Monday, May 25, 2020


So I was flipping through the playstation store to see if there were any good deals and I found Anthem marked down to something like $10.

So, Anthem is that big EA/Bioware game that was supposed to be the next big thing, but hilariously flopped.  On launch it was a buggy mess.  It didn't live up to expectations in story and characters.  And people just did not care to be dumping time into yet another live service looter shooter game when there are already so many out there.

Up to the release of this game I had been watching it with an overwhelming feeling of "meh".  I don't typically care for shooters, and I am wholly uninterested in online multiplayer.  There's nothing like being dressed down by a foul mouthed thirteen year old for not being as good at the game as he is to put you off of that sort of thing.  And though the game looked beautiful, they didn't really show off much of it before release.   I don't know why people were expecting this to be the beginning of a new series like Mass Effect, but apparently they were.  They hyped themselves up for it, and the game just didn't deliver on expectations.  And pretty much about a month after the game's release no one was talking about it anymore, and a fraction of the people who bought it were still playing it.

So, I figured why not see the train wreck for myself.  Now, keep in mind, that I played this game more than a year after release, and it has had some significant bug fix patches.  So, for the most part, the game ran pretty well.  I did run into some bugs, but they weren't anything exiting the game and restarting couldn't fix.  The servers that the game runs on were, unfortunately, not very reliable.  I kept dropping in the middle of missions with "unable to connect" errors, which is kind of aggravating.

Anyway, I played through the story, and a few of the side missions.  And I had fun with it.  For what it is, it's not a terrible game.  The problem with it is that it's trying to be an online live service multiplayer looter shooter.  Every problem the game has stems from that aspect of it.  If this game were a single player story based experience with additional multiplayer for the people who wanted it, I think it would have done a lot better than it did.  The story is okay, not the best thing Bioware has ever put out, but it's not terrible.  The characters are fine.  The gameplay is fun enough.  The biggest problem it has is that it wants to be a live service multiplayer game, and it's kind of clearly not.  I played through every story mission solo.  On normal difficulty I died a few times, but made it through without needing anyone else.  As a single player game, it wasn't bad.  I never bothered with any of the endgame stuff, because, like I said, it's just not my thing.  The thing is though, I just can't see why anyone would want to continue playing this game after the story is over?  What's the point?  Why should we care?  That's where this game fails.  It didn't give anyone a reason to continue playing the endgame looter shooter aspect after completing the story.

So, anyway, I feel that I got my $10 worth out of it  It was a fun distraction for a few weeks.  I have no desire to play further, and probably won't ever play through the story again, but I mostly enjoyed my time spent with it.  I wish it hadn't been an online multiplayer game, but we can't have everything.  I think one of the biggest reasons why this game failed was that people put Bioware on this high pedestal and that places unrealistic expectations on them.  Not every game they make is going to be another Mass Effect or Knights of the Old Republic, and I think that people are now starting to realize that.  They had their fair share of duds in the past.  Dragon Age 2 anyone?  Mass Effect 3 (even though that one's my favorite, despite everyone else in the world hating it for some reason).  If you accept this game for what it is, and don't pile unreachable expectations upon it, it wasn't a terrible game.  It was, maybe a little mediocre, but, I mean, people are allowed to be mediocre at times.

Friday, May 8, 2020

Memories of a Time Long Forgotten

So, as I finished Memories of What Never Was a bit ago, I found myself all hyped up to continue the story, rather than following my plan to finish up the first draft of the story I started for NaNo last year, called Carrying the Weight of the World.  So, that one is going to wait for a bit while I finish up the rough draft of the second part of this trilogy thingy I started way, WAY too long ago.

So a couple years ago I started the first draft of this story.  And back then I had it titled Shadows of What Might Have Been.  It's a phrase that I used a few times during Memories of What Never Was, and I kind of liked the sound of it.  But it doesn't really have much to do with what happens in the story.  So I figured I'd stick with the memories motif and change the title to Memories of a Past Long Forgotten, which is a lot more indicative to what actually happens in the story.

The main reason I stopped working on it was that there were some pieces missing, and it wasn't coming together the way I wanted it.  I back burnered it and went back to editing the two stories that were nearly complete.  But I've been thinking a lot since that time about what I would do to fix it, and what more it needed to make it all work.  And last week I started reading through what I had written (almost 100k words, about 2/3 of the story) and making a few edits, as though I were working on a second draft.  I added in a lot of new chapters that were needed.  Cut out about an equal number of other chapters that weren't working, and ideas that I didn't like, and now I'm ready to finish up with the finale. 

Anyway, I'm a LOT happier with this story now that I've done some extensive fixing on it.  And to be honest, a lot of what I already had written wasn't all that bad, either.  Most of what I didn't like, some pretty bad character decisions I'd made, took some doing to remove and change, but now I'm pretty excited for how well these edits have turned out, and pumped up to write the rest of it.  So, I'm expecting that in the next couple of months I'm going to have a full first draft to work with.  And hopefully it won't take me 5 years to edit this one like it did the first one.

Monday, May 4, 2020

How NOT to write a buddy/rival character.

So, with all the staying home and not going anywhere or doing anything over the last few months, I've set my eyes upon the ever-growing list of video games I mean to play but never have time to between work, working on my writing, and the ever-continuing search for the future Mrs. Allen.  So, the last couple months I decided to pick up a series of games that are a sequel to another series that I really liked.  Trails of Cold Steel.  The first two games are basically the same story cut into two parts because it was so huge it wouldn't fit in a single game.

So, you have this buddy character Crow who then becomes the rival character for the protagonist Rean.  The first time you meet this utter douchelord, he tricks you and steals from you.  And the game expects you to laugh it off and think, "oh, wow, this guy is really cool."  Uh.  no.  That is not how reality works, game.  Every interaction that you have with this guy for the rest of the first game is meant to make you think he's cool, but literally every single one of them ended with me thinking he was just an even bigger douchebag than before.  He mocks people, he slacks off, he doesn't pay attention when anyone is talking to him, he manipulates and uses people.  He's a complete and total sociopath.  And through the whole first game the entire rest of the cast keeps saying how cool he is.  Every single interaction you have with him makes him out to be an even bigger dick, but this game goes ALL IN on telling you his cool, when, by his actions, he's the furthest thing from it.

So, throughout the first game there's this mysterious masked terrorist that's bombing military bases, setting off bombs in crowded cities full of innocent people, kidnapping people, hijacking the mother of all small dick artillery guns to obliterate an entire city with, and several other unsavory things.  Then he assassinates the guy in charge of the country, and sets off an enormous civil war.  And at the end, this guy takes off his mask, and surprise, surprise, it's Crow.  It's meant to be this huge shocking moment, where you feel all betrayed that this cool friend is actually the guy you've been fighting all along.  But, I mean, the guy is HORRIBLE to you, and everyone else in the game.  I didn't guess that it was him, but I wasn't shocked to find out that this horrible guy that is just the absolute worst, is actually this terrorist who has murdered a bunch of innocent people.

And then Rean, for the entire next game, keeps going on, and on, and on about how he's going to beat Crow, and bring him back to the good side.   He keeps telling all of Crow's friends, don't worry, I'll save him.  It's like his entire focus as a character in the second game is to find a way to beat Crow, and then force him back into the life that they had before the war.  It's the biggest part of his motivation for the second half of the story. 

There's a part where Crow captures Rean, and then tells him why he's doing all of these horrible things.  It's because the guy he assassinated to start the war decided not to rebuild a bridge that was knocked out in a flood.  that's it.  That's his entire motivation for murdering innocent people, bombing civilian targets, and assassination.  The guy didn't rebuild a bridge, and his hometown fell into poverty  because of it.  Oh boo-freaking-hoo!!! 

So, to recap, this guy is a lying manipulative douchebag to everyone he meets.  A total pervert.  OMG the lengths this jerk goes to in order to see naked, underage girls is INSANE.  He tricks and steels from random strangers.  He murders innocent civilians.  He sets off bombs in crowded cities during festivals.  He bombs military bases.  He assassinates world leaders and starts a massive civil war.  And he does all of this because he's sad that his hometown couldn't survive without a bridge.  He is a murderer, a war criminal, and a terrorist, on top of being a sociopath, thief, and all around asshole.  And this game expects me to be, in any way, invested in "saving" him. 

Uh, yeah, no.  DO NOT care.  I'm nearly at the end of the game.  I haven't quite finished it yet.  And, realistically, if Rean manages to beat Crow and bring him back to his side.  He's just going to be executed for treason, murder, and war crimes anyway.  But the game will probably just let him off with a slap on the wrist, because he's the main character's friend.

So, yeah.  This is NOT how you write a buddy/rival character.  You can't spend the entire story TELLING me that he's such a good friend, while SHOWING me that he is anything but.  Any perspective writers out there, please, take this example, and learn from it.  Because I see this sort of thing in all kinds of different media.  Movies.  Books.  TV.  Other Video Games.  If you want me to believe that your buddy/rival is a good guy at heart, and has a true friendship with your main protagonist, he can't also be a murderer, terrorist, assassin, and all around douchelord at the same time.  He actually has to have real motivation that makes sense.  He actually needs to have a real bond with your protagonist that we see develop, and can feel that these two people are great friends.  You can't show him doing all this horrible crap to everyone, and then tell me that, oh yeah, he's a real great friend though.