Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Why skyrim feels small

This has been festering in my brain for a while now but for all their attempts at feeling big Bethesda's game worlds always feel small. With skyrim I think I've finally hit on why that is. The cities are only a few city blocks there are only a few dozen people in living in them and the fields and farms never seem large enough to feed what people there are.

The final sign that spelled it out to me was when I walked into Rorikstead for the first time. To set this up in the games opening a fellow prisoner says he's from Rorikstead. Turns out when you get there Rorikstead is comprised of 4 buildings and 9 people. This was the final straw that really broke the immersion for me. The place seemed hardly worth being on a map as a way station let alone the town people treat it as. Since then the whole world seems bit hollow. As lovely as the mountains, forests and wilderness are I can never get over the fact that the world seems both light on the number of people and the means to feed them.

An open letter to my MP

Hello ,

As one of your constituents, I received a one of your pamphlets and tax guides today. You make a significant point on your goal to ensure that Canadian children are safe. While protecting them from sex offenders is important, what is being done to protect them from our national debt?

According to debtclock.ca $581.7 billion of which I am proportionally responsible for ~$17,000. This proportion will certainly rise as our population continues to age. As a young adult who's thinking of starting a family in a few years I'm becoming more concerned with the burden this will place on me as well as my children. So, what your and/or your government's plan is to address this growing issue.

To be frank, I'm worried to see an emphasis on tax cuts, a loss of revenue for the government, and the potentially costly crime omnibus bill. I'm interested in your view on how we will reconcile these actions with the need to lower our debt before it becomes as serious as it is in Europe. Is there a plan or are these short sighted goals?

Please consider this issue as we go forward.

sincerely your constituent,

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

happy pi day

Here I am day's almost over and its pointed out to me that its pi day! Alas another pi day come and gone. At least there's pie this time ^.^

*enjoys a nice slice of apple pie*

Rapeing the pretty girl you want to marry not just for biblical times anymore

Yes that title sounds really awful but guess what this story is really horrible too so strap in.

*trigger warning*

So for those of you who haven't gone through the bible and looking at all the really awful morality there in there's a lovely little law if you rape an unbetrothed virgin the punishment is marriage(deuteronomy 22:28-29). If you're wondering where the punishment is there's also a 50 shekle fine and you can't ever divorce her. Still that's pretty light considering you now have your own little sex slave/maid.

Now as horrible as that is (I hope no one needs me to explain what's wrong with that) that was the old testament years ago no one actually does this anymore right? Wrong.

I honestly don't know what to add to this. This is right up there as some of the worst justice I've seen and it just boggles my mind that people think that this was a good idea. This is just so sad I just don't know what to say.

Devil survivor 2 a case study on doing humor wrong in the post apocalypse

By far my favorite discoveries in gaming in the last few years was finding Atlas a developer and publisher of what in the west anyway are usually somewhat niche games. One of their most prolific series*  is a group of games sold in the west under the brand shin megami tensei. Most games since the times of Nintendo have been pretty shy about depicting sex, religion and just controversial topics in general that other media is free to explore. These games however are like an evangelical Christians worst nightmare, high school students summoning and fighting with demons** magic and its even possible to kill Yahweh in one of the early games. So these games are near and dear to my heart as they not only touch on a while bunch of generally virgin ground but also cover a lot of interesting stories and actually make me care about their characters. However they are not above criticism and that is what I'll be doing today.

 The original devil survivor was actually the first SMT game I played when I first got my DS and is a truely great mix of tactical rpg and visual novel set inside a quarenteen zone. Trapped in this zone by the japanese government you and your high school friends have 7 days to solve the issue of demons being summoned into the zone or the japanese government at the behest of angels from god will solve the problem for you by killing everyone in the zone. It was a serious deconstruction of what if average people got their hands on the kinds of powers you see in pokemon under the stress of disaster and lock down. Things do not go well there is no perfect ending and if you're not careful some of your friends will die. 

The latest addition to the series is a tactical role playing game for the DS that came out a couple weeks ago called devil survivor 2. Devil survivor 2 is not a direct sequel but takes place in a disaster stricken japan after an earth quake and once again people start getting the ability to summon demons as survival once again becomes a big issue. Add in some tough choices and the possible deaths of your friends and this game sounds like it might be just a bit grim. So it should be no surprise especially in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami last year in japan that some effort was made to lighten the games tone with some humor. Unfortunately in my opinion they went over board and this is maybe my biggest problem with the title. 

At various points in the plot there are breaks in the effort to set up tension to show people smuggling to get by and instead you are treated to things like two women arguing about the value of dance, or a woman chewing out one of your friends cause he can't pronounce a mascot's name properly. These event are all set to a piece of music best described as one person put it as a day in Prozac land. 

Unfortunately these scenes tend to be too frequent and absurd which hurts the games attempt to build a sense of tension, urgency or threat. Instead of building on the shadowy group you find yourself helping or the struggles of the average people  and their families you can watch a scene where a guy jokes about using medical supplies to get high. The game has been called a commodity  lacking a soul ( http://nightmaremode.net/2012/03/devil-survivor-2-is-a-commodity-16969/ ) but I see the bigger problem as a failure to commit to the setting. 

I can understand in the context of the recent disaster how people might be gun shy about another serious story of survival like devil survivor and want to lighten the mood with some humor. And yes even earthquake aside a story about death and destruction is grim and possibly depressing and in need of some humor to keep things enjoyable. The problem is there has to be a middle ground between the serious and the outright farce the game tends to fall into at times. To be honest playing through this game (about 6/7 through at time of writing) I often find it hard to remember that there are normal npcs struggling to survive. All this might make the game more comfortable and marketable at the moment but I can't help but feel like we lost something great in the long run by resorting to farce instead of addressing the setting head on.

I'd like to hope that we can learn from this in the future and try to push for an emphasis on what is actually needed to set the story and mood while still managing to get in some comic relief.

*Really its a group of loosely associated series that tend to just get lumped together but lets keep it simple.
** in the series everything from christian angels to greek gods or monsters are called demons its a real kitchen soup of gods, spirits, monsters and such.

So you stumbled in and want to know whats going on...

Hi people who managed to find their way here!

This is whats going on I'm a recent university graduate, a skeptic, atheist and gamer. This is more or less my experiment in getting some of my thoughts on to paper err pixels. So the current plan is, to try to post something every couple days on what ever rambled thoughts I'm trying to put into words at the time. This'll probably cover a bunch of completely conflicting subject maters but at the very least I hope to have fun doing it. Plus hey (queue the ominous music) what's the worst that could happen?

If anyone stumbles in and comments great though I'm not holding my breath right now. I'm not going to lay down any rules or anything right now (lets watch that come back to bite me in the ass) but I'll ask that we try to stick to criticizing ideas and just cussing people out.

Warning to the English majors: I'll probably be writing somewhat informally and I freely admit spelling and grammar were never my strong suits so if you really care about those things this might get a bit grating for you.