Pop culture video game characters

falcio

One of the things that I truly do like more about single-player CRPGs is that they usually offer a lot more in the character building department. I’m not just talking about measly stats, but backgrounds, vocals, and a myriad of ways to fashion your character. The best systems are the ones where you start out with a concept in your head and are able to make (or at least approximate) it in the game.

For a new Pillars of Eternity run (one day I’ll finish this game…), I decided to buck my usual build and see if I could create Falcio from the Greatcoats novels (I might be reading the third one right now). Instead of picking which ever trait I thought was best, I tried to hew as close as possible to the character in the book. So video game Falcio ended up being a Paladin (because he’s noble, part of an order, and is a melee fighter) who uses twin rapiers, has a cocky voice, and hails from a sect that’s all about benevolence and honor. I’m trying to make him a master swordsman with some degree of intelligence (particularly about lore). So far… it’s working out far better than I would have thought.

I’d imagine that many of us, from time to time, create RPG characters that are based on someone, real or imaginary, rather than being a wholly new creation. You see this a lot in MMOs with that trope where there are a ton of Gandalfs and Sephiroths and the like running around. It’s the fantasy of always wanting to play those characters, just in whatever game you happen to be enjoying at the time.

Clone armies aside, I’m all for doing this. For one thing, it can be a blast to see how closely you can create an avatar that’s similar in look and function to a TV, movie, book, comic, or video game character. And since you already have an attachment to that fictional character and know of its backstory, then it’s a different experience playing it than it would be to start tabula rasa. Maybe it’s a bit of an imagination crutch, but that’s how play goes. It’s the “continued adventures” of our beloved characters.

I see this often with my kids. They’ll watch a show in the morning and then immediately want to enact that show in their play. Imitation, iteration, evolution, roleplay… it’s all a big bundle of fun that leaps off of a pop culture launchpad.

We were like that too as kids, I know. And maybe video games, especially CRPGs and MMORPGs, bring that out in us. We have the option to make a character any way we like, and what we sometimes desire is to bring our favorite imaginary friend along for the journey.

Retro gamers rejoice: A mini-NES is on its way to the market!

nesclassic

I’ve recently hooked back up my homebrew retro gaming console and been enjoying some classics with my kids (their favorites: Super Mario Bros., TMNT IV: Turtles in Time, and The Lion King). These games are still so much fun, which is why I’m overjoyed to see that there’s an NES Classic Edition on the way.

Similar to how the Genesis and Atari 2600 have repackaged their games/platform, this machine is basically an NES emulator that contains 30 games without the need for cartridges. Looks like they’ll include one controller and you can buy others separately. The price point is being set at $60.

Even though I have most of these games on my Raspberry Pi, I might pick up this (or put it on my Christmas list). I love classic consoles but hate having to fiddle with cartridges and dealing with failing hardware.

The game list here is very solid, although it’s a shame that there aren’t more (there are over 700 NES games in the wild). Highlights include Super Mario Bros. 1-3, Legend of Zelda, Castlevania, Double Dragon II, Final Fantasy, Ninja Gaiden, Kid Icarus, Punch-Out, and Star Tropics. Weird that they included Super C but not Contra.

There are some duds here. Pac-Man? Balloon Fight? Ice Climber? Nobody asked for those, not on the NES.

Of course, even with 30 games there are probably many that any of us old time gamers would have rather seen. Maybe this is the first of several such classic consoles (the Atari Flashback had a few generations with different games). I don’t know if this thing is modular, but it’d be cool if you could buy flash drives to plug in with even more games.

If they did a second generation of this console, here are my nominations for the next 30 games:

  1. Contra
  2. Castlevania III
  3. Double Dragon
  4. Commando
  5. Battletoads
  6. The Goonies II
  7. Bionic Commando
  8. Journey to Silius
  9. Mega Man 2 Mega Man 3
  10. Ninja Gaiden 2
  11. Metal Gear
  12. Life Force
  13. Adventure Island II
  14. Dragon Warrior III
  15. Rygar
  16. River City Ransom
  17. RC Pro-Am
  18. Arkanoid
  19. Skate or Die
  20. Strider
  21. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II
  22. Tetris
  23. Ultima IV
  24. Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
  25. Final Fantasy II
  26. Dr. Mario Duck Tales
  27. Batman
  28. Ikari Warriors II
  29. Batman: Return of the Joker
  30. Blaster Master

I’m excited! Now if they’ll only release a SNES version, I’d be in heaven…

Update: Didn’t realized I doubled up on two titles there, so I replaced them with alternate suggestions!

Mooooose

So I subscribe to the theory that it’s silly to hoard money in MMOs when it’s more fun to just spend it. Therefore, I report to you that I have no regrets in spending 20K gold last night to purchase a carry through mythic Archimonde so that I could get my moose.

I’ve been wanting this moose for a while and the imminent pre-expansion patch, with its moose-hating ways, put the pressure to get one by the only means I had at my disposal: To pay someone to take me along in a raid for it. And that’s totally fine, it’s capitalism at its finest and I feel like it was a good use of my money. I was able to turn my sporadic money-making ventures into one big purchase.

The raid was super-nice about it all and made it very stress-free. It kind of stunk that I didn’t get any other drops, but hey, moose. Going to be riding this guy into Legion with pride.

New Computer Day ’16

computerObviously, getting a new computer is a Big Deal in the Syp household. Generally I only upgrade machines every four or five years, although this year was an exception after struggling with a subpar home build for the past 12 months.

A few weeks ago I ordered a custom built machine and got a few nice freebies tossed in, such as an upgrade to a 3TB hard drive (spaaaaace!) and a free headset/keyboard/mouse. It took a very long time to get made and shipped, but so far I’m quite pleased with the result.

We couldn’t afford anything near the top of the line, of course, so I had a budget of about $1,000 and worked within that to get the best bang for my buck. I think the end result (no specs here) is pretty solid, giving me a flexible computer that’s good for both work and gaming. It’s a little weird that I have water-cooling for the first time ever, but hey, whatever keeps it chilly in there.

It was probably the worst day to get a new computer, however. I had to spend a couple of hours driving the kids to camp, then juggled a ton of work on top of an evening lecture I gave (ever see a pastor blitz through all 21 epistles and the book of Revelation in 60 minutes? That was me). So getting this set up was low priority, but I eventually scrounged up some time.

I ended up ditching the free keyboard — it was too chunky and the backlit keys were downright distracting. It’s weird, but I like the Amazon Basic keyboard. It’s sleek and I can type on it quite fast. I am using the new mouse since my old one has gotten a little hinkey lately.

Setting up a new personal computer is equal parts awesome and stressful. It’s awesome because it’s new, it’s fast, it’s a field of potential, and it’s a “friend” that I’ll be getting to know well over the next few years. But I also had a ton of stuff to set up, such as re-downloading key programs, installing fonts, getting all of my work stuff organized, entering in all of my passwords, importing bookmarks, and the like. I have a list I’m working down for this and so far it’s coming along nicely.

Over the weekend I had backed up about a terabyte of media — pictures, music, and TV shows — onto my two backup drives, so part of the setup was transferring that onto my computer. Got to have my video game tunes, after all!

I am thinking that it’s really time to upgrade both my desk and chair. The desk is way too small for my needs and at a bad height, while my chair is disintegrating more every day. I would love a small office or even a corner to call my own in this house, but it’s hard to do that and still remain near the kids when I watch them and work, so for now I’m stuck in a niche in our living room.

Next up — testing out MMOs! Man, those take forever to download en masse, don’t they?

For fun, here’s me back in 2010 on New Computer Day!

Try-It Tuesdays: Sunless Sea

sea

The world-building and storytelling of Fallen London is first-rate, an engrossing tale of an alternate Victorian London that somehow got pulled below the Earth’s surface to thrive in the dark. While I love the writing, the “gameplay” is often a little tedious and confusing, and I often wished that someone would just provide all of the text from these games in one fell swoop.

So for this week’s Try-It Tuesday adventure, I decided to go with a recent Steam purchase and play a ship survival simulator set in the Fallen London universe called Sunless Sea. The concept is that you pilot a boat through the “underzee” to discover islands and other oddities while combating terror, supply shortages, and all of the other horrible things in the eternal dark.

Like Fallen London, Sunless Sea is couched in many stories with a very distinctive writing (short, clipped sentences and fragments that are very evocative). It’s probably the discovery of more stories that keeps people going than anything else.

The action takes place in a top-down view of your boat, which has fuel, supplies, a crew, a light, and a bat that can fly out and see if there are islands nearby. Since you can’t ever scoot the map or see past the edge of your current screen, there’s a sense of claustrophobia and fear of the unknown here. The atmosphere is quite effective, especially with the occasional bits of sound effects and music.

I liked it as a casual game, although I found it very slow and (like Fallen London) the item system a little too confusing in exchange for having odd descriptions and titles. I ran through a couple of lives (your dead captains can pass on their legacies to successors) and enjoyed making my own adventures. I just wish it had gone a little faster.

I devoted one run to seeing if I could cross the entire map to hit the far side. I managed to do it, although it was a close call as I ran out of supplies, my crew started eating each other, the ship began to slow down, and we all went mad with hunger and fear. That’s the sort of charm that lies in wait, although it’s not all a horror story.

The Pokémon Go phenomenon is kind of unnerving

pokemonI can’t remember the last time that I saw a video game become an overnight global phenomenon like Pokémon Go. I mean, Pokémon releases are usually popular but they don’t really cross over into my space — the franchise came out after I left college and I never understood the appeal of it. All I’d ever see are kids with DSes playing them, and that was that.

But this? This is something wholly different. It’s like Pokémon had been planting seeds for decades now that were waiting to bloom when Go came out. It’s not just popular, it’s absolutely pervasive. Overnight omnipresent. Everyone seems to be playing it — adults, kids, cops, robbers, you name the demographic. And because it’s a game that interfaces with the real world, the phenomenon is much more noticeable, with people driving and walking all about to “catch ’em all.”

I guess a lot of public spaces are being utilized for the game, because our church is a training gym, which means that people keep driving into the parking lot at all hours. When I took a bunch of teens out to lunch on Sunday, they were all hunched over their phones, catching Pokémon in the restaurant. My wife said that half of her work was trying to sneak off to play this during the day.

I’ve kind of joked how this is the beginning of a very strange apocalypse, and I guess that’s just me, an outsider, feeling a little unnerved by how fast and huge this got. How it’s changed the habits and behavior of people.

I’ll freely admit that it’s not bad. I love games, and I think that the structure of this is kind of genius. Gets people out of the house, being more social, exploring more places, etc. Reminds me a lot of exploring during geocaching. But you know how it is, when you’re not particularly into someone that is popular, and it makes you feel a little weird. Nobody’s excluding you but you are excluded from this “club” based on your own interest.

It might be something fun to do with my kids, although I’m just now trying to work them through Super Mario Bros. and don’t want to stack on more Nintendo franchises. It will certainly be interesting to see if this game keeps growing and develops legs, or if this is some sort of flash-in-the-pan hit that will simmer down a month or so from now.

4 long(ish) games I would love to finish some day

f4

Back before marriage, kids, and MMOs, I used to have absolutely no problem sinking dozens and dozens of hours into lengthy games. In fact, the longer, the better. And computer RPGs like Baldur’s Gate 2, Fallout 2, Planescape Torment, and Knights of the Old Republic were perfect for that sort of thing.

Now I find it tremendously hard to actually complete any of these monstrous games. In fact, with my regular MMO play, other games only get a few hours here and there before eventually being abandoned. And that’s kind of a shame, because I do wish I could finish these four games (and some day, perhaps I will):

1. Fallout 4

Nobody really talks about this big ticket game these days, but I have to say that it was a really enjoyable ride for what time I spent in it. Lots to do, to explore, guns to get, screens to shot. My thing was that I wanted to complete the map and not miss any of the areas and secrets, so I didn’t get as far as those who just powered ahead with the story.

Maybe some day I’ll go back, reroll, and do a full run. I think I’d really like that, and I would totally ignore the game’s housing system in it. But it’s probably not going to be any time soon.

2. Stardew Valley

Stardew Valley isn’t the biggest game in the world but it is a time-sucker, and my frustration with it is that I feel like I’m missing out on things I should be doing as I’m puttering around on my farm. Out of all of these games, it’s probably the one I’ll go back to sooner rather than later, maybe with a walkthrough for guidance.

3. Dreamfall Chapters

The Longest Journey is one of my hands-down favorite adventure games of all time, and Dreamfall was a decent follow-up. So it’s weird to me that I bought this episodic sequel and then gave up after the first 20 minutes. Maybe I was waiting for the full game to come out? I don’t recall, but I do feel like its a waste that I haven’t played it yet.

4. Pillars of Eternity

I know I talk about wanting to and needing to play this RPG a lot. And now, especially that there was a well-received expansion released along with a nice quality-of-life patch, I probably should. I just don’t know *when* I could put it into my gaming schedule. I see it taking the place of my retro gaming time, but I love doing those retro pieces, so no thanks for now.