The Power of Names

Watch Dogs was flat for me. It was in Chicago, a city I enjoy visiting and I think is beautiful, but it felt flat. I couldn’t figure out why. Is it because I’ve been there? Is it because they have such small segments of the city, interspersed with different suburbs?

Then it dawned on me. Nothing had names. If you weren’t a plot important entity, you were generic. “Eat here,” and other signs that didn’t create brand, and therefore did not create a world.

GTAV is a master of this. They have a thousand brands, most of which you will never know. There are a half dozen different banks, and you interact with maybe two of them. They have postal services. You never deal with these. The strip clubs are numerous, there are news agencies, car companies, used car dealerships, and countless other brands. You only ever deal with a very small percentage in any way beyond seeing a building with a logo.

Watch Dogs didn’t do this. It made me hesitant to pick up Watch Dogs 2. I play sandbox games for that atmosphere. Usually the plots are weaker, but the world building is through the roof.

Watch Dogs 2 has captivated me. Even if I’m not a fan of the style of DedSec, I love the world. When I started playing the world felt more alive. At first I thought maybe it was because I never visited San Francisco. However, as I kept playing I realized every building had an existence. They all had brands. Lives were behind them, lives I would likely never know.

This creates life in the world.

My world has secret organizations. There are intricate governments filled with rulers and underlings. Everything is alive if the characters are going to touch it. They never see the full scope. However, these little touches, these names, attitudes, and “brands,” all affect the way the main story plays out. It affects the motives of the support characters. It affects how the antagonist can move against the protagonist.

Even though your reader doesn’t see all of it, or they can if they follow along with your blog, you have created solid motives. You will write the setting and characters more convincing for it. Trust me.

My suggestion on this, and insight to my own process, is brand everything. Give it names, motives, purpose over all. The reader may not see it all, and they may not pay attention to all the crumbs that are put in front of them, but they will feel the world is more real.

Pokemon Red

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I got Pokemon: Red on my 3DS. Originally it was to let my nephew play from the beginning, but kids love their pretty graphics, and so he was bored quickly. I upgraded him to Diamond, and he seems to accept that leap, despite his complaints he wants X/Y. Sorry kid, I can’t afford to buy you a 3DS, but I can afford to give you my old DS.

With my nephew moving on to decade old technology, I dove into a game that came out when I was 12. At this point in my life, there was a Playstation, I played Final Fantasy VII, middle school was a horrifying experience, but life overall was good. However, I only watched people play Pokemon.

I’m used to wrap not interrupting me for three turns. I’m used to poison wearing out when my Pokemon reaches 1 HP. I’m used to a skinny pikachu.

fat pikachu.jpgYes. Pikachu was fat. Actually it was because in the anime he was slimmed down and kids liked that more so pikachu lost the baby fat.

Anyway, there are a lot of things that I had become used to, as I first started in Gen III and IV. A lot of these changes were brutal. A kid with an under leveled ekans nearly slaughtered me because he was a little faster than me and kept using wrap. I just watched for three turns as he curb stomped me, then hoped that maybe this time I would be faster. Or he would use leer. What I learned is I need a speed arbok and I’ll crush all in my way.

Last night was a nostalgic reminder of how difficult games were. Today for Pokemon, you get an XP share that works for your entire party. It’s easy to get rid of status effects. You know how you’re training and don’t need a guide on which Pokemon give which stat boosts. From the sound of it, in the next game you won’t have to breed Pokemon for 8 hours to get the ideal one for competition. One. Out of six. And you usually need one or two a month to keep up with the evolving trends.

I kind of miss those difficult video games where imagination was king. But I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I really like seeing a picture of my Pokemon and I know what it is, instead of a blob.

Pokemon Sun and Moon Demo

The demo came out today. I’ve been waiting for it as they show more and more of the features. It looked like a living world that wasn’t just battles and a few side missions like coordinating. Instead of battling to the equivalent of a gym battle, you have to take photos of rare Pokemon hiding all over the cave. When you get past a certain point, you can do a Pokemon catching competition. There will be a contest to see how many millions of Pokemon players can catch shortly after release. This is incredible.

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So I started playing the demo. It’s really limited. You start as a boy named Sun. You get an epic geninja, which I can’t wait to use in the game. You also get to see the first trial. From what I can tell there aren’t any gyms. It’s all trials. Each one seems a unique challenge.

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So I’m excited for the new game. It’s one month away, and I will likely play the demo a lot. A friend asked me today why I liked Pokemon. What made me so giddy about it. I love going out to adventure. In my head I’m not simply running around with some pixelated animals in balls. I’m talking to them, like a writer talks to their characters. I coach them. I think about what it would be like in that world, walking alongside them, going through challenges.

So one month. I just need to wait one more month.

The Witcher: Morality

Witcher 3 spoilers ahead!

I’ve learned a lot the past couple days about morality through the Witcher 3. I mean, I had before, but I looked some things up on Reddit, and it taught me even more.

There were three crones in a swamp. They kept an orphanage of kids. These children were unwanted by their parents because the parents couldn’t afford to feed them, so the children were sent to the witches.

These children had a keeper. She was an old woman, and also happened to be the baron’s wife I was looking for. I went to the crones and asked for them to free the woman, and they said as long as I did a deed, they would free her from her burden. I agreed. I’m a witcher. I do deeds.

I was to go to a local village, find out about an evil spirit in the area, and kill it. Easy. I’m a witcher. I kill evil spirits.

I go to the village where they practically worship the crones. It’s creepy in that, “If I never come back here, I’m okay with that.” Which elevates to, “I’m never coming back here again,” after you see some of their rituals.

The villagers point me to a tree. I go to the tree, get under it to the roots, and there’s a weird growth that’s breathing. Weird may not be the right word. Really weird.

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Basically a breathing grouping of fleshy chestnuts.

 

I am a diplomatic soul, and honestly an enemy of the crones could very well be an ally of mine. If I kill the crones, they’ll let the woman go too. Because they’re dead and can’t really say anything about it.

The spirit tells me it will defend itself if I try to kill it (I already slayed a werewolf it used as protection, so really what was the tree going to do? Bark at me? Get it?). It gives me the option of freeing it, and it will go far away.

There was a book on this spirit. She-Who-Knows. She went by several names: She-Who-Knows, Lady of the Woods, the Mother. All creepy monikers. I like to know my enemy, so I read the book before proceeding. She was a pretty good ruler of the peasants. She only took sacrifices once a year. Then she started to increase it. She went mad and the countryside was drowning in bloodshed, so her daughters, the crones, locked her away.

That’s pretty evil. I mean, when an entity crosses the lines for your bar of “You’re evil,” there’s something wrong.

So this is pretty cut and dry. I can kill the crones later, but this creature must be put down. Then it tells me something. “The crones eat the children.” I’m not going to lie, not a shocker.

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The body parts hanging out of their bags tipped me off.

“I can free them, and then I will go far away.”

Now she has my attention. She can free the children, they will be able to live out their life, and this may weaken the crones and give me a chance to kill them. Heck, maybe the spirit and the crones clash and I just need to finish off what’s left of the monstrosities.

I freed her. Told the villagers the spirit wouldn’t bother them anymore. They cut off an ear and gave it to me for me to give to the crones. I told you it wasn’t a preferable vacation spot.

I return to the children are freed. Good job. However, in punishment for losing the children, the woman I was trying to save was turned into a water hag. I can’t show pictures. They’re too grotesque. The crones are also not dead, and a great evil has been loosed into the world. But it’s not my problem.

I go back to the baron, tell him what happened, and we marshal a small force to invade the swamp. Background on the baron and his messed up family.

This all starts because the baron wants you to find his wife and daughter, for that he’ll give you information on your adopted daughter.

Ultimately you find out the baron was a great soldier, was out a lot, his wife ended up sleeping around with another man while he was out, eventually left with him. The baron found her, was going to bring her and his daughter him, but when he saw the man plowing his wife, the woman he loved, he murdered him. The wife hated him, she was forced to live with him, and basically it spiraled into the wife trying to commit suicide, kill the baron, and the baron drinking and beating his wife. Fantastic family environment. The daughter became a warrior cultist. To be honest, I think it’s an improvement.

However, the baron loves them dearly, even if he’s wretched at showing it, and he charges to certain death, stating to the Witcher he’d rather die then let his wife to her fate.

We went to the orphanage, killed a lot of monsters, found the curse on the wife, and went into a cellar. I had to pick a doll and if I pick the right one, curse lifts. Pick the wrong one, she dies.

I did both ways. One way she burns up and it’s horrible. The daughter’s really angry. The other way the mother dies slowly, but in her normal form. She says goodbye. The daughter warms up slightly to her father. Either way, the baron goes home, hope drained from his eyes, and says, “Come back to the manor. You’ll get your pay there.”

As you approach the courtyard, everyone is gathered around a tree. A tree that baron is swinging from. The first time my breath caught. I looked away from the TV. Then I steeled myself and moved on. The stakes were too high, the Witcher said, when picking between two evils. It was better to pick none, but if you have to pick, never look back.

I was a little shaken, but it wasn’t going to ruin my day. They were horrible people. I saved a bunch of children. There was an evil spirit roaming the countryside that one day I’d likely get paid to kill. I wasn’t thrilled the spirit was out, but she seemed to have gotten her head on straight. Despite the outcome, I justified what I had done. Oh, and the evil spirit slaughtered the creepy village. Now it’s a wraith farm I visit from time to time when I need wraith supplies. But they picked the way they’d live. The children didn’t.

I checked Reddit because I knew there was a path where they survived. There was a way to keep the woman and baron alive. The woman was still wasting away and they had to go searching for a cure, but they did. It was a sort of happy ending, if you could ignore the children getting eaten.

On Reddit people said that was the good ending. They saved the family. They were able to destroy an incredible evil. The loss of the children was acceptable. I was blown away.

Yet the death of the baron and wife, the slaughter of the creepy cult village, the loosing an evil entity on the world was okay to me. I rationalized it, or at the very least reached a point where I was okay with what I did. Mind you, for the most part I try to block out those decisions, where it led, the lives which were lost. But I found people rationalized the death of those children in the same way I rationalized the death of the baron and his wife.

It’s a video game, but don’t we do this in real life?

Our current election. My Bernie friends were adamant that Bernie was the only choice and Hillary is a horrific choice. They posted article after article about how bad a pick Hillary was. Now Hillary is likely the DNC nominee. Their Facebook lights up with why Hillary is a great candidate. Yet she’s beyond corrupt and unethical.

Republicans swore they’d never vote for Trump. Fortunately most my conservative friends still refuse to vote for him, but there are those who not long ago claimed he was a mad man, and now they say he’s the person our nation needs. He’s a self-serving narcissist.

We have two obvious evils, but we’ll vote for one because it’s not as bad as the other. We even decried it as evil not that long ago, but now that it’s the only option, we’ll do it.

We do this all the time. I, however, really like Geralt’s advice on picking the lesser of two evils.

 

 

Warcraft

 

Today I saw Warcraft. The critic reviews on Rotten Tomato were 27% as of this writing. The audience reviews were 83%. I was nervous. Could it be another Dungeons & Dragons debacle?

I already saw how they were working the CGI. The graphics wouldn’t be crisp how we know them, but they would have the slightly over sized, sort of cartoon feel that I remember from the games. Not World of Warcraft, but Warcraft III. I was not disappointed.

The story was entertaining, the dialogue was decent, the world was glorious. Overall I was highly entertained, I was enchanted by the vastness and magic of the world, and it had several call backs to Warcraft.

People harp on the story. It stuck to the game, it was entertaining, but I also wouldn’t say it’s the most inspiring thing I’ve ever seen.

They go after the characters. I admit there were probably three or four I cared about. The rest I couldn’t pick out of a line up.

Despite the flaws, the short comings, I enjoyed it a great deal. The magic looked good. The battles looked good. The orcs looked good.

It does set up for a sequel. I hope it gets the chance. The chance better include more on elves and dwarves, but I’ll take what I can get for now.

If you like fun fantasy, go check it out. If you can’t put aside your inner critic to enjoy some entertainment, then move on and see something else that’s boring and no one cares about.

Far Cry Primal: Verisimilitude

Well kids, we should have the talk. The talk where someone stretches verisimilitude to the point of breaking.

What’s verisimilitude you ask? I’m so proud of your inquiring mind! Verisimilitude is a writing term which refers to the believability of the work.

An example would be a book on the middle ages has machine guns. This would likely break your suspension of disbelief. That’s drastic, there are far simpler examples. Look at people who survive when they shouldn’t. Over and over again. At a certain point, they should croak, and you start getting to the point where you can’t believe they’re still alive.

Are there exceptions? Most certainly. Deadpool knows he’s not real. Any Mel Brook’s movie goes way off the top, but it makes sense in context. Robin Hood asked for the script at a point. Most of these are parodies. There are the less ridiculous alternate realities. Just enough anachronistic shenanigans to keep it interesting, but not enough to make us go, “Are you kidding? Please be kidding.”

Enter Far Cry Primal. I’m really confused on how to feel about it.

Who doesn’t like a trailer? Anyway. That’s the gist of the game.

Moving on!

The game takes place in 10,000 BC. You’re basically a caveman. And by basically, you literally live in a cave, though at least your village doesn’t. You’re beset by a group obsessed with fire and another obsessed with man-flesh. Not like, advancing the LGBT community man-flesh. Like…eating it. And really they’re gender neutral on the whole cannibalism thing.

You are the first animal tamer. Cool concept. I do wish I’d go out, tame some goats, and bring them back to the village for milk and meat, but apparently I only comprehend massive predators who can rip my enemies apart. Still very awesome, but what I’d do for domesticated goats. Let’s get these people some cheese.

They have different regions, which are cool. The landscape is impossibly varied, but understandably you only have so much ground, so I shrug at that. It’s a common component in sand box games.

Then I saw I get bombs. There is a bee bag bomb, which while stretching suspension of disbelief, it doesn’t entirely shatter it. Then there are fire bombs. They explode.

Wait what? In 10,000 BC? By conservative estimates that’s only like…10,800 years off? Why are things exploding?!

But that’s fine. I’m enjoying hunting animals. It apparently takes a while to get the greatest technological advancement ever known by cave men, and I still enjoyed just chilling in shadows or riding my bear into combat. And no, I’m totally okay riding a bear. I had hallucinations on how to tame him. Totally all within the world’s realm of possibility.

Then I got a new bow, instead of my crappy short bow, which was basically, “Look, a twig!”

Longbow. Wait….

Need a history lesson? The longbow was one of the greatest technological advancements. It gave Britain a huge advantage during the 100 year war with France. That’s right. Britain and France were official countries when the longbow was invented, which was around the 1300s AD. Only 11,300 years off this time.

From the fact that I’m not using bombs and the longbow was an improvement I didn’t really need (better range, though not actual longbow range, and a zoom feature because…I don’t even know), they obviously didn’t have to shatter these two walls. It just annoyed me that they would try to pass it off as something normal.

I still love the game and highly suggest it. There’s something about running around with an animal killing other animals, cannibals, and arsonists. Not that I’m really innocent on the arson.

They do a great job with the invention of fire. I love burning forests just to see what happens. I’m a horrible person.

Anyway, still pick it up. Lots of fun. I’m going to burn down a village before I get back to edits.

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare

Did you see the trailer? The one that has Call of Duty collectively freaking out?

After watching the really cool Battlefield 1 trailer (I loved 3, enjoyed 4, didn’t even bother with Hardline), I thought I would watch the CoD trailer that was going to be the nail in their coffin. It’s the trailer that made people more excited at the remastering of Modern Warfare, a game that’s around a decade old, than it did at the next installment.

Mind you, I think CoD is for small children who love repetitive game play with entirely unrealistic gun mechanics. In Battlefield 3 and 4, I loved playing with the M249.

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The orange tip lets you know it’s wearing protection. I think.

The gun required me to go prone and use a bipod if I wanted to shoot anything smaller than a tank ten feet away. Why? Because my frail mortal coil can not handle a weapon which shoots over 100 rounds per minute.

Whenever I went up against another guy with an LMG (light machine gun, because it’s considered light if you can carry it), if I took the three seconds of not shooting to drop prone, put out the bipod, and then fire, I won. Every time. Why? Because he couldn’t shoot me in the time it took for me to set up, and once I was set up, by Ares and Mars combined, this is a destroy of men.

I went over to my cousins and we played CoD online. I went with the M249. Did you know you cannot go prone or get stability in CoD? It freaked me out, but it’s CoD, so I shrugged. Then I fired it.

It was like watching steaming urine shoot 50 yards out, this beautiful barely wavering line of lead. I lit it up. Sniper across the map? Sir…you better hope your one shot hits, because I only need 25% of my shots to hit and you’re dead before reload. When finished, I didn’t understand why everyone wasn’t running around with one of these bad boys.

Back on task. The new CoD trailer. Everyone is hating it. There are so many dislikes. I went and watched the above trailer, and I was impressed.

The last game, Black Ops III, played heavily with sci fi. It was basically magic technology. This is going to the next step. From what I can gather there’s a colony that is declaring war on earth. What? Are we in Japan!? This is an awesome plot line. It took forethought. It took creativity. It took space battles?! Where did these come from!? Why aren’t they in Battlefront? No really…who came up with the idea of a Battlefront game without space battles? EA could learn something from Activision. Space battles are cool.

Anyway, I was massively impressed, and I couldn’t comprehend why people were upset. The game play itself looked very similar to past CoD. Unreal Tournament fast with guns that handle so unrealistically they must have been conjured by a far more brutal Ratchet and Clank.

It’s a growing issue. We like to claim how bad American culture has always been, but honestly, we’re innovators and creators. We’ve been the hot bed of new culture for at least the past century. Our music, art, writing, movies, and so on. But lately? Sequels. There’s a good book, so opt that. Prequel!

Cultural advancements, advancements in ideas and veering away from the tried and true, are being penalized like never before. People aren’t excited by CoD exploring new fronts (I am), they’re excited that CoD is remaking an old game. They’re vehemently opposed to the new frontier.

I feel bad for Activision. They went out on a really awesome ledge, and now they’re getting bombasted because they’ve cultivated a core of small children afraid of new things. I’m sure they don’t eat their broccoli either.

Anyway, Activision when called out said this is pretty normal. The franchise will continue to thrive and even survive. All those people saying they’ll buy Battlefield 1 instead, will jump into it and go, “But guns don’t have recoil!” and they’ll shuffle right back.

As for Battlefield 1, I am very excited. They are placing it in World War I. We don’t talk about that war much, yet it changed the course of the world. It created/destroyed the missing generation. Warfare was brutal, unforgiving, and never in our history had life so thoughtlessly been slaughtered. Legitimately. Men ran across barren fields to get mowed down by machine gun fire. There was no defense against it.

My only fear is it’s a hard war to depict accurately. I hope EA and Dice do it justice.

Below is the BF1 trailer! Check it out. Very pretty.