am happy with and not just with some default slapdash thing.  So I have been working on developing overlays for my Stream – at least enough to start with, some functions are still defaults with some customization tossed in.  I’ve been building up a theme, getting music, setting up software…  I just want to be able to display something I’m proud of.

From the visuals to the text, we’re going full Carnie on this one.

After the liveshows on Twitch, they’ll be uploaded to YouTube some time within the following week and likewise posted here when they do.  So just because you miss out on the live part, doesn’t mean you’ll have to miss out completely.

I would like to thank everyone on here, Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr for their support in this endeavor.  It’s not a full time thing, it’s not even a replacement for this blog, but it is the most important thing – something I have fun doing.  As always, if you have comments, suggestions or even constructive criticisms I always happily welcome them.

The 12 in 12 Experiment: Failed(?)

Last year, I proposed a simple goal for myself.  To produce 12 YouTube videos for this site in 12 months.  I dubbed it the 12-in-12 goal.  I figured that it would be a simple enough goal.  That’s one video a month.  With a goal of one year, so if I fell behind or had technical issues, I had wiggle room to recover.

However, despite my attempts to do so, I only managed to produce 4 videos.  The next four episodes of the Sims 4 Shakespeare Monkey Challenge.  (They have managed to actually make some progress finally it seems. Though it occurred to me that 365 days in the Sims 4 is a lot more than a year.  It’s more along the line of 4.5 lifetimes. Had to readjust some of that math or they ALL would die of old age.)  And while I had planned some additional fun videos, including one of the worst RPGs I ever found on Steam and some horror games for the Fall, things just kind of never came together.

Partially because the second half of the year was a maelstrom of stressful events in my real life.  For instance, I got married.  I went on my honeymoon.  My spouse and I were both battling severe depression amidst these happy events brought on by stress and other factors.  It was a crazy second half of the year – crazier than I even expected.  Like, did you know planning a wedding kind of sucks?  Yeah. Me neither.

Overall, I can’t shrug responsibility. I set forth a goal for myself and I failed to meet it.  I’d be more upset about that but its not like I have any amount of internet cred or even financial stability riding on this.  I don’t make money from this blog, I don’t monetize my YouTube videos – they are all things I do for fun.  Because I do come up with weird things to say and feel like sharing it for a chuckle or two.

With that spirit in my mind, I have decided to give it all another go.  12-in-12-in-2018 or some such.  Going to try to do the whole 1 video a month.  And hopefully no chaos, or trips to Walt Disney World, or happiest days of my life will get in the way this time.

Please look forward to it!  And if you ever have any suggestions for games to play, or topics you’d like to see me cover, please let me know!  I’m on twitter, tumblr, or just here on a comment.  I read pretty much everything people send to me.  (So many heartwarming comments of people who enjoy my fun little blog here!)

D20 Style Combat in RPG Maker

Something I’ve often toyed with aside from my own game FateStone was the idea of re-creating a Dungeons & Dragons campaign in something like RPG Maker.  Seems easy right? You’ve got dungeons, monsters, characters all there and ready to go!  However, the big hurdle is quite simply that the way combat works does not overlap. Like at all.  RPG Maker’s combat calculations are more inspired by Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest than anything you’d find in a Pen & Paper RPG tome. So I recently put my mind to work on figuring out how exactly you would be able to bring a d20 or D&D Style of combat to a RPG Maker game.

Now take in mind that this is a very basic version of what I started working with.  While I have started working on versions to incorporate all the different D&D ability scores, I haven’t hammered out all the nitty gritty of using them.  So for now I strictly went for Attack Roll (Attack) vs AC (Defense) and Spell Attack (Magic Attack) vs Saving Throw (Magic Defense).

 

First is the dice roll:

1dX = Math.randomInt(X)+1

YdX = Math.randomInt((X*Y), Y) + 1

For the YdX formula, it’s important to note that you’ll be setting the range of the random numbers, when it says X*Y you should replace that with the actual value of X * Y.  In other words, for 3d6 don’t put (6 * 3) just put (18).  These formulas will be used for everything from determining the attack to the damage, so they are pretty much the cornerstone of this whole thing.  But another important one would be how to you get the Ability Modifier from the Ability Score.  For that you’ll want to use the following calculation:

Math.Floor((A – 10)/2) = M

A = Ability Score.  M = Ability Modifier.

In simple terms, you subtract 10 from the Score, divide that by 2 and round down (because you always round down in D&D) and that will give you the modifier.  So an Attack (Strength) of 14 would result in a modifier of 2.

So how would this work for an actual skill?  Well, let’s take a look at one.  First, you’ll want to set the Skill in RPG Maker to be a ‘Certain Hit’.  We are just going to skip the whole Accuracy/Evade cycle of the attack in favor of our own math.  Then our damage formula will look something like this:

If (b.def <= (Math.randomInt(20) + 1 + (Math.Floor((a.atk – 10)/2) + (Math.Floor(a.lvl / 2)) )) Math.random((X*Y), X) + 1 + (MOD – Math.Floor(a.level/2)); else 0

Kind of crazy, right?  Let’s break it down.

If (b.def <=: This First bit is essentially starting an ‘If-then’ clause that says if the following math results in something equal to or higher than our target’s defense (AC).

(Math.randomInt(20) + 1: This is our d20 roll.

+ (Math.Floor((a.atk – 10)/2): This is adding our attack modifier

+ (Math.Floor(a.lvl / 2)) )): This adds half our level to the math and finishes our If condition.  So it’s a random number between 1-20, plus the modifier, plus half our level.

Math.random((X*Y), X) + 1 + (Math.Floor((a.atk – 10)/2))This part is our damage calculation. Essentially, do this much damage (a random XdY dice amount) plus our Attack modifier damage.

else 0 And if the math DIDN’T equal or beat the Target’s Defense(AC), then deal zero damage due to it being a miss.

To summarize, the formula is basically:

If (Target AC) <= 1d20 + Attack Modifier + Half Level; Deal XdY + Attack Modifier damage; else deal no damage.

Naturally, you can probably imagine how this basic formula can be applied to a lot of different things.  It forms the basic idea for skill checks, saving throws, and pretty much any Difficulty Check based roll. You could replace the target defense with a d20 roll on the enemy side as well and have an opposed check.

As I said at the top, this isn’t perfect.  It doesn’t quite yet take into account D&D’s Ability Scores, which I’m still working on.  Mostly just stuck on thinking of a way to make the Target Defense side of things work when b.def would simply be their Constitution score or something.

If I ever figure out a good solution to it, I will let you know.

In the mean time, you might find the following plug ins for RPG Maker MV to be handy when it comes to recreating the D&D experience:

Yanfly’s Weapon Unleash: Allows you to reassign a different attack skill to different weapons, thus being able to give daggers a different damage formula than a great axe.

Yanfly’s Limited Skill Usages: For those interested in bringing D&D 4th Edition’s system of At-Will, Encounter and Daily abilities to the game, this plugin can help.  However, you might want to create a common event for sleeping that gets called when using an item like ‘Camping Set’ or something to reset the Daily uses.

Odd Thoughts: Reward Cubes

Be they Loot Boxes, Prize Crates or good ol’ fashion RNG Containers, there’s nothing quite like the topic of Reward Cubes to bring a heated boil to the gaming community at large.  Are they pay-to-win?  Are they gambling?  Do they belong in full price $60 games?  Do they belong in anything beyond Free-To-Play games?  Should they exist at all?

Recently, the controversy has boiled up a bit thanks to some rather ahem… enthusiastic reaches by companies like WB Interactive and Electronic Arts in their big fall titles (Shadows of War, Star Wars Battlefront 2) and I’ve heard that even the sports games have decided to dab their quills into the ink as well with the latest installment of 2K sportsball and Forza something or other.  I will admit, the practice has gotten admittedly scummier since my first encounter with the loot box scenario when they were added when Star Wars The Old Republic went debatably free to play (two hot bars, a 250k credit limit, and can’t equip any epic loot but hey it’s free to suffer through!)

Now you have loot boxes that are tied directly to player progression, offering new abilities and ability boosts in Battlefront 2 or simply being able to skip the grind and have a medley of legendary orcs spring forth from a chest like clowns from a car.  And yeah, that’s B.S.  I’m not even gonna sugar coat it.  Optional or not, cash should not be a way to skip the game you just paid sixty bucks for.  It definitely shouldn’t let you be able to quickly overpower players that don’t shell out for it.  I’m glad there seems to be at least a majority consensus on THAT at least.

Personally, the only way I’ve really “enjoyed” loot boxes – not that I’ve ever enjoyed them.  Put up with them? – was in games like Overwatch.  Where they don’t give you anything BUT random visual flair to add to the game.  And you earn them when you level up. Nice. But hey, then they went above and beyond and added ADDITIONAL ways to get free crates in the Arcade. So not only do you not have any tangible reason to get them beyond looking cool but they also keep giving you more ways to get them? Not a half bad model.  Still would like just ways to unlock the skins and whatnot on my own in the game maybe.  Not banking on random chance from a box every few hours.  Maybe some sort of unlock systems based on in-game achievements? You know like you already do with certain sprays?  Bah. Oh well.

Of course, there are still down sides to Overwatch’s model too. The whole thing is psychologically angled to make you want to spend.  You see someone with the cool thing? You want the cool thing. Better go pay money for a chance to get the cool thing.  A covetous model of persuasion is exactly what Activision’s recent patent for Microtransaction-based Matchmaking is built on. Instead of matching players on skill or win ratio, it finds the ‘Haves’ and then pairs them against the ‘Have Nots’ and then after you lose to their Cash Shop Super Weapon while donning their Ultra Rare Skin, you offer them the chance to get the same cool stuff from these handy dandy cubes o’ stuff we sell for real dollars.  Psychology is a dangerous weapon when paired with greed.

For no better example of psychology being used to line the pockets, look no further than gambling.  Oh, I hear the screams of forums back in TOR echoing through to the youtube comments of today of ‘It’s not gambling – you always get something!’  And that’s true. Sort of.  Loot crates are a weird legal loophole where since you always get something out of it, it’s not gambling. But you also always get nothing – nothing tangible with an attached dollar value that can resold – so it’s also not gambling.  HOWEVER, from a psychological standpoint and not a legal one, Reward Cubes are very much gambling.  They scratch that same itch, provoke the same reaction, and still drive you to swipe your credit card over and over chasing an elusive jackpot.  Heck, why else would the crazy Kylo Ren-style lightsabers be introduced as a new ultra-ultra-ultra rare platinum item in SWTOR?  It’s the hot new thing. It’s only comes from the cash-only loot boxes.  It’s got a 1-in-10,000 chance to drop! Didn’t get it in this box? That makes it MORE likely to be in the next, right? (Not how that works at all by the way.)

Loot boxes CAN be dangerously addicting to those with a pension for such habits.  And sure, there are non-loot box ways you could get it. Someone could sell theirs in the in-game market for in-game currency.  But that still means SOMEONE paid cash for it. And to be honest, I casually played SWTOR for years – played every class at least once if not twice or three times – and I STILL never made enough credits to buy one of those Kylo Ren sabers for what they were going for on the market.  Eventually just decided that was one thing I was never gonna end up getting. Like PvP achievements.

Overall, I think what I was going for with writing about this was that I’m used to seeing people take a very hard line stance on this issue. Understandable since it’s a very passionate issue.  But I don’t think there’s really a good hard line stance to take.  Loot boxes can be a fun addition to a game.  I do think Blizzard is getting a knack for what a good balance of what should be in the crate, how easy it should be to get free crates vs paid crates, and definitely figured out a good way to make them feel fun.  However, left unchecked the whole system begins to turn corrupt.  You see pay to win become an incentive to buy crates, you see things being designed to nudge players toward crates to speed up or skip parts of the game, and you see the effort being put in to continue to make more alluring jackpot items to drive that addictive quality in wanting to keep buying to get the best stuff.  Heck, I’ll even say that Overwatch could be improved.  They gave away loot boxes for Overwatch, Heroes of the Storm and Hearthstone for Twitch Prime that had guaranteed rare items like legendaries or gold cards.  I’d love to see that sort of thing be added to the game as a reward for major achievements.  Get 100 wins? Get a gold box.  Unlocked all of a character’s achievements? Get a gold box.  Complete a limited time holiday quest? Get a gold box so you will at least get ONE of the legendary skins during the small holiday event windows.

I wanted to approach it all rationally.  I don’t think reward cubes are going anywhere.  I think that as the industry pushes more to perpetual monetization over pay-once-and-your-done tactics with games we need to start really critically thinking about where we as consumers feel comfortable drawing the line.  All or nothing approaches may be admirable, but so is throwing yourself on your sword and none of it accomplishes much.  There doesn’t have to be a universal approach either.  I want to encourage everyone to find their own personal line on the topic and then work with that.  Let that be a personal factor in your buying decisions.  It’s one of the reasons that despite looking amazing and fun, I didn’t buy into Battlefront or Battlefront 2.  It’s why I remain hesitant about Anthem.  It’s one of the major reasons I decided to stop playing SWTOR.

But I am not going to presume to tell you to do the same.  All I’m gonna ask is that you think about it.  Think about what you want and what you are comfortable with.

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.

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.

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.

Switching On To The Switch

So last Friday, I got my grubby mitts on the new Nintendo console, the Switch.  I didn’t camp out or anything like I did with the Wii.  After having that experience once, I am quite satisfied with just pre-ordering off of a website and waiting for the mail man.  I’m getting old. I ain’t a whipper snapper no more.

Honestly what confused me more so was that people asked IF I was going to get a Switch.  As if there would be some reason I wouldn’t?  I guess people just assume when they see my Wii and Wii U that I might have felt burned by Nintendo in the past with these “dreadful” systems.  Which only makes me laugh.  I have NEVER been dissatisfied with a Nintendo console.  Not once.  Heck, I thought the Virtual Boy was pretty awesome when it first came out.  I still think it was one of the most forward thinking consoles ever made along with the Dreamcast.  Go back and look at the Virtual Boy and tell me that thing doesn’t look like the equivalent of the Game & Watch devices for the modern Vive or Gear headsets.  Nintendo systems are always kind of this weird nostalgia trip anyway.  When they were current both the Nintendo 64 and GameCube were mocked for having small game selections that trended toward “casual” or “kiddy” games unlike the then rising star Playstation & Playstation 2. Nowadays?  People pine for the days of the N64 or ‘Cube.  People sing their praises now that they’ve passed into the realms of nostalgia.  But hey, I still loved those consoles when they were current.  My PSX was used for Final Fantasy.  Everything else? Nintendo 64.

So when people point out things like the weird gimmicks or the small launch selection, I can’t help but shrug.  The Switch is no exception.  It looked fun as hell and I’m happy to say that I wasn’t disappointed.

The Console

The Switch itself is surprisingly compact.  Even with the JoyCons attached to the side of it.  It actually kind reminds me of a skinny Game Gear in that sense but with a bigger screen (Maybe a bit longer battery life).  It’s definitely not like the 3DS where I can just stick it in my pocket but it would easily fit in a backpack, messenger bag, or purse.  The stand on the back is NOT as flimsy as I’ve seen people complaining about, at least not in my experience.  I’ve used it in the kickstand configuration a few times and the only time I had trouble keeping it standing up was when I tried to do it on a non-solid surface like a sofa cushion or the bed.  The kickstand set up is probably my favorite configuration outside of putting it on the TV so far.  The JoyCons connect wirelessly so you can just have your hands in any position you want while playing.  I was at my sister-in-law’s hookah lounge/tea shop/gaming emporium (Check out the Lair of Abraxas if your ever in the Denver Metro area. #Plug.) with the Switch set up on the table and my hands crossed underneath and just playing away without a concern in total comfort.  It’s hard to explain why but something about the fact that the JoyCons fit in your hand and are connected to nothing just gives you a lot of freedom to play comfortably.

The biggest technical hurdle I’ve had so far was honestly getting my TV to display a decent picture, and that’s really more so the TV’s fault than the Switch so I can’t complain too much.  But if the saturation or brightness of the image seems too much or the anti-aliasing seems choppy on your TV, you might want to play around with the settings some.  For me, it turns out that Gaming Mode on our TV isn’t so good for gaming, but HDR+ mode makes the games look great.  So you might just need to fiddle in the settings until you find one that looks good for you.

The JoyCons

These things were my biggest worry when it came to the Switch.  I mean, they LOOK tiny right?  And they are.  Kind of.  My hands can fit around them easily enough that I can play without any discomfort or crab claw hands.  The buttons are about the size of the ones on a 3DS so if you don’t have an issue there, you won’t here.  I won’t really know what to say about them in terms of gameplay until probably next month when I pick up Mario Kart 8 Director’s Cut or whatever they’re calling it, but I don’t anticipate too many issues.  Regardless, I did get a Pro Controller to use just in case.

However, one thing that was both cool and weird at the same time is actually feeling the HD Rumble do its thing for the first time.  While I didn’t bother with 1-2-Switch, there are a few moments in Zelda that use it and its just kind of neat.  Feeling the water run down a stalagtite before dripping down as you watch it on screen is definitely a nice touch of immersion.  I’ll be curious to see how developers will use it moving forward.

The Games

I only grabbed two games at Launch: Zelda and I Am Setsuna, and over the weekend I only really played Zelda.  I was tempted to go for Bomberman as well, because I remember playing the heck out of BomberMan 64 back in the day, but I felt it was one of those wait and sees.  Meanwhile, the next Zelda game and a retro send up to Chrono Trigger style RPG?  Heck yes I will be playing those.

Zelda is gorgeous and pretty much hits all the right notes.  The gleaming reviews are everywhere so I don’t think I need to sell you on the game, but I will touch on the highlights for me:

  • Exploring:  In what must be a send up to the original NES games, Breath of the Wild has minimal if any handholding when it comes to things.  How do I get to that shrine in the icy area without freezing?  Well, I picked up some peppers that said they could keep me warm.  Cook those up with some apples for a spicy stew and viola! I can make my way up to the shrine.  Or rolling a rock down a hill just to see it crush a bokoblin camp.
  • Collectibles: Three primary things to run around and find while you play (so far).  Korok Nuts that you can trade to increase your inventory, Spirit Orbs from Shrines to increase your Heart or Stamina meters, and Outfits that make Link fashionable and also give bonuses to stuff like Climb speed or Sneaking.
  • Shrines:  These are little mini dungeons that usually just puzzles with maybe a few enemies. Maybe.  But the puzzles have been SO FUN so far.  Easily my favorite part. I stumbled upon a later game dungeon fairly early by accident and it had a puzzle where you had to burn some vines to release a giant ball that you had to push a button at the right time to send it flying across the room to a spinning platform that you need to Stop Time on with your Stasis magic so the ball will roll and open the door.  That’s to open ONE DOOR in the Shrine.  LOVED IT!
  • The World is Huge.  It just is.  I was skeptical when I heard that Breath of the Wild was going to be on-par with Xenoblade Chronicles X in terms of the map size but uh…  I’m a believer.  Luckily there’s a quick travel system utilizing the Shrines and Towers and a few other points that you can zip around with.
  • The Game is that right level of hard.  Some people have been calling this the Dark Souls of Zelda.  I can see where they’re coming from but I don’t think this is quite that bad.  You will probably die a lot, yes.  But the game autosaves quite frequently to help prevent too much lost time and it’s never really unfair with it unless you have seriously wandered into a place where you are squaring off against much tougher opponents.  Then just use the quick travel system after you reload your autosave to skidaddle out (or be like me and just die over and over trying to outrun the crazy killer robot that’s twice as fast as me).  There’s no real punishment for dying beyond maybe having to replay a bit of an area, but it seems to remember things like what chests you looted already and what not, so the repetition is never terrible and it gives you a chance to try new strategies.

So that’s my early impressions of playing with the Nintendo Switch over the weekend.  Once I get an actual multiplayer game, I’ll probably post my Friend Code somewhere so you can friend request me or something.

FFXV: Vry vs The Pit of Eos Theory

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In case you’re not a Final Fantasy fan, there’s a bit of a hot topic spinning around in fan circles about the latest installment of the series, Final Fantasy XV.  It pertains to the bonus dungeon, Pitioss Ruins, that can be found after the game is complete by taking your flying car over the mountains and landing on a pain in the ass small strip of land.  From there you run up the hill and after the sun goes down you can enter the Ruins which has less to do with the rest of the game and more in common with games like VVVVVVVV or I Want To Be The Boshy joining forces with some insidious Little Big Planet levels.  Precision jumps, instant death spikes, tons of bottomless pits, and plenty of puzzles.  It’s a frustrating and yet suprisingly entertaining dungeon that had me less annoyed with each death and more so piecing together a solution or strategy.

However, the current “theory” or simply fan wank making the rounds right now is that this dungeon holds the key to understanding the entire game’s backstory and motivations for the villains.

Right…

To break it down simply, it posits that Ifrit, the second to last boss of the game, broke free of Titan’s imprisonment, ventured into the Underworld, traversed the Doomtrain to reach the afterlife, and freed the Goddess Eos who was locked away by the Astrals because she was pregnant with twin demi-god children (noted by the item the Genji Glove found in the statues belly button. Genji roughly translating to ‘Two Beginnings’.)  These twin children would be the founding members of the House of Lucis, possibly Ardyn and Izunia (The Izunia thing is a WHOLE other rant), and would eventually give rise to Noctis. (If you want more detail, there is a great video by Final Fantasy Peasant that breaks the whole thing down here. It’s also where I got the lovely image at the top.)

At first glance, it’s a great idea.  It explains why Ifrit turned against the other Astrals, Ardyn’s desire for revenge, why only the lineage of Lucis can use the Ring of the Lucii, and their connection to the Crystal.  Damn. What a great theory.  Boy is it clever.

I have a few problems with it though. (Shocker.)

A lot of the theory seems to be based heavily on Greek Mythology.  No surprise there. The game itself draws heavily on Greek Mythology to tell its story especially when it comes to names and themes.  However, the Pitioss Ruins theory goes beyond this and simply assumes at face value that if X happened with equivalent characters in the Greek myth, then the equivalent must be true in Final Fantasy XV.  So things like “Eos was imprisoned for loving a mortal and having half-god children” is based solely on the idea that “It’s how an Olympian God would react” with no basis whatsoever in the mythology or story of Final Fantasy XV.  There is zero evidence to back up the idea that the Astrals would be angry by this.  This is just slapping in frog DNA to fill in the holes of your dino DNA and saying that it was always intended to be like that.

Secondly, the theory throws in concepts that are wholly foreign to the game as if they were just matter of fact things.  For instance, the theory states quite plainly that Ifrit descended to the Underworld to find the Goddess Eos by riding Doomtrain.  Okay.  One, there is no “Underworld” ever mentioned in the game at any point as part of their mythology.  Two, no where is the contraption in the Ruins called Doomtrain nor is the concept of Doomtrain ever mentioned let alone as the ‘Sole means of reaching the afterlife’ in Final Fantasy XV.  This description from Doomtrain comes from other games, which is a bad practice since in no other Final Fantasy game is Bahamut a giant dude in a suit of dragon armor.

Finally, the Goddess Eos?  The Goddess that is central to this entire theory?  Not in the game.  She’s not.  Eos is the name of the world that the game takes place on.  Beyond that it’s even more fan theory based on random comments made by developers.  That the character in the logo is the ‘most important goddess’ despite never having a name and only appearing in the logo and one painting at the beginning (Oh, and after you beat the game it shows quite plainly who that sleeping figure is supposed to be, and she ain’t Eos.) So if there’s a super important goddess, and the world is called Eos, then that must be the goddess Eos right?  Sure, why not.  Except that nowhere is that backed up in the game.  We know who all six Astrals are.  We know that there were gods who left after creating the world and the Astrals but were never named.  So how do we know this is a goddess?  Well, mostly because this used to be based on the Fabula Nova Crystallis and in that there was a super important goddess named ‘Etro’ who was trapped in the ‘Unseen World’ (World of the Dead, Underworld.)  But all of that lore was scrapped and only used as a template for ideas (Bhunivelze = Unknown Creator, Fal’Cie = Astrals, l’Cie = Lucii.)

So this theory is built on another theory and uses more theories to fill in the gaps.  What’s actually canon to the game?  That there’s a dungeon called of the Pitioss Ruins and there’s some statues in it one of which looks like Ifrit. That’s about it.

But what’s the problem, Vry? I hear you ask.  It’s just a harmless fan theory, right?  Well, yea and no.  There are plenty of folks who are seeing this theory and turning around and shouting F#%& TABATA AND SQUARE ENIX FOR RUINING THIS GENIUS PLOT going along with the idea that if this had stayed Final Fantasy Versus XIII or that if Nomura had stayed on the project that this plot would have become fully fleshed out in the unknowable amount of time it would have taken to get finished (Don’t get me wrong, I like Nomura alright but the man is a hardcore creative and needs to some serious reining in if you want to put him in charge of a project or else he’ll just keep coming up with new ideas and trying to work them in).

So this theory is now being used as ‘Proof’ against the developers, and that’s where I felt like I should step up and use my corner of the web to try and remind folks that this is just a theory and one based on a LOT of conjecture.  It explains a lot, but that’s fairly easy to do when you construct the entire argument from random bits and pieces of unrelated material.  You can just as convincingly say that Eos was a Titan in Greek Mythology and Titan is an Astral, so Eos might be the mother of Titan as well. Which would make Noctis and Titan related, which would explain why they were mentally linked and the first Astral that Noctis forged a covenant with.  See! It all fits! It must be true!  Other than I pulled it out of my rump.

Fan Theories are great.  But they are theories.  They are not canon.  They are not backdoors into the game developers’ minds. Need I bring the Game Theorists’ “Sans is Ness” Undertale/Earthbound theory?  Great theory. So not canon.

But then why all the mysteries around the backstory of FFXV?  I don’t know.  Maybe because a lot of it wasn’t vitally important to the immediate situation.  My own theory on that (HA!) is that it might be a leftover concept from the Versus XIII days when the game was described as portrayed the affairs of gods through the eyes of a mortal.  Like war between the Astrals but only the given context of what a mere mortal would see or understand.  Do I know for certain?  Heck no.  But hey…  it fits, doesn’t it?

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