Monday, March 2, 2009

New Home

I've recently moved PALG to a new place.

You can find it here.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

You Can Look, But You Can't Touch

You’ve selected the porn you want to watch based on your preferences for the session. Perhaps you chose her because she reminds you of someone. Perhaps you chose her for her ethnicity. For her shape. Her expressions, because her moaning doesn’t sound like an act for the camera.

Perhaps you chose her for the setup, which is merely an excuse for her outfit. The classroom. The office. The living room of your best friend’s mother. Don’t underestimate what will soon be taken off.

She walks into the office, dressed as an executive in a gray jacket and matching skirt, nylons, and high heels whose color matches the choker, the one accessory besides her mannerisms that seem out of place.

Without seduction she starts unbuttoning her blouse, hiking up her skirt. She teases you by arching her feet, the sexiest curve on a woman. She takes off her glasses, decides to keep her hair tied back. The jacket comes off. Breasts hang out of her bra, but her blouse is still on because she's holding onto the desk, begging to be penetrated from behind.

She takes a pounding though it's rough on her terms since she is the one dictating the pace. She swings her legs over to get into a mounting position. Blouse and bra come off. Calf muscles tighten up. Sweat is trickling down her body. Her bucking is loosening strands of hair from its clip. She is wearing herself out, is swept up and dropped onto her back. Legs are spread and held high; glamorous in its own way. Whimpers and moans. One hundred and ninety-five pounds slamming into her. She can take it.

Her breathing is rapid. There is a sheen on her skin; her chest and lower back. Her hair clip is broken. She doesn’t need to push her hair back because sweat is clinging it to her face. She has been pushed and shoved and penetrated. She is slack, can barely keep her head up. And when the dance is done, she can drop down onto her knees and find comfort in a scene well-executed.


And so the adventure begins. A common line among games trying to pull you into its gunpowder or sword and sorcery epic. You usually start as level 1, equipped with gear whose adjectives are unimpressive; there is no weight behind leather, no strength behind iron. Sometimes your origin is humble, sometimes you have proven yourself to the little world you live in.

You set out on your journey to save the world. You meet the spectrum of characters. Experience is gained with every kill. Generic equipment is sold to make room for special gear with added effects; complete an optional side quest and you just might be awarded the most powerful weapon/armor in the game. Your stats and skills will increase. There is a ceiling to your levels. When you are three-quarters of the way there, not even the final boss can touch you.

Imagine a third-person action-adventure game that lets you take control of a character on a quest to save the world. Maybe she has a humble childhood, uneventful teenage years, and when she becomes an adult, a world event shockwaves through her little existence and destroys her comforts. She knows where the detonation occurred, always has it in her sights. Her alpha has been established. The omega is something she would have never imagined.

And so the adventure begins. The premise is nothing special since it can describe quite a number of games. There may be themes, but like books, themes are usually not the hook. Whatever the pull, there is no denying the game has been designed to immerse you into an epic journey with an equally outlandish destination. The game will offer you monsters to kill, dungeons to raid, pursuers to escape from, allies that will become your family, and a love interest that will embrace you in the final shot. The difference in this game is in your character’s changing appearance.

The majority of games don’t have to establish you, the player, as the almost godlike character that will cut through an obscene amount of monster mobs to reach the last boss. You may overpower the aggressors, but the only thing about you that is truly invincible is your clothing. No matter how many times you are hit by objects of varying size and velocity, your appearance will always be pristine. There are game that have battle-damage yet is nothing more than damage from that battle - something that will heal when the stage is complete.

The kind of damage this game aspires to is fatigue. The game doesn’t aim for real-time clothing damage. Like how a character’s outfit is a reflection of their personality, the damages on the clothing reflect the physical and mental state of the character at a given point in the story; like a character’s trajectory only this plots change in appearance. It’s reasonable to have her start in clothing that is in relatively good condition. And she will go through wardrobe changes, but when she reaches the final boss, she will not be untouched.

You have put her through an adventure that has lasted fifteen of your hours. She has killed countless baddies and probably has been hit twice that. Her weapon and armor are beaten, much like her skin. You can see it. The change in appearance, the expression on her face matching her body language. Her shoulders are slouch, she can barely keep her head up. Perhaps the clip holding up her hair has broken. She doesn’t need to push her hair back because sweat is clinging it to her face. She has been pushed and shoved and penetrated yet she still has fight in her because she has to unleash herself onto one more person. And when the dance is done, she can drop down onto her knees and take comfort that it’s over.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

IM Conversation #4

12:41:44 PM mike d: it's amazing how much char customization affects my enjoyment of a game.
12:43:05 PM Tai: Are you speaking towards the lack of customization in The Witcher?
12:44:02 PM mike d: i started doing tour mode in rock band 2. and then from boob, i learned that you can do a roundabout way of customizing your entire band - instead of randomized chars filling in the spots for every song. this was enough for me to restart tour mode.
12:44:09 PM mike d: yes, and then there is the witcher
12:44:33 PM mike d: "god this fool looks stupid."
12:46:53 PM mike d: "i dont care if his weps appear on his boody. i wanna change his face, dangnabit."
12:48:31 PM Tai: How are you enjoying that, by the way?
12:49:27 PM mike d: another thing that bothers me aboot the game is that i have a difficult time with the combat's feedback. i not only cant tell if im getting hit but how much it's hurting...
12:50:54 PM Tai: There's no indication anywhere?
12:51:05 PM mike d: since the combat is based around timed clicking, combine this with his manic combat animations, my eyes focus on this instead of the floating numbers and their effect on the various life/endurance/something else bars
12:51:22 PM mike d: the floating numbers are really small
12:52:17 PM mike d: at least with the baldurs, there is feedback text and a drowning in blood portrait
12:52:35 PM mike d: and screaming
12:53:17 PM Tai: So have you died in the witcher as a result of being unable to gauge your health?
12:53:20 PM mike d: witcher has screaming, but not "oochies." more like "harrrgh, im swinging hard, swinging fast!"
12:54:29 PM mike d: ive only played the first area. the boss was the only dude who was doing significant damage
12:55:03 PM Tai: And then you went back to Rock Band.
12:55:32 PM Tai: ...which coincidentally is also about timed clicks.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

IM Conversation #3

Concerning Dead Space....

1:24:50 PM Tai: I don't like the idea of a remotely manipulated sawblade.
1:25:17 PM Tai: I mean, c'mon. It's not like the Ishimura is a giant fucking woodshop churning out side cabinets.
1:26:21 PM mike d: "my dad used to have me chop wood. we didnt even have a fireplace."
1:28:22 PM mike d: maybe that's why you see so many sawblades lying around
1:28:36 PM Tai: "there wasn't much where we lived. No birds, no rabbits. Lots of trees though. When I complained about this he'd simply rustle his splinter-laden hands through my sawdusty hair and say 'shut up now, son, and eat your wood'."
1:31:23 PM mike d: "im gonna be someone important, dad! im gonna get outta this life and be a part of something greater than this goddamn woody community. maybe i'll even join a planet-cracker ship. like the ishimura!"
1:34:23 PM Tai: "Now look here son, this might not be much of a life, but this is an honest life, a woody life. I don't want you running off to go mess with no rocks, you're a wood-boy, nailed and boarded. Heavens, what would you do in space? Where would you find sawblades?"

"There'll be sawblades in space!"

"Don't be stupid son, what would rock-miner-folk be doing with sawblades?"


"Don't be silly now, no damn space-idiot would use a sawblade to cut a rock. Now sit down and finish your wood."

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

IM Conversation #2

Concerning Metal Gear Solid 4....

12:09:56 PM Tai: So are otakon and snake really roommates?
12:10:35 PM mike d: along with a little girl who cooks them eggs
12:11:20 PM mike d: she cooks them sunny side up cuz it has fortune-telling powers or some such nonsense
12:12:12 PM Tai: Metal Gear Solid: Egg Eater
12:12:23 PM Tai: ...does she actually tell fortunes using eggs?
12:13:10 PM mike d: actually, it never becomes a subplot. more like a character quirk
12:13:51 PM mike d: they mention it a few times, but it turns out to be nothing
12:13:55 PM Tai: Darn. I hear MGS4 could use some more subplots.
12:20:00 PM Tai: do they explain where the girl comes from?
12:20:54 PM mike d: she is the daughter of a char from the second game. and as usual, she is super genius
12:21:54 PM mike d: she is so super genius that she types using 2 keyboards
12:21:56 PM Tai: Which character? "Hybrid Gold Genius Wombat"?
12:22:50 PM mike d: the boss you fight in the demo. white-haired chick
12:23:02 PM mike d: forget what her specialty was
12:23:20 PM Tai: So wait, you kill the shit out of her, then steal her ovaries or something?
12:24:26 PM Tai: It must be very symbolic that she serves them eggs then.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Insane Choices in a Sane World

I'll just slip it out: I have the biggest erection for James Cameron.

Aliens is a great sequel. It takes the core elements of the first and expands it without trivializing it. You have action scenes where every explosion has a purpose, and you have characters with trajectories - at that level the movie is the relationship between a mother and a child. Ripley starts by going to LV-426 to make sure the aliens are destroyed; she has no intention of killing them herself because her fear overshadows her hate and because she isn't trained like the colonial marines. She finds a survivor, and from this point on, Newt is her mission. Yes, killing the aliens is still a part of it, but again, she is still relying on the marines. The moment Gorman stutters is the moment Ripley steps up to become one of the greatest action heroes in movie history, the mother of all mothers willing to run into the worst situation imaginable to rescue a child.

And Ripley's head-tilt when that egg opens, it's an attitude more badass than the rage that follows. Explosions can be cool, but a well-placed well-expressed character action, that's what blows me away.

Terminator 2 is the perfect sequel.

Role reversal is the weapon of choice. Sarah Connor becomes protector to John like Kyle Reese was to her, and when she goes after Miles Dyson, she becomes for a moment the killer who “can’t be bargained with, can’t be reasoned with.”

The villain of the first becomes the hero in the second. The Terminator protects John, who teaches it to act more human, and the unforeseen result is it becomes his father-figure.

The premise is outlandish, but the characters' purposes and emotions respectfully bring it down to our level of understanding and appreciation.

Why can't video game sequels do the same?

I marathon-watched season one of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. From the start TV John is uncomfortable and more importantly not confident about his future role - one scene in the pilot has him pleading to his mother that he can't keep this up ("this" being running), that "I don't believe what people think I am, some messiah." His introductory scene has him angry at Sarah because they have to relocate again. John gives her more attitude when they start fresh in a hick town, where he further complains about not having "the right clothes" and having to deal with school computers "from the 50's," which Sarah berates him for because he might get caught hacking. His response: "jeez, I know the rules, they are like written on the inside of my eyeballs."

Let's look at Movie John. We know Sarah was aggressive with him. In the parking lot scene, John tells his Terminator that she kept reminding him that he is going to be "this great military leader;" also, that they spent a lot of time in "Nicaragua and places like that" with "crazy ex-Green Beret" guys. The assumption is that he was scared and scarred, but later on in the scene where he is in the underground weapons depot, he says "I grew up in places like this so I figured this is how people lived," which he conveys with excitement. Back to the parking lot, John continues his monologue: his mother being busted and him being told "your mother is a psycho, kid, didn't you know" which he then confides "it's like everything I was brought up to believe was bullshit. I hated her for that!"

There is no reason for TV John to be whiny and snappy to his mother since he no longer has any reason to doubt her. He shouldn't feel uncomfortable because he grew up in the gunrunner's world - and of course, T2 wasn't a corset period piece. An argument can be made that just because he was around these adrenaline-fuled situations doesn't mean he accepted them while wearing sunglasses at night. Thing is, in the movie there hardly any scenes where he is helpless in the fetal position; he never has anyone step in front of him to do something he could do himself - again, Sarah raising him to be a great military leader. Though there are things he figures out for himself:

"You can't just go around killing people!"
"You can't, ok."
"Because you just can't."

And then:

"This is tactically dangerous. It might anticipate this move."
"I don't care, we got to stop her."
"Killing Dyson might actually prevent the war."
"I don't care! Haven't you learned anything yet, haven't you figured out why you can't kill people?"

John Connor is not perfect. He knows from watching his mother what consequences a hothead brings and at the same time he is willing to compromise his cool if his mother is in danger.

A hero with flaws is not enough. Some can argue that after T2, John can take comfort in trying to live a normal life which in turn would give him reasons to be unsure of his messiahness.

But think about it: John can never have a normal life. Yes, torching Cyberdyne could have prevented the war, but nobody knows that. All people know is they are wanted criminals. The Connors won't know if they were successful until Aug. 29, 1997 so if he is a leader he should fully accept that he is on-call until that date, and even if the date comes and goes without explosions, he should be prepared for the life on the run.

This is his sacrifice.

Sequels for video games haven't affected me like T2 has. Doesn't help they are more about refinement of the original's gameplay instead of continuation of the story. Characterization is important to me, and that is my failing when it comes to gaming. I don't cross my arms and huff when a game tries to be nothing more than its gameplay, but I will be critical of games that tout its story. The Zelda games never intended to tell anything grander than a simple tale about a boy trying to save the world. Gears of War 2, though, injected itself with a variety of steroids, and while the characters are still insanely thick, their actions and emotions are still limp dick.

My ideal would be to play a game that had T2 values and sensibilities. Thing is, what's the point of a story where the gameplay contradicts or belittles it? What's the point in having your hero believe in the value of human life if your hero goes around killing people to advance to the next part of the map?

Does this mean you can't create a game with this message? Of course not. You just have to be wary of player actions poking holes into your story. Nor am I saying this particular theme is the pedestal. There are other heights games should look to besides the villain crossing the horizontal line to save the world their way. The relationship between two best friends, the relationship between parent and child. The willingness to sacrifice tangible parts for intangible gains. The need to prove a point even if it means you become a pariah.

Because who knows. If games start toying around with mature ideas and infatuations, maybe we can create new gameplay ideas.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

You Are Useless

GimmeCookies, Bullet Hell, Bullet Ballerina, and Mean Bitch. They are Hard On. Harmonix says the name is not "classy."

We play nothing below hard difficulty, are one gig away from being a Rolling Stones Rock Immortal. Judas Priest's Painkiller is the last song for that playlist. It's an Impossible song with difficulty ratings all in the red. I like the challenge. I hate the song.

We had a bumpy start, Hard On and I. We barely 4-starred songs, hardly ever received comments beneath the completion percentage. "That was a terrible solo. Next time how bout strumming instead of crying on the amp.”

Pearl Jam's Alive killed me. "You're never getting a bus," Merch Girl said.

Normally I'd be pissed. Games don't beat me, I beat games! Exactly who I screamed this to, I don't know. I guess that's why I'm a loser.

I've played at Savile Row so many times people think I'm paying off a debt. "Play something other than Pretty in Pink you pussy!" Sadly, it’s not the fans but Bullet Hell who is telling me this.

I do play other songs, but only in Practice Mode, where I don't get to play with my Hard On.

You see, I like Practice not because I can change the speed of a song but because it loads much faster than playing in Tour - I've got to pick a city, a venue, a gig, at least 2 songs, and then I gotta sit through an autosave and a "communicating with the rock central servers" load. I’m the dude who likes his MP3 player to go from on to autoplay in one button press.

Part of it feels like I'm cheating on the band by not having them rock out in the background, and the other part rationalizes that I'm practicing for them.

Look, I know we haven't Toured in a while, but look at what I can do now.

I like to think when I 98% a song on Hard, Hell is smiling at me.

So by Practicing, we were able to get the bus. And a plane, a sound guy, and a world promoter, who I almost failed to impress.

"You must hate the 70's like you hate practicing with us," Hell says to me.

"I’m sorry."

"Yeah, a sorry sack. When you gonna step up and Expert some songs?"

"I can Expert songs."

"Besides Pretty in Pink, you pussy!"