Done with Undertale

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Making My Own Finish

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Last night I finished Undertale… and what I mean by that is that I reached a point where I am just finished caring about the game.  I have so many conflicted feelings about this title.  On one hand I really do enjoy the story that is being told, and I made my best attempt to go pacifist.  The problem I have however is that there is a whole lot about the “game” that I simply hate.  For me it feels like I am very much playing two vastly different games.  One of which is this awesome console RPG where I wander around and talk to interesting people and do the occasional puzzle.  Then there is a completely different game that is the often times bullet hell shooter that is the combat system.  The combat system is the game that I hate, and the loner I had to play it the more I loathed its existence.  The strange part about it is that I love JRPGs and I love Bullet Hell shooters… they are awesome separate genres but there is something about the hybridization of this game that offends my sensibilities.

When I play a bullet hell shooter, it feels like there is nothing on the line.  Sure I might lose a ship or I might have to start back at the beginning of the game, but there is nothing that I deeply care about on the game.  When it comes to an RPG… adding that bullet hell aspect feels too punishing for me.  If I fucked and forgot to save, a single screw-up might cost me hours of retracing my steps to try and reach the point where I have to try that fight all over again.  In a bullet hell title you often get some avenue for rapid trial and error as you figure things out on the fly.  I am very much a learn by doing person, and no amount of prep work ahead of time is going to get me through a fight until I reach my own internal click moment where I grok the mechanics at a purely muscle memory level.

Un-fun Experience

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If I somehow could have turned off the combat system and wound up with a game where I just walk around and talk to interesting people I would unabashedly sing this games praises.  Tonight we are recording the AggroChat Game Club show where we talk about Undertale and right now I feel like I am probably going to be the lone voice that did not really enjoy this game.  From the moment I first encountered the combat system I felt like I was “taking my medicine” and forcing myself through an experience that I simply was not enjoying.  So in many ways it felt like doing homework, and I found myself trying to rush through as fast as I could so I had something to talk about.  I don’t want to give too many spoilers in my blog post, and will likely save those for the podcast.  However I managed to get to the bullet hell-iest of all bullet hell glitch endings, which apparently means that I did not make enough friends along the way?  I did a bunch of research and watched several of the other ending options on YouTube and I have to say…  the ending I was heading for feels like a massive slap in the face.

I realize it is a central conceit in a lot of Japanese games that you get a shitty ending the first time… and that is supposed to drive you to play the game again to get a better ending.  I’ve always kinda thought this practice was bullshit, and instead of lighting a fire under me to get the better ending… I just tend to chuck that game in the dustbin as a thoroughly disappointing experience.  The primary problem with me and this game is that I don’t enjoy the central game mechanics… which are avoid stuff on screen as a a replacement for standard menu driven RPG combat.  I can absolutely play a game indefinitely that has a shitty story, but has mechanics that I really enjoy.  This is why I mesh so well with skinner box and grindy games… because I am enjoying that core loop enough to keep playing for the promise of something cool in the future.  That said I have never been able to struggle through a sub par mechanical experience just because I know there is a good story there somewhere.  When I reach a point when I think I would much rather watch a YouTube video of someone else playing…  then it is time for me to hang up my controller and cut my losses.

 

Crimzon CLover World Ignition

Technical Difficulties

Last night was probably the roughest time I have had editing the AggroChat podcast in the eleven episodes we have been running.  Mostly this centers around us trying to change the way we record the show.  Since its inception we have been recording it on the House Stalwart mumble server in a private and locked down channel.  This worked pretty well and produced the first ten episodes without much issue.  However on July 19th that server will be going away and as a guild we will be permanently switching to the Alliance of Awesome Teamspeak server.  In theory Teamspeak does the same type of things that mumble does, so I thought we could simply record our channel without much issue.  Turns out that was not quite the case.

Mostly we had a lot of issues with Kodra coming through either garbled or not at all when he was holding down his push to talk key.  Apparently on his end it was me that was coming through like this.  Oddly enough Ashgar and Rae didn’t seem to have any problems at all.  It might be something we can fiddle with codec wise to make it work better, but honestly after the trouble I had with last nights podcast I am just of the opinion that we not try and record on teamspeak again.  We have access to a more private mumble server, and I am guessing from now on we will just use that one instead.  A lot of folks have suggested skype, but none of us are really skype users… so that would take its own trial and error to figure out how to really use it.

Last night we finished recording around 9:30 and I started editing by 10 pm.  I did not actually finish editing the podcast until well after 12:30.  The hard part was trying to glue together enough audio out of the garbled sections to make sense of what was being said.  I’ve listened to most of it while I was editing and I think the end result works.  However if you hear something that doesn’t quite make sense…  it was probably me trying to make the of a corrupted segment of speech.  While I don’t think the show was our weakest, it definitely made for some strained recording time since we kept having to redo segments that did not transmit.  Hopefully what did make it through is enjoyable.

Fly That Geek Flag High

In this weeks episode we have the original cast reunited again.  Ashgar is back from doing whatever it was that Ashgar was doing the week before, and Kodra is back from the awesome gaming convention Origins.  As we had talked two weeks ago, Kodra gave us a run down of what exactly he did at Origins.  This leads to a little discussion about something that is unfortunate in the gaming and geek communities…  geek on geek shaming.  Apparently Kodra catches some crap from the Magic the Gathering gamers for his choice of playing the My Little Pony card game.  But hey we pretty much support all potential diversions here on AggroChat.

Additionally we talk about the Warlords of Draenor expansion and my experiences so far with the Alpha.  We also talk at length about the Wildstar patch schedule and our hopes that they are actually able to maintain it.  Join us for these topics along with a bunch of other ones that just get slipped in here and there was we go.  Since neither Ash or Kodra were here to talk E3 2014, we do a bit of a callback there as well to talk about a few things that make people excited.  Remember to let your geek flag fly high, but remember to respect everyone else’s choice of flag as well.

Crimzon Clover World Ignition

For the last couple of weeks I have been trying to get enough time to really give this game a proper playing.  My friend Ashgar and I seem to be the only folks in our immediate circle of friends that really appreciate the “bullet hell” shooter.  So when a new one comes out, he sometimes throws it on my game pile because he knows I will actually play it with him.  The latest one of these is a random gifting of Crimzon Clover, and if you want to see a more logical and proper write-up about the game check out Ash’s blog.  The other night when he was working on his indepth reviews of the game I took a break from Four Job Fiesta and Wildstar to play Crimzon Clover with him.  I say play it with him… but mostly we just happened to be on voice chat at the same time while both of us are in game.  It sadly does not support internet multiplayer gaming.

CrimzonClover_WI 2014-06-22 08-43-26-121 The game actually does a fair bit of bait and switch.  When I booted it up and started playing the other night I originally thought it was going to be a “Shmup” and not really a “Bullet Hell” shooter.  This however changes quickly as it somewhat eases you into the game play as you get used to the movement controls and various attacks.  By the time you reach the first boss however things have escalated to the point where you are dodging the attacks like crazy.  The game itself is extremely clean and the controls responsive.  This is the sort of game where you just hold down the fire button at all times and spend the rest of your time looking for the only safe spot on the screen.  I question in this genre why the fire isn’t just toggled on and left on, since there is never really a point at which you don’t want to be holding it down.

CrimzonClover_WI 2014-06-22 08-43-43-581 As is often the case with this type of game you end up with the choice between different ships.  Type-I tends to be the most baseline and the easiest to control, whereas Type-II and Type-III give you a benefit in one area but make another area variable through the play session.  I started off trying Type-II but quickly fell back on going with the tried and true “default option”.  Ash actually managed to beat the game, but I only made it through boss number four before deciding my fingers were too sore to continue onwards.  Apparently in order to truly beat the game, you have to make it through without hitting continue.  If you do that you get a different ending and I believe a different boss encounter.  This also seems to be a theme with a lot of these very serious games.  I remember in the BlazBlue games there were “good” endings and “bad” endings depending on how you did in the earlier content leading up to the final encounter.

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I have to say this game is a really good entry into the genre, and combined with Danmaku Unlimited 2 gives some seriously good options for Bullet Hell shooters on steam right now.  I am happy that this genre is alive and well and did not die with the death of arcades.  This specific title is interesting in that it is what they call a Doujin or essentially the Japanese version of an Independent PC game.  This appears to be another thing that steam is doing right, in that it is giving these games a market in the united states.  Recettear is another one of these Doujin games and it has been wildly popular and also likely would never have been seen here without steam.  If you dig the Bullet Hell shooter genre, this is one of the more pristine examples I have seen in a long while.  You should totally check it out  because right now during the steam sale you can pick it up for only $7.  This game is more than worth that money even if you only slightly like shooters.

Grand Anniversary

No Free Lunch

Last night was Saturday night, and that means we recorded another episode of the Tales of the Aggronaut podcast…  AggroChat!  We had a few odd things going on last night.  Firstly Rae was off travelling in world visiting her longtime friends Ahi and Bez.  This means she was completely unavailable.  Additionally Kodra was travelling, and connected in from crappy hotel wifi in San Francisco… leading him to be a little bit robotty.  However we pushed through all of this and picked up a 4th player in the form of our good friend Tam.  He had been talked about plenty of times on the podcast already, and it only seemed fitting to have him sub in.  Super thankful for him to be willing to do it in a pinch.  We talked about all manner of things including Hex Closed Beta, ArcheAge and the concept of selling entry into the beta process, and our ideal scenarios as far as character building and abilities in MMOs go.

We are going to have to find a way to stay more on topic, because each episode has increased every so slightly in length.  The first one was right at an hour, the second an hour and fifteen minutes, and this one roughly an hour and thirty minutes.  We could have formal topics that we push through, but I personally like the meandering format, because it means it is more like the natural conversations we already have.  I wish I had kept rolling because moments after I cut the podcast off we had a pretty epic conversation about how Lucasfilm is disavowing the entire Expanded Universe concept… and while we will miss some things maybe it isn’t so much of a bad idea.  There were some really odd fan service things about the Expanded Universe that don’t really hold up story wise.

Steampowered Sunday #11

When Elder Scrolls Online released on a Sunday, it pretty much put a severe halt to my blog series known as Steampowered Sunday where I take some time and play a game from my backlog of titles.  Last night during the podcast we were talking about a game that Ashgar had been playing this week that fell firmly into the Bullet Hell genre.  Kodra seemed to think this was madness, and having been a big fan of Ikaruga I totally understood the draw.  There was a time period when I used to play lots of bullet hell shooters and pre-hell shooters.  Gradius, Darius Twin, Raiden Trad… all games I remember fondly.  I was never particularly good at them, but I enjoyed them nonetheless.  I remember playing 1942 on the nintendo for hour upon hour trying to make my way through all the stages.

At some point I just stopped playing them.  I think it was during the death of the dreamcast, but when I bought my PS2 I just simply stopped picking up the games anymore.  While I have Gradius 5 on my PS2, I guess my tastes in games changed a bit.  This honestly more than anything represents a period of time when I stopped playing consoles very much and started consuming games almost exclusively on the PC.  Every now and then I would flirt with a new shooter like the ever amazing Jamestown, but I never really got heavily into it again.  Last night in an attempt to cold boot this series again, Ashgar griefed me by gifting me a copy of a really rather awesome bullet hell shooter on steam.  At face value Danmaku Unlimited 2 reminds me of a less technical cousin to Ikaruga.  The soundtrack is in part what makes the gameplay, and helps you do what is needed to make it through the levels.  The secret to a bullet hell is to zone out and focus only on the pattern and not so much about the rest of the noise on screen.  Only a few things can actually hurt you, so you focus in on those things.

The hilarity of my play through is that after years of not playing these games my reflexes that had built up are completely gone.  In addition I am playing this game roughly thirty minutes after waking up.  So yeah I do pretty bad.  Ashgar tried to make me feel better by saying that I did significantly better than he did the first time.  Essentially the gameplay video is roughly seventeen minutes and the point at which I ran out of lives to keep going.  I made it to about the mid point of stage four.  All in all I think I did a pretty good job.  The awesome thing about the game is it is really cheap.  So for the price you cannot beat this kind of bullet hell goodness.  I feel like there is a lot of customization in the way you set up the game.  I went with pretty generic options and was playing on easy, so I think there is a lot more depth to be had there if I dig into it.  Probably going to stream some more of me trying to play it later.  In any case… I have successfully rebooted the Steampowered Sunday feature.  Long live me playing through my steam backlog!

Grand Anniversary

Last but definitely not least… today is the one year anniversary of the Grand Experiment… my attempt to blog something each and every day.  This means as of today I have made a post every single day for a year.  That is a pretty significant feat and I am really damned proud of myself for sticking with it.  At this point I figure I am going to try and make it another whole year without letting the beat drop.  It hasn’t been the most easy thing to do, but I want to take a moment to thank my wife who has been extremely supportive in this adventure.  There have been days where I might not have made it through the post without her just assuming that it was going to happen and giving me time and space to do so.  Additionally I want to thank my friends who have supported me in this madness and my readers.  There have been moments when I felt alone in my mission, and was surprised at how many of you have reached out your arms to help me along the way.  Somehow I have gone from being the least regular of bloggers… to the most regular, and it is a pretty insane transition.  I feel like I have grown a lot in the past year, and I thank you all for helping me with it.