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Minor spoilers for a tomb in Shadow of the Tomb Raider

Butch:

I raided a tomb! The one with the big assed Galleon in the cave. I think there must be a legend about big assed galleons in caves, because didn’t Uncharted 4 have something like that? And junior said he read a book with Mayan shit in it with a ship in a cave.

Anyway, did that. Good tomb. I can not drown for longer, which is always a good thing.

But I played some other stuff, too, and that is where we shall blog.

So I got this little mini Super Nintendo for Xmas last year, which I have played with some, and I busted it out with the kids yesterday. We played some Street Fighter 2, some old school Mario, kids messed around with Final Fantasy 3 and Secret of Mana. And an observation: These games are HARD. Now, some of that was that they had to make them hard to make them longer. The original Super Mario game only takes about 70 minutes to beat if you don’t die, and people weren’t gonna shell out fifty bucks for 70 minutes. Dying fluffed it up. But the big thing I noticed that led to difficulty was there were no tutorials. You pick up Street Fighter, there’s no period of time where they’re all “Press X to kick! Now kick a few times! Used to it? Cool! Now press Y to punch….” It’s just Load screen, pick your character, GO!

This was true of the RPGs as well. Boom! Right into the fray!

And in some ways that was a little frustrating, but then, once we figured it out, it was fun. And it was nice not having a little prompt show up every time we could do something.

As a time frame, these games were from about 1992-1994.

So I start this day wondering…have we gone too far in the other direction? Yes, you weren’t playing games in 1992, but you can still ponder if things are too damn hand holdy. Prompts, quest markers, highlighted things you can use, etc.

Shit, just a few weeks ago I was complaining that the game didn’t teach me about swinging to lights and HOW DARE A GAME DO THAT!!!

Now I’m having an internal debate with myself.

Whatchu think?

Feminina:

Hm. That’s an interesting question. An initial thought–this was back in the days when games had manuals, right? Which people would sometimes read. So in a way, they could afford to teach you nothing in-game, because there was some expectation that if you didn’t want to just flail until you figured it out, you could RTFM.

And I think probably mostly people DIDN’T read the manuals, which is probably why games don’t bother with them anymore, but the flip side of that is that if you have no manual, you can’t just tell people to read it if they can’t figure something out.

I think that “if I can’t look it up for myself in accompanying literature (because expecting people to look something up online doesn’t count), you should clearly explain to me how to do it” is fair.

Now, whether we need to continue to have it explained to us after we’ve learned it once, I don’t know, that’s another question. Because you’re right, in theory once we know that we can hit X to open a box we don’t have to SEE the X hovering over the box every single time. Maybe we could just know that when we walk up to the box, we hit X!

I remember in Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood they actually played with that a bit…if you recall, most of an AC game takes place inside the Animus, which is essentially a video game, and you get all the usual prompts for everything. So you get used to that, but then there are sequences (especially one near the end) where your character OUTSIDE the Animus is running around climbing buildings and stuff, and you don’t get the prompts, you’re just climbing and jumping from your memory of what buttons to push.

I thought it was really cool, actually. Some very interesting moments where you kind of merge with the character in the sense that you’re both relying on muscle memory of things you’ve been practicing during the game, and you feel pretty cool because hey, I’ve mastered this stuff!–but there’s a slight edge of danger now because what if I don’t remember something quite right and I try to jump to that ledge but instead just leap into space or something? Also, it was really visually clean and cool, because you’re just running around in this environment with no distractions from mini-maps or menus or prompts.

Maybe it would be cool if games turned off the prompts more often, at least for obvious, basic things that we know how to do.

On the other hand, prompts for obvious, basic things don’t really serve as reminders of how to do something, so much as they show us WHERE we can do the thing. Which is important. I mean, if we don’t have some clue to differentiate the stuff we can interact with from the stuff we can’t, we’re going to either miss things or (and let’s be honest, it’s this one) spend a ton of time clicking EVERY SINGLE BOX/BAG/BARREL EVERYWHERE to make sure we don’t miss things. And then we’ll be annoyed because we’re wasting a lot of time trying to loot when there’s no loot.

So…do we need hand-holdy instructions on how to do everything? No.

Do we want hand-holdy information on what specific things we can do stuff with? Yes. Yes we do.

And there are obviously different ways to provide this information. Maybe all the lootable boxes glow: they do in the game we’re playing, if you hit Survival Instincts, so maybe they could just ALWAYS glow, or something. (I remember in Dragon Age: Origins, lootable things would always sparkle. That worked. Just look around for the sparkle! Every time, before you leave an area, look around and make sure you’re not leaving any sparkle!)

Or, in the Tomb Raider we’re playing, climbable rocks look different. Climbable walls have white streaks. Etc. There’s no ‘hit square to use your axe to climb those pockmarked-looking rocks’ after the tutorial, they just expect you to know that. (Although if it’s been a while since you did something, they do put in the reminder prompt. Like, they always prompt me to hit square while jumping to throw the grapple axe and swing from something. I remember that!–but they always tell me.)

So they already take away prompts for things that can be visually highlighted in another way. I guess they just don’t like the way sparkly boxes look.

In closing, I don’t know what I think, exactly, except that I would be extremely annoyed if I had to click every box instead of having lootable ones hover the X when I got close. Also, sometimes the angle can be really picky, so you have to be standing just right to make the X pop up–imagine if you had to be standing just right to loot, but there WAS no X (or other visual hint). You’d never know whether you hadn’t looted a thing because there was no loot, or because you just weren’t looking at it right. I would HATE that.

Also keep in mind that if we find this particular game too hand-holdy, we can increase the difficulty, and things like the white smears on wall will go away (although I don’t know about the X for looting boxes). Maybe what would be cool is more of that…more options to turn off prompts? The ability to say “I’d prefer to flail around until I figure it out”?

A final thought for the moment…as you say, I wasn’t playing games in the 1990s, but didn’t a lot of them only have, like, five things you could do? It’s obviously a lot more reasonable to expect someone to figure out 5 things by trial and error button-pushing, than however many things Lara Croft has to do.

Butch:

Hmm. True. They did have manuals. And I don’t know about “people,” but I read every damn word before I even started. Even the huge ones that listed all the spells.

Though another thing games, back in the day, DID lack was a learning curve. There wasn’t some convenient tutorial where you were a kid and had to practice shooting with your mentor or some shit. It was “Hit start! AAAAAANNNNND GOOOOO!” And that’s not really a manual thing. That said, the benefit is that you got good pretty fast. Usually.

But I’m not so sure that I’d want a game that didn’t have SOME learning curve.

Dear God yes with the ‘hit X’. Shit, as you say TR even has text EACH TIME! “Grapple Axe: Hit square while jumping to-” I KNOW!

Maybe you can turn that off.

I’m gonna turn that off if I can.

But I WILL add that you could make different objects harder or easier to find. Lootable boxes? Light ’em up. But, say, the treasures in UC. They sparkled, sure. But not crazy obviously. Enough that you knew you didn’t have to click over every inch of everything, but subtle enough that finding them wasn’t often the easiest thing. There was some challenge. So there’s sparkly and there’s sparkly.

Ooo that AC example is cool! But then, AC had a very specific narrative device that allowed that to make sense.

Maybe that’s the way things are going. Options for different hand-holding levels for different things. I’m gonna try turning up the difficulty. Maybe that’ll work.

As for the number of things you had to do… yes and no. Some games, sure. Hit the button, the ship fires. But a game like, say, Street fighter, you could move, jump, crouch, block, punch, kick AND the characters all had special moves that weren’t exactly obvious. More than once yesterday one of us did something awesome and said “How’d I do that? I want to do that again!” but we couldn’t figure out what, exactly, we did.

But Lara doesn’t REALLY have that much variety. I’ve gotten to the point where I just hit square every time I’m in the air, just in case I have to grapple or grab on once I land. Safer that way. So sure, there’s grapple axe, grapple to ledge and “catch yourself,” but it’s really all just “Hit square while in the air.” Same with guns. 97 guns, but aim, fire. Etc.

But yes, she does have more to do than eating dots or shooting space invaders. That is so.

Feminina:

I do that too–hit square anytime I jump, just in case I might need to grab something with the axe. And then as soon as I land, hit circle, just in case I might need to stop myself from losing my grip and falling off. There’s that skill ‘never have to hit circle to catch yourself’ or whatever, and I will never bother to get it, because hitting circle is such a habit I’d probably keep doing it even if I didn’t ever have to.

I have to say, I like some learning curve, although it depends on the game. I mean, if it’s the sort of game where you just ARE going to die all the time and that’s how you learn, and you reload again right away–fine, I guess. Dive right in, flail, pick it up as you go.

I don’t usually play–or particularly want to play–those games, though. So, again, a lot of it is maybe the context of the game itself.

Butch:

Yeah. Grabbing the edge is something I don’t need help with. Though having both “breathe under water longer” ones, that’s gold. That’s what the galleon gives you, if you haven’t done it. And it makes some sense in context. Have you done it?

True about the context. And, as you say, if you reload RIGHT AWAY that’s one thing. Some games, like, say, this one, have LOOOOOOONG load times, and who wants to die often, or at all, when that’s the case?

Feminina:

Yeah, I did the galleon and collected the extra breath-holding one. Very handy. This game really likes its underwater sequences.

And they really aren’t so bad, when you don’t have to come up for air every 10 seconds.

Butch:

That made sense, though. All that practice swimming. Of COURSE she got better.

Not a bad tomb, that.

Feminina:

Yeah, it was pretty cool. Big old ships in the middle of mountain caverns have a certain spooky novelty. I was into it.

Butch:

Novelty…if you didn’t finish UC4.

Feminina:

Hey…some people haven’t!

Butch:

But YOU have.

Must be a Mayan thing. Or Aztec. What are these guys supposed to be? Incan?

Whatever.

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That Elusive Balance

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Some spoilers for Shadow of the Tomb Raider plot and combat

Butch:

So did the bit in the mountain temple. You know, the bit where the entire narrative point was to say “Did we say the kid was kidnapped? Our bad. It’s the mother.”

Well….”did” is a stretch. “Completed” is more like it. Here’s why.

So there’s that bit there where you have to get to a gate and there’s all sorts of Qevin (sticking with it until the game is over) between you and it. Well, died, maybe, six times. Couldn’t figure out groups, wished I could whistle, got found when I was in cover but there were two dudes near me, etc. So eventually, after screwing up AGAIN I just decided to run like hell, find a place to get some cover that was a good point to shoot from, and do it the Uncharted way. So I ran, and I hit circle and I panicked and eventually said “High ground! I will get me some high ground!” and found a place to go up! UP I SAY!

And then, turns out that wasn’t high ground, no, that was where I had to be. And cutscene.

So the mighty battle that was designed never came to be. It was six times of Qevin winning a very short battle, and one time of Lara running like holy hell, getting to the top and somehow making Qevin disappear.

Now….bloggage.

I THOUGHT, last night, that today’s post was going to be me worrying that, as I didn’t really DO the fight, that I missed getting stuff. Like a shotgun. I’m still a little worried. Was there stuff in the aftermath of that fight?

But then I realized why the fight was so hard.

It was because I didn’t realize I had a ton of new skills that would have made it FAR easier.

Two, three guys clumped up over there? Yeah, I have flare rounds. Which I had totally forgotten about. Two guys near me when I’m in cover? Yeah, I have “chain takedown.” Which I had totally forgotten about. Those guys who got close with melee weapons? I have the thing where you can dodge counter. Which I had completely forgotten about. Had I REMEMBERED that shit, I might have done it on the first or second go, and done it how it was likely designed.

So that’s on me…..to a point.

We talked a bunch about how Mafia doled out skills and how we liked it. Here….Hmm. See, often when a game gives you a skill or an item, you use it right away. Get used to it. See if you like it. Here, the stuff that would have made this fight…well…work was stuff I got a long time ago. That’s especially true for magpies like us. I had NEVER used any of it! Shit, it had been so long since I had used ANYTHING in combat it took me a while to remember how to switch weapons, let alone do fancy stuff I had never done (I felt like there hadn’t been a fight in forever. Symptom of magpie.)

So on one hand I’m annoyed. I feel like, “Hey, thanks, game, for not teaching me or at least reminding me about those skills. Woulda been handy.” But on the other hand, I’m not sure I see a way around this problem. If you dole out skills in a non linear way (player choice, things that ONLY come from tombs, etc.), then it’s hard to plan a linear way to teach them.

Maybe they just allowed too much magpie. I feel like I had five or six skills in this fight that I didn’t have in the last big fight. That’s a ton. And why? Because there was so much opportunity to magpie, to get XP, to get tomb skills. And I took the opportunity. Maybe if they paced it so you really only had the chance to get, say, two or three new skills before the next fight it would have worked better.

But this kinda didn’t. And what’s really annoying isn’t so much that the frustration of dying happened. It’s, after going back over it in my head, it would have been REALLY cool and satisfying to play had I remembered all the creative ways I COULD have done it.

I’m not gonna replay it, because I’ve now hit a save point past it, so there’s that. But, I guess if you’re gonna be annoyed about something in a level, it’s not that bad of a criticism to say “Oh man, had I played it correctly, that would have been SOOOOO cool.”

I didn’t miss anything, did I?

Feminina:

You didn’t really miss anything. I died several times in that area too, but finally wound up scampering around ducking behind things enough to stay alive until I could kill everyone. Then I looted the bodies, searched the area. Got some loot. Pretty standard.

I agree that it seems like we’ve done, so far, A LOT more exploring/tomb raiding than we have combat. I was just thinking last night how long it had been since I’ve been in a fight. Several game sessions, anyway. And that’s fine, I like the exploring and the climby bits and the tombs, but then, as you say, when you DO get into a fight it’s kind of hard to remember all the things you’ve picked up recently that might help.

“Wait, a fight? How do I fight again?”

I also didn’t really think to use much of the stuff I’d learned since the last fight, although I did make some corpse-bombs. (You know, when you set a trap on a body.) LOVE the corpse bombs.

But take heart, you’re in for quite a bit of fighting in the next bit! Remember all the things you wanted to use in the last one and have them ready! Especially the corpse bombs. (Or whatever trick you particularly like. I suppose it doesn’t HAVE to be corpse bombs.)

And you have not missed the shotgun. It’s up ahead a bit. Have no fear: you’ll see it.

It’s also true that this disorientation is kind of on us as players–we’re the ones who decided to spend 10 game sessions poking around at every spot on the map instead of following up on the main objectives where the combat is. We could have charged straight ahead and kept our fingers in practice!

But in that case, we wouldn’t have half of these new things in the first place, and also, when are we SUPPOSED to do all that poking around (which they obviously want us to do–they didn’t hide documents and artifacts everywhere because they’re really hoping people will ignore them), if not in between story objectives?

So I guess it’s just kind of a hazard of the way the game is so split between combat/story and exploration/tomb raiding. I like both of those things. I want them both in the game. They do require a somewhat different mental approach, and maybe dealing with some lag time in making that transition is just what we need to deal with.

That or learn to pause the game when we see a fight ahead and take a moment to thoughtfully review all our equipment and moves, but whatever.

Butch:

“Wait, a fight?”

Dude that was so me last fight. And I’m still very much in Mafia mode. I tried many times to whistle and wound up switching weapons. Learn to whistle, Lara. It’s a thing.

Dude I don’t think I have corpse bombs! I GOTTA get corpse bombs! Those would have been so handy last night!

Now I’m thinking maybe I already DO have them and it’s another thing I forgot about. Cuz that’s the kind of skill I’d take….

Like we’re gonna pause thoughtfully.

I do want both things in the game, but that balance has been an issue since the first reboot. People were all “Where are the tombs? This is just an Uncharted game with Lara Croft! (which isn’t a bad thing but) Where are the tombs?” So they put in some tombs in Rise, and people were all like “Those were good tombs! MORE TOMBS!” So they did, and that seems to have tipped the balance.

It’s the problem we had with Mafia. Because it was a “mafia game” there had to be all this mafia stuff, even if it didn’t fit. Here, it’s “Tomb Raider,” which means “raid tombs.” The problem is that the original games were a LOOOOOONG time ago. They could be just some simple fighty and tombs and people wouldn’t be all “Why’d I pay 60 bucks for this?” Today, games are a different thing. There’s skills, and open worlds, and exploration, and story and cutscenes, and, if you insist on cramming all these tombs into that, something in the balance is gonna give. Either people will be bad at the reboot (WHERE’S THE TOMBS???? IT’S TOMB RAIDER!!!! ) or you encourage too much magpie.

Feminina:

You’re right: it’s a line that the game is trying to walk, being all packed full of fun tombs and puzzley goodies and big areas to explore, AND being a fast-paced adventure game. Somehow.

But honestly, I’m fine with it. I like both parts of the game. I don’t exactly wish there were fewer tombs in this one (yet). I’ve had fun with them. (Except when they have annoying wolves or annoying Spinny Giant Robots.)

It’s a switch to go from that to a session of fierce combat, yeah, but…that’s fine. I make the switch. And we always do have these experiences, though not necessarily in exactly this way, where we spend a bunch of time for a while just poking around and selling things and crafting or whatever, and then we spend a bunch of time just getting into fights. It’s how games play out, when they offer a combination of things.

And I don’t really want a game that doesn’t, because too much of anything risks becoming dull.

I mean, not necessarily. It always depends. There can be a good game with nothing but puzzles and exploration, with no combat…that was basically The Witness, or Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, or Gone Home….

And of course there are lots of games that are just combat. An entire genre is dedicated to the concept! I don’t find those games appealing, I want some story, but plenty of people love them.

And then in the middle we’ve got our story/exploration/fighting/adventure games that try to do a little of everything, and sometimes do it better than others.

The Reserve for Which We Are Known

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Some minor spoilers for Shadow of the Tomb Raider plot and locations

Butch:

Well, I guess if you’re gonna build a spinny trappy thing, go big or go home.

That was certainly a spinny trappy thing.

Have you noticed a weird quirk in the engineering of the ancient trappy builders? These dudes were working with ancient technology, right? And yet they managed to build these ridiculous contraptions that still function after centuries.

Except for that ONE bit. Like, one peg. They couldn’t get that one bit right.

It’s kinda like home ownership I guess. I’m sure when people came over to see the spinny trappy things they were all “Hey, thanks, yeah, it’s looking nice. But, you know, I haven’t had a guy out to fix that one peg…you know how it goes. Oh, and you probably don’t want to turn on the stove…..”

Feminina:

Truth.

It’s hard to stay on top of every little peg on your giant spinny trap! They’re totally planning to get to that next long weekend, when there’s a little time, if the kids aren’t getting in the way. Probably already have the replacement peg somewhere around here.

Man, I hated that trap. I just couldn’t get the timing right…I completely lost track of how many times I jumped right into the spiked blades while trying to leap over the burning spikes, or whatever. No joke, when I finally finished my throat was scratchy from all the quiet but intense swearing. But hey, it’s over now.

And the crypt up above it, that was hardly annoying at all! The annoying thing I was left with was that I couldn’t figure out how to get over those walls to that whole western side of the map…seems like there’s GOT to be a way, but I couldn’t find it. Did you get back there?

Oh, and I never did shoot an albino capybara. I saw one, but it had scurried into the underbrush by the time I could aim at it, and I didn’t care enough to wait around for another one to show up. I just can’t get very interested in the hunting. I know it’s quick XP, but…meh.

Butch:

Had time to fix it last weekend, but bought the wrong size peg at the hardware store, was going to return it but the kids got nuts, started throwing rocks at guards again, and I’m busy this weekend with the cultist potluck supper…..

It was annoying, that it was. And it had that extra nastiness of giving you the false sense of victory. “PHEW I did it! Wait, what? I have to do the OTHER SIDE TOO? Fuck.”

That’s the worst.

I did not get back to that extra part of the map. And I tried! I found this archivist’s map, and there’s documents that look like they should be RIGHT THERE but there’s cliffs and shit. Must be something that we’ll be able to access later.

I shot an albino capybara last night. It was for an outfit. Boots that help you heal in combat quicker. Figured that was worth a little hunting.

I also finished the outfit that resists projectile damage, but I haven’t been in a fight since then, so I have no idea if it makes any kind of difference.

I also collected the condor feathers, so I completed that challenge, but I don’t know why and I don’t know what they’re for.

Feminina:

At least once you were (finally) done with the first side, it let you reload starting with the second side when you died a few hundred more times. I would have totally flipped out if you had to do the entire thing in one go.

You know what was? Giant robot. Not a very sophisticated robot, but it was a rudimentary, ancient giant robot. And you know my feelings with regards to giant robots.

And another thing: I really, really hate R3-to-sprint. It’s HARD. It makes my thumb physically hurt after a while to be holding the damn thing down, and I’m always finding that oops, turns out I wasn’t pressing hard enough and now I got hit by the spinning blades because I was sauntering instead of sprinting the way I meant to. It’s really obnoxious. I get that they pretty much used all the triggers on other things, but dudes, give me a hold-trigger-to-sprint. Any trigger! PLEASE. I can hold trigger and sprint all day without getting thumb cramps or being run over by something I was trying to race only it turns out I wasn’t pressing R3 right.

I hate it. Thank you for your consideration.

Oh yeah…the ‘vestige’ outfits. I have two or three of those at this point but haven’t gotten around to actually fixing any of them. Should probably work on that. And shoot an albino capybara as long as I’m in the neighborhood.

I don’t think the condor feathers actually do anything, though–it was just a challenge in the sense of “do x number of this action, get XP.” Like shooting the frog totems from the houses or whatever. Or burning communist banners, back in the last one! Good times.

I took the skill that makes challenge objects glow with Survival Instincts, and I still haven’t completed half of them. One can only spend so much time searching the area for totems or feathers or communist banners.

Butch:

Oh, dude, that would have been worse than having to redo the swingy thing, and I would’ve quit games over that.

Preach, sister. They do have that in swimming, the “hold L2 to swim faster.” But what I don’t get is why you need that. Why WOULDN’T I swim faster? I HATE swimming! How about you just make swimming faster? How about we don’t have swimming at all?

MONDAY IS RANT DAY!!!!

The outfits are kinda handy. Well, they sound handy. I’ll let you know how handy once I get into a fight wearing them. Faster healing? Protection from arrows and bullets? These are good things. Theoretically.

You probably need the feathers for a vestige outfit or something, because the first time I got one it said “rare resource,” and when I killed the capybara it said “rare hide,”and that was a thing I needed for an outfit. We shall see.

Dude, I didn’t even know about the totems.

I don’t have that skill.

Feminina:

Yeah, I feel like I’ve seen the hint “hold R2 to run” too, but it never seems to work for me. I try and I swear I just keep sauntering. Unless ‘run’ is different from ‘sprint’?

I don’t know, maybe I’m doing movement all wrong.

Are you not supposed to be hitting circle to dodge every two feet? Ha.

Yeah, faster healing and protection from projectiles DO sound nice. I could get into that. If I ever remembered to a) make the clothes and b) change into the appropriate outfit when it would be useful.

Right now I’m wearing a bunch of green feathers and a mask that I put on for story-related reasons a few evening ago and haven’t bothered to take off even though they provide no benefits whatsoever for exploring tombs. They do explain why I didn’t remember the guy saying anything about a rite of passage, though: that guy’s not talking to me, because I’m no longer wearing the queen’s blue outfit.

Mystery solved! And for once the answer isn’t just “I wasn’t paying attention when someone was talking.”

Please make a note of this day.

Butch:

THIS IS TRULY A MIGHTY DAY!!!!!

Lemme guess: That outfit gets you past that guard where it says “need such and such an outfit” that I don’t yet have, right? An outfit that is apparently good enough to conceal the fact that you’re a slightly built British woman.

Guard: Qevin, you sound different….
Lara: Uh….watched Downton Abbey last night. Just….impersonating my favorite character!
Guard: Oh, love that show. Ok, carry on.

But I don’t know, man. I didn’t even really sprint to get back to the buttons. At first I thought “I should run like hell cuz it’s mentioning sprinting,” but every time I tried that I died, so I took the careful approach and voila.

Man, sprinting and giant robots all at once. This game hates you.

I tried dodging every two feet with the traps. That did not work.

Feminina:

Yup, that’s the outfit. It’s quite dashing, in a feathery, threatening way. You’re gonna love it.

‘Qevin’ is genius.

Butch:

Well, the game went for cultural accuracy. I figured I should, too. Or something.

You know, on that……

This game took a lot of pride in, well, having some degree of cultural accuracy. The fact they did all the native languages is pretty cool. They hired cultural consultants and wildlife consultants and all sorts of shit. That said, I’m never sure how I feel about “cultural accuracy” when it means that all the brown people in the game end up wearing either loin clothes or feathery ceremonial garb. It is a tad striking that the hero of this game is a smartly dressed white woman who always has great hair and all the “accurate” people….aren’t.

And here’s the real thing: games/movies/whatever often will scream “BUT ACCURACY!” when all the brown people are portrayed as they are here, but when a game/movie/whatever by its own definition isn’t going to be totally accurate, then can we forgive it? Can you say “Well, true, the ancient Inca didn’t build spinny trappy things, but hey, we’re going with accurate garb cuz ACCURACY!”

I have, once or twice, found it off putting when Lara is talking to someone, and that someone doesn’t even stand up. The white woman towering over the brown NPC. It’s…..

Hmm.

Feminina:

Agreed, this is an interesting issue. Although I tend to have a slightly different take on those conversations…I always feels like “hey, Lara is so unimpressive to this person that they don’t even bother to get up.”

Or look up from what they’re doing, sometimes. “I’m working, lady. Take this conversation or leave it–I certainly can.”

So it could be “her towering over them/implied position of authority” or it could be “them not bothering to stand up/implied confidence and familiarity”. Which I suppose also implies disrespect, so then you have “these people are rude/unmannered/savage!”…but maybe better rude than subservient when it comes to a portrayal? Hm.

As for accuracy in clothing, that’s why you’re supposed to be wearing feathery vestiges, dude. You wouldn’t notice the contrast so much if you were dressed to blend in. Ha.

Butch:

Do not bait me into saying something about Lara wearing stuff that skimpy for that would certainly be inappropriate.

Feminina:

Hey, I’m wearing feathers and woven bike shorts and a toothy gold mask RIGHT NOW (in the game…not, you know, at work in the library, although that would be pretty great even if chilly), and I’m perfectly decent. Even the local women have sort of woven sleeveless tank things on, which judging by National Geographic stories on ‘primitive tribes’ is perhaps not entirely accurate.

So however much I hate R3 running (a lot) I will say this for the game: minimal gratuitous sexualization of female characters. Nice work, Crystal Dynamics!

Or whoever’s responsible…I always lose track of which of the several companies involved is the primary author.

Butch:

Yeah, but those dudes in the thongs…..

I think this is Eidos Montreal. I think the fact that CD didn’t do it was a big deal. I think. Who knows?

Feminina:

Probably. I think? Who knows.

But yeah, those thongs…it’s ALMOST male nudity, but…alas…

Butch:

Alas, indeed. On any number of levels.

Feminina:

I’m not sure there’s a level on which it is NOT tragic, really.

Too bad it’s not Friday. This is Friday-quality discourse.

Butch:

We’re warming up. Just practicing. Watch out, internet. It’s going to be a long week.

Feminina:

Yeah! Brilliant derailments like ours don’t just HAPPEN. This is SKILL at work, internet.

Butch:

Frankly, I think was a testament to our restraint and erudition that we refrained from going there on the dudes in thongs until this point in our discourse.

Annoying Tomb Number 57

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Some spoilers for tombs and locations in Shadow of the Tomb Raider

Butch:

Well, I did play and have things to say but first may we all take a moment to squeal like fat kids at cake time because:

Bioware Teases Dragon Age 4 – kotaku.com

Ok? That’s out of our system? Ok.

The other thing out of the Game Awards announcements that has my attention (and should have yours as well) is:

Obsidian’s Next Game, The Outer Worlds, Is Basically Fallout: New Vegas In Space – kotaku.com

Interesting. We shall keep an eye.

Ok, finished up annoying wolf tomb, went back to the jungle, went by a guy who was all “This is a rite of passage…you can’t do it” and Lara was all “You don’t know what I can do” (which may be a developing theme?) did a long assed crypt in there, and now I’m by another tomb that seems to want me to go underwater to get in, and you know how I feel about that.

I gotta move the story along, if, for no other reason, I don’t start blog posts with vague shit like the above.

So…..

Was the thing you had to look up on the internet getting a big, spiky ball to swing just so? Like, JUST SO? And were Lara’s helpful hints, like, “there’s a blockage on the path…must clear that blockage?” Because if that’s what you were talking about, I feel ya, Femmy. I feel ya.

Feminina:

EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!

Whew. That was exciting. I mean, there’s basically no actual information, but at least we’ve been promised something. At some point.

Also…Fallout New Vegas in space? Huh. Well, maybe.

And as for the game, that is exactly it. Yes. “There must be a way to clear the blockage.”

So I tried pulling on the other spiky thing a few times and it never worked, tried some other things, tried jumping everywhere and climbing all the walls, repeatedly fell and was eaten by wolves…finally checked the internet which said to pull the other spiky thing.

OK, OK. My bad giving up too soon.

Also, that’s the kind of snappy name that locations need in this game! “Annoying Wolf Tomb” sums it right up.

I don’t think I’ve done the Rite of Passage Tomb, though. We’re just magpieing in different directions, I guess.

Butch:

Hey, man, considering they’ve said that Mass Effect is “on hiatus” and they seem to be pouring resource after resource into this Anthem nonsense, I’m just happy that they still know there is a thing called Dragon Age and they seem to be making an actual game out of it.

That said, I was hyped that a Fallout game was coming out this year…

Yeah, the space thing has enough talent behind it to put it on the maybe pile. Those guys have made some good games. Like, you know, the first two Fallouts. And Pillars of Eternity, which was the game we were gonna play that lost the coin flip to Divinity (sorry, Pillars of Eternity). Resume alone puts it on the maybe pile. We shall keep an eye.

This tomb is way over west of Paititi, in that chunk of the map where there’s, like, a white animal that I can’t find and a crypt the kids told you about and that sort of shit. Way off the path.

Yes. I feel ya. I failed so many times I thought I must be wrong.

And then, THEN, I finally did it, and was so tired that, whilst hopping back to where I had to go to continue, I fell and died, and, as the load screen was up all I could think was “If I have to do that shit again, I’m giving up on video games forever.” Luckily, it took pity, and loaded me after I had done it. Or I would have given up games forever.

At least the perk was worth it.

Feminina:

The tomb perks are good. I do appreciate that. Getting a skill is more useful than some random loot, for sure. The shotgun parts or whatever in the last one were also a nice prize–either one is a good way to make it actually worthwhile to get through these challenges.

West of Paititi? Near the white capybara? I think that might be where I am right now! Although it looked like there might be two tomb/crypt locations, so maybe we’re in different ones, because I don’t remember anyone saying anything to me about a rite of passage. Unless you mean he said it before you even got into the capybara hunting grounds? Somebody might have said something to me on my way into the hunting grounds, but not on my way into this specific tomb.

I’m glad you didn’t give up video games forever. The blog wouldn’t be the same without you. Me trying to discuss games with myself would be just a long series of posts saying “I don’t remember who talked to me or what they said, but I did some stuff. Got eaten by wolves. Didn’t hear any music. Wished there were more MALE NUDITY. Looted all the loot I could loot and then had to dump half of it in a pile by the road when I got overencumbered. The end.”

Butch:

Which isn’t all that different from now…..

I am questioning my self worth.

Very worthwhile perks. Still don’t know how she’s, you know, GETTING the skills, but whatever.

Yes! Yes! That’s the one! And the dude was before you had to scootch through a tunnel lined with pointy sticks.

Feminina:

There was totally a handy tip written on that last statue there, that explained how to hold your breath for longer or whatever. It’s perfectly logical! Stop being difficult, dude.

Tunnel lined with pointy sticks…again, there’s a problem of my having encountered enough areas with this description that I can’t be completely sure if we’re talking about the same place. But I think we are!

You squeeze through the pointy sticks and then you’re in this lovely bright sunny jungle, with birds fluttering and creatures scurrying? And there’s a clear rippling stream, and a lot of beautiful greenery? Jungle Vacation postcard material for sure.

That’s where I am! Well, not right now. Right now I’m in yet another bone-filled cavern UNDER there. But the jungle vacation postcard is nearby, filling my soul with restful thoughts while I curse the Annoying Spinny Trap Tomb.

You’re gonna love it.

Butch:

And everyone could have known that tip and become a badass tomb raider had they just thought to push the fucking thing down so they could read it. Silly, silly people.

Yes! Yes! That! WE ARE at the same place! Hooray!

AND at the same part of the main story? Have you rescued the kid?

But…oh no. No no no. No. The tomb right there, the one I was gonna do tonight, is “Annoying Spinny Trap” tomb? Really?

I’m sure it’s gonna be great.

When you finish up in there, if you climb the cliffs around that calm, clear, relaxing pool under which is the entrance to the Annoying Spinny Trap tomb, you will find the crypt I did last night. I don’t think it’s annoying, but I did do it after Annoying Wolf Tomb, so maybe it just wasn’t annoying in a relative sense.

You’re gonna love it.

Feminina:

I am going to love it, if it doesn’t have annoying spinny bits!

It’s gonna be great.

I have gone after the kid, so I think I’m a bit further along in the main story–but we’re in the same place in the gameworld!

Butch:

Ah, man! Thought we were in lockstep again.

It does not have spinny bits. It does have a lot of where do I go have I been here before dammit I have bits.

On tombs….

So Annoying Wolf Tomb was the one that said I needed the rope ascender to do it. Right? It wouldn’t let me in wothout it. But I didn’t actually use it through the whole tomb. Indeed, in the Annoying Swingy Thing bit, I kept thinking there was something with the ascender that I had to do, but no. The only thing I used it on was to pull open a little rock alcove at the entrance that had exactly nothing in it. What was with THAT?

Did I miss something? The fuck gives?

Feminina:

Uh…I don’t know. I didn’t have the rope ascender when I did it. Maybe only that one alcove needed it (that alcove which I did not open, as I did not have the tool, but now at least I know not to bother going back), but when the message popped up about it, the angle of the display looked like it applied to the entire tomb?

The way the helpful hint text displays is sometimes a little distracting. I mean, I kind of like it, the way the note about rappelling down will seem to be kind of hanging down itself…it’s a nice way to mirror the content in the design. But sometimes it does kind of make me pause to think about the text, and pull me out of the moment.

Butch:

Dude, when I went to this place, it was all “You don’t have the gear” kinda thing, and sure as hell was on the entrance, the swan dive there. No idea. Maybe there was something up there that was good? I don’t know. Whole thing was weird.

Didn’t need the rope thing. A shotgun? Wish I had that.

Feminina:

Interesting! I don’t know. I proceeded somehow. Maybe there were two entrances and I found the other one?

The important thing is, neither of us is there now. Freeing us to focus on other annoying things!

No wolves in this one, at least.

Butch:

Thank god.

Cuz I ain’t dealing with that until I have a shotgun.

Even the machine gun doesn’t cut it. Can’t hit a barn with that thing.

Feminina:

I know, aiming with the machine gun is really terrible. Something will be charging right at me and I’ll be shouting “take THIS I will just shoot 50 rounds into the tree slightly to your left and then dodge wildly all over the place to avoid you.”

I showed him all right.

Butch:

Better than me. I usually am all “I shall now empty a clip thus grinding you into mincemeat wait you’re ok and you’re eating me and I’m dead.”

Yup. Showed him good.

Useful Holiday Planning Tips

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No spoilers

Butch:

Ok, strap in cuz today is going to be one of those days here on PFTL that start off the rails and go from there.

I got nothing. Junior’s chorus concert was last night. It was a pretty good concert. They have a great music program, he looked about 22 years old all dressed up, he was very proud.

Buuuuuuut a) that meant no games, which never helps us, b) he stayed up very late and was/is grumpy, c) his BROTHERS stayed up very late and, well, shit.

Add to this the fact that Junior has no school today because conferences and you can imagine that I, your loyal blogmate, is holding onto his sanity by a fingernail.

So I don’t know. Maybe we can embrace our role as the worst holiday blog on the internet. Link it all to games somehow. Recipes for holiday themed health poultices (maybe a little peppermint would improve the taste!). Or…hmm…you knit. You could demonstrate patterns for tacky holiday sweaters to match your favorite shotgun! Or how to create that perfect outdoor display using molotovs (have the most dangerous decorations on your block!).

This day’s gonna be a mess.

I blame myself.

Feminina:

Well, at least it’ll be a short derailed day, because I have to leave early.

In the meantime, holiday ideas…how about video game cookie cutters and delightfully decorated cookies?

Hm. Harder to find than I’d hoped.

Here’s a game controller: https://www.amazon.com/Video-Game-Controller-Cookie-Cutter/dp/B012HPNFS4

Or…some dinosaurs, we could make those into robot dinosaurs, easy: https://www.amazon.com/Dinosaur-Cookie-Cutter-Recipe-Book/dp/B01M0G290B/ref=sr_1_23?s=home-garden&ie=UTF8&qid=1544105713&sr=1-23&keywords=cookie+cutters

Some llamas, for Lara to pet: https://www.amazon.com/Llama-Alpaca-Cookie-Cutter-Set/dp/B07CVNSPPS/ref=pd_lpo_vtph_79_tr_t_2?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=E2CJS3G4ZPY0ZKMCEBZE

Everyone needs a laser gun, this is good for Mass Effect or anything sci fi: https://www.cookiecutterkdom.com/products/laser-gun-cookie-cutter

We could also play one of these holiday-themed games someone else talked about on some other blog: https://www.guidelive.com/video-games/2016/12/14/best-holiday-themed-video-games-play-christmas

Or I was looking for a screencap of that creepy Christmas tree in Fallout 4, adorned with human heads or whatever it was, thinking we could use it as a background for our family photos and make some festive holiday cards, but all I can find is this (old) news that you can actually have Christmas in Fallout 4: https://www.gamesradar.com/fallout-4-christmas-event/. Which we already own! I know what I’m doing on the 25th that’s not hanging out with family!

Just kidding.

Ooh, here’s another thought: put all our favorite game characters into Santa suits for our holiday cards! Mr. O’s good with photo software, he can do it no problem. And given the tragic lack of relevant results when I do an internet search for this concept, this project would actually fill a deep emptiness in the very soul of this troubled world.

That’s it. Video game characters in Santa suits. Lincoln Clay would KICK ASS as Santa. Holiday cards! A new merchandise line in our store!

Oh, wait, we can’t do that. We don’t want to get sued. Plus, I’m a librarian and we respect intellectual property rights or whatever. Siiiigh.

You’re welcome to another brilliant business idea, anyone who has the time to work on getting the licensing rights!

Butch:

Where ya gotta go?

Buying booze right now. More later.

This is what it’s come to.

Feminina:

“Booze now. More later.” would be a different but still valid blog.

I have…important things to do. Very important, critical things. Vital things, of great value to me both personally and professionally.

I’m going to try to catch a Pokemon.

This is what’s it’s come to.

Also, I need to use some vacation time, maybe I’ll do a little shopping…but honestly, Pokemon.

I blame you. YOU convinced me to start playing it.

But I’ve learned my lesson: when you try to convince me to take up heroin, I’ll refuse. Not because it’s illegal, just because I KNOW a month later you’ll be all “oh, I got bored with that, what are you still doing that for?” and I’ll be completely hooked, trolling schoolyards ALL BY MYSELF trying to score from 5th graders.

Oh, but now that I think of it, I have a Pikachu in a Santa hat! The first in my collection of characters in suits. It’s all coming together.

No thanks on the heroin, though.

Butch:

And I thought today would suck. And we have Lincoln Clay as Santa (you’re right, that kinda has to happen), you turning down heroin and me blogging from an actual liquor store (it’s kinda surprising that that hasn’t happened already).

I also need those cookie cutters.

Are you serious on the Pokemon? You are, aren’t you.

Just, when you feel the urge to pokemon, distract yourself by knitting tacky holiday shotgun sweaters.

NEW SENTENCE!!!!

I HOPE!!!!

The Place with the Thing

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Some vague and confusing spoilers for locations in Shadow of the Tomb Raider

Butch:

You know what’s worse than the kids all being home? The fact that they have mandatory half day Thursdays. It never ends, Femmy. It never ends.

Did get a little in. Saw that Dominguez is, like, Aztec god man, did a monolith, did the weird burning blood puzzles, got the silver thingy, said “Dude, you do all that, it’s like a Raiders treasure room and you just are gonna leave?” Wondered “So….if the kid knew this was there, why didn’t trinity?” Then forgave the game because it didn’t make me swim out of there (Dude, when he was all “You can escape through the irrigation system” I was so mad…so mad that it didn’t occur to me to say “What? There’s an irrigation canal that goes right by the secret treasure room and trinity hasn’t noticed the secret treasure room?”), then did a chase scene where I died a lot which broke the tension and now that’s where I am.

Oh, and got mad at myself cuz I didn’t have the money for the good knife and then found two places where I needed the good knife.

But seriously….that was the least secret secret treasure room I’ve ever seen. What’s trinity’s damn problem? The only way that could have been less secret was if there was a merchant selling mystical silver end of the world thingies in the market. Maybe trinity thinks that’s too easy.

Merchant: Hey, wanna buy the silver thingy you’ve been searching for?

Trinity: What?

Merchant: I have the thing you’ve been scouring the earth for. Yours for, say, 275 gold.

Trinity: I don’t know……would I have to blow up a shit ton of dynamite in inefficient places all the while telling Kevin to hurry up because Dominguez is coming?

Merchant: Well, no. I’d just sell it to you.

Trinity: Hmm…..not really my thing without the dynamite and telling Kevin to hurry up.

Merchant: Have it your way.

Trinity: But I will take a jaguar pelt.

Merchant: Excellent choice.

Also, I’m liking this game. I am. But man, there’s some weird narrative choices.

So I did the side quest where you had to get one, no, two, maybe three? no, two things for the bald guy so the guy you’re SUPPOSED to be rescuing can become king.

This, much like Santangelo, felt a little like a phantom limb of narrative. I’ll bet, in an earlier draft, you DID have to get all three, and, for whatever reason, they threw in the towel. But the way it was presented “Get this, but it’s cool, I got guys on the other two.” “Well, they other two didn’t come back, so if you could…” “Oh, thanks, but he came back, and, even though the other guy isn’t back yet, I’m sure he’ll be fine. Quest over” was almost laughable. Add to that the very strange “rescue the herb thief” bit. It’s like the guard was all “HE IS SENTENCED TO DEATH! Oh, wait, he ran away from the jail that DIDN’T HAVE A DOOR, so…no hard feelings. I guess I’ll just leave his family and everyone else alone.”

Kind of scattershot in the narrative.

But, hey, not a bad bit of gameplay. The gameplay is great. I LIKE the gameplay. I even didn’t mind the “swim up and up” bits.

But there’s some serious stupid in the narrative.

Feminina:

Ha! I only talked to the guy about the three quests, no, make that one quest. I haven’t actually done any of it yet.

I’ve been poking around in tombs, man! I went back and got into those crypts I needed shotguns or rope ascenders or whatever for. Got all caught up. Did a couple of challenges, though a bunch more remain half completed because I can’t be bothered to spend all my time looking for feathers and totems and so forth. Except when I can.

And then there’s this one place I can’t figure out how to get into, not in the sense that I need some specific equipment, but in the more general sense that I can’t find the door. Maybe it will be related to a quest later.

So…uh…it sounds like we’re pretty much at the same place in terms of the story? Have you been all through the underground place with the…things? Looking for the box?

Butch:

I have the box! That was the reference to the secret treasure room right by the irrigation canal that, like, even nine year olds know about. Lots of bodies? Weird burning blood traps? That sort of thing?

“Go to the very secret treasure room. I’m nine. I’ll show you the door. And tell you how to get out. Very secret room. No one’s been there for ages. Cuz Secret.”

Later.

“Oh, you have the box! You went to the very secret treasure room that’s over there!”

Yup.

Now the kid is kidnapped and I have to go get him but he can wait cuz tombs.

But first I gotta buy the enhanced knife. I STILL don’t have a shotgun! Where’s the fucking shotgun? I sorta figured that you had rescued the kid and that’s where you got the shotgun!

Feminina:

Oh, OK. We’re not talking about the same box. You got the thing that looks like a coiled snake? I got that. Burning blood, etc., check. Went after the kid, check.

I guess I just ignored the “horn of destiny” sidequest or whatever until recently because I was…doing other things. Like getting the shotgun. It took me a while to go talk to the people in the super secret rebel hideout cave, is what I guess I’m saying.

But yeah, you really have to wonder what Trinity has been up to, missing all this super secret stuff right under their noses. Maybe that’s the problem with demanding worship from your followers…if they’re always worrying about displaying the proper reverence and zeal when you go by, they’re not busy talking to 9-year-olds about the secret treasure rooms.

Butch:

Yes, that. The snake thingy. That Meatball, who was hanging around, said “That looks like poop.”

Have to go after the kid. But I’m probably just gonna magpie.

But you had to talk to them to get the “go after kid” bit, that I haven’t done, and the quest giver is right there. You NEVER resist quest givers. Ever. Who are you, anyway?

It’s a double edged sword, the emotional neediness. And really, they are a needy bunch, trinity.

But you know what REALLY sucks? Sitting down to play a game so you can get some magpie out of the way on a cold day and finding out it has a six and half gig upgrade. It’s massive!

[Later]

Wow, you know what suck? Of course you do. Wolves. Wolves suck.

I’m in the tomb with the wolves and the oil. And wolves suck.

Know what I wish I had? A shotgun. Could use a shotgun right about now.

Feminina:

The wolves and the oil…hm…you mean the one where you can fall off the ledges and the wolves eat you?

Or is that the place outside Paititi that I stumbled into once, died, and never went back because I ran into the kid?

We seem to be doing a lot of talking past each other today.

“Are you in the place?”

“No, I thought you were in the place, I’m over on the thing.”

“You mean the thing with the stuff?”

“No, I don’t know what stuff you’re talking about, I just finished the thing with the guy.”

Funny we managed to lose each other so nicely in a fairly linear game.

Butch:

And very ironic that we stayed in relative lock step in the open world game we just finished.

I’m not sure what’s confusing us so much here. Maybe because things don’t have names? Tombs, I mean. Mafia, we could say “Ok, I’m doing the garbage thing in Barclay” and boom. We knew what we were talking about. This? It’s kinda hard to describe past “the thing with the stuff.” “You know, wolves, fire….” And when there’s lots of wolves and lots of fire and lots of climbing, gets a little vague.

But the wolves and the oil, that’s the one. The one where you have to fight the wolves. Which sucked.

Have you done that one? Like, all of it? I’m halfway through.

No idea what you’re talking about on the other one.

Feminina:

I think you’re right…it is kind of hard to differentiate the tombs and crypts (I can’t even remember which one a specific area is most of the time). There’s a lot of climbing, a lot of oil, a lot of swimming. A lot of wolves. And, as you say, not a lot of things with clear names and features like “the garbage in Barclay.” It’s all “the underground crypt in the jungle.”

“Oh, yeah, that place!”

If we’re definitely talking about the same one, with the ledges and the wolves and the wind and the burning oil (man, you’re so right that a shotgun would have been helpful in that wolf fight, those things suck), I HAVE gotten all the way through it, but I have to confess, I looked it up on the internet at one point because I totally couldn’t figure out a step. Then it turned out the answer was something I had tried, but it didn’t seem to work, so I had moved on. So…if you do a thing that seems like a good idea, but it doesn’t work, keep trying?

It’s tough when you’re not really sure if something doesn’t work because it’s the wrong approach and it will never work, or if you just need to adjust the timing or the angle or whatever. I’m actually in the middle of an annoying tomb right now that is apparently all timing. I think. Unless that will never work, and I really need to be trying something completely different.

Butch:

Right! And even the places that do have names are confusing.

Wait, did you go to hard on puzzles? Cuz my Lara never shuts up about what to do.

OK! Guess what? I got a……LIBRARIAN QUESTION!!!!

So Junior is making a presentation for school. In said presentation, he is including some very good screenshots that he took in Horizon. As screenshots are both products of the game and the player, what’s the citation (if any)? If his teacher disagrees, I’m gonna drop your name, what you being a badass librarian.

Feminina:

Ooh, citation questions! Of course you must cite your screenshots. Always cite everything, that’s what I must tell you as a librarian.

As a librarian, I would also caution that different citation styles may have different rules for various types of reference, and when in doubt, you should consult the manual for the specific citation style you’re using (i.e. APA, MLA, etc.). However, it turns out there is not a lot of specific guidance for video game screenshots yet. (Yet.) Also, it’s possible that no specific style was assigned for this project, which means you could pretty much just make something up.

Here’s an example based on MLA style for game screenshots https://library.carleton.ca/find/images/citing-images/citing-screenshot

And another suggestion: https://rhetoricofgaming.wordpress.com/2013/10/13/so-how-do-i-cite-this/

Basically, looking at these examples, I think you probably want to reference the work from which the screenshot is taken (much as if you were referencing a novel from which you quoted a sentence), and also–either at the beginning or the end, the two examples aren’t entirely consistent–state the name of the person who took the screenshot (which is where it’s different from quoting a sentence from a novel).

Assuming he wasn’t given a particular citation style to use, I would probably go with something simple like:

“Aloy admires the sunset.” Horizon Zero Dawn, Sony Interactive Entertainment, 2017. Screenshot by Butch McPuncherson Jr., Dec. 5, 2018.

Basically, a short descriptive title, the resource from which the image was taken, and the name of the person who captured the shot. If he published the screenshots online somewhere, he could also put a link to the online image.

But as I always tell the students, your professor has the final word on what makes a correct citation: librarians can only offer general advice.

And I did NOT go ‘hard’ on puzzles, but her hints were not helpful! She just kept saying “there must be some way to [mumble mumble].” Basically, she told me what to do, but not how to do it. Many, many times I know WHAT to do, but it doesn’t mean I CAN do it. Though as I said, it turned out I actually did figure it out, but gave up too soon.

You’re gonna love it. Just keep…doing the thing.

Unless it’s the wrong thing, in which case it’s never going to work.

Butch:

You just got to go all librarian on a topic relevant to the blog.

This is your favorite day in our long blogging history, isn’t it?

Feminina:

It’s hard to say, we’ve had a lot of good days, but this was certainly up there.

Microsoft’s suggested responses:

  • “Thank you for the article.”
  • “I’m looking forward to reading it.”
  • “I look forward to reading it.”

Uh…no. That is incorrect, Hotmail. That is not what was going on in that message.

Interesting that it put the same concept with different tenses. Testing which one people like more? Giving people a choice to help make it sound more like them so they can pretend a robot isn’t writing their replies for them?

Now I’m sitting here wondering…”DO I look forward to reading the imaginary article Butch didn’t send me, or AM I looking forward to it?” Tough call.

Butch:

Hey man, it would have been a fascinating article if it had existed. Or it would be a fascinating article had it been in existence. You would have expressed gratitude.

Feminina:

I spent several minutes trying to think of another complex linguistic joke to follow up, but it’s getting late, so I’ll just go with “shoulda coulda woulda, but didna.”

Because I’m all sophisticated-like at the end of the day.

Butch:

Fucken A, dood. Fucken A.

Being Outcast is OK if You Have Dice

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Spoilers for Paititi area quests in Shadow of the Tomb Raider

Butch:

That was kinda themey!

Got the kid his dice back. Bought the ascender and the lockpicks. I always feel kinda bad about the lockpicks.

“That’ll be 350.” ***hands over 350*** “Now that was a sale. 350 for those little things. I am so rich and…hey…what’re you doing with that chest that’s been there for 500 years? What…HEY! What’s in there? That’s worth thousands! And…shit.”

And I managed to resist every magpie impulse and didn’t go right back to the tomb that needed the ascender. Yet. I think that would’ve been the last straw for the queen there.

Queen: C’mon….where is she?

Qevin: Who, the Ixik?

Queen: Yeah, her.

Qevin: Oh, she took off.

Queen: Yeah, I know. Went to find that kid’s dice. Told her I’d wait.

Qevin: Nah, she did that. Left town. Said she was going to do a tomb.

Queen: What? Those take forever! Did she say she’d be back?

Qevin: Yup.

Queen: Good.

Qevin: After she did that. And a crypt. And a couple monoliths.

Queen: Oh you’re kidding.

Qevin: And hunted a turkey or something.

Queen: We’re not going to see her for weeks, are we?

Qevin: Nope.

So I’ll get on with the main story next.

But the dice quest!

They all sacrificed, LEFT FAMILY BEHIND, and were ok with it cuz they were charting their own path. Certainly there was some reflection on Lara, yes? But was it she SHOULD sacrifice, leave family behind, chart her own path? Because, yeah, sure. Go forth, live your life, you do you, find your own happiness not the happiness someone wants for you, all that sounds good! Those are good lessons! But, on the other hand, these dudes are OUTCASTS. Like, I’m glad they’re ok with their lives. Good for them. But dude, I don’t want to live with everyone treating me like I’m dead and relying on the kindness of other’s donations to live (Here is where I try to not think about how my kids have been ignoring me and every dime I have is, essentially given to me by Mrs. McP. Been a depressing enough week). Was the game saying that these people are the ones that have it good? Cuz they didn’t really look like they had it good. Did they? Or was that ambiguity what it was going for? Gotta give it to the game. Has me pondering.

And it was a nice twist that, in the end, the lesson that Pisco was crafting was for Lara. He gives that bit of wisdom for Tikay that Lara very solemnly prepares to teach and the kid is all “Yeah yeah, I know.” People already know. There’s something about that, too. We talked the other day about how Lara might be the victim of a long con on Trinity’s part. Maybe this is an instance of her being the last to know something, thinking she knows more than she does.

Good stuff.

Feminina:

I did like that outcast bit. As you say, some themes there (which Pisco rather amusingly made her actually summarize at the end, like a “here’s what I’ve learned” report).

As you say, it’s kind of one-sided, though. Yes, all these people are happy with their choices and that’s a good lesson, but it’s interesting that she didn’t talk to anyone who DIDN’T actually feel good about it.

“Yes, I left my family to follow my own dream but it didn’t work out and now no one will talk to me, so I’ve lost everything and quite honestly life sucks and I’m miserable.”

Maybe all those outcasts just kill themselves early on, so the ones we talked to are a self-selected group of people who actively choose to be OK with their decisions and their lives. Which is also kind of themey, I suppose.

But dude, consider this: whatever else is going on, YOU have video games, and these outcasts do not. (Or maybe they do, and that’s the secret they don’t tell Lara! “I have SO MUCH quiet game time now that no one will speak to me!”)

Butch:

Hmm. Fair point, that. We did hear the one about the woman left to die, who almost did die, before her love saved her. So maybe. But I think they were going with metaphor/foreshadowing/literary device and had to be rather straight forward. After all, after the oral report Lara gave, you could tell that Pisco wanted to say “And, just so the player knows, who are we likely talking about here?”

Games! THAT’S why they’re happy! I knew it!

Though I bet their booze sucks.

Feminina:

Hey, don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it. The internet says ancient Mesoamerican societies (to which the culture of Paititi is presumably somewhat similar) enjoyed pulque, which is fermented agave sap and is “similar to beer.”

It is “only mildly alcoholic,” so that’s a potential concern, but as with beer, if you have enough of it you should be fine.

See: https://www.ancient.eu/Pulque/

I also have not gone back to the section that I need the rope ascender for. Look at us being all dedicated to the cause we’re supposedly pursuing, refusing to get sidetracked (except by a kid and his dice)!

Ooh, and guess what other gear I picked up last night? That’s right…I’ve got a shotgun. Watch out various barriers!

Although here’s a mild complaint for the game: it doesn’t highlight the places where there were barriers you couldn’t get through. I mean, some of them are on the map because they’re tomb entrances or whatever, but there are also random buildings or parts of caves here and there that are blocked, and I don’t remember exactly where they all were, and there’s nothing specifically on the map to tell me “go back to this blocked door.”

So I either have to shrug and abandon some stuff, or else take the time to go back through every single environment towards the end of the game when I have all the equipment to make sure I found all the places I couldn’t get into the first time. Siiiiiiigh. Life is HARD.

Butch:

Dude, I also saw on Nova that the had a beer like beverage where they got it fermenting by chewing up corn and spitting it out. I ain’t drinking no outcast corn spit beer. I’ll stick to wine and scotch.

Wait….you didn’t magpie? Who ARE you?

Don’t worry on the barriers. No relic, no document, no point.

Feminina:

Oh, man, I’ve heard of that too. I mean…people need booze…I guess. And the alcohol would kill the germs, once there was alcohol there.

But yeah, me personally, I will stay sober.

Honestly, I was going to go back to the rope ascender barricade, but I couldn’t remember exactly where it was, and while I was looking around I ran into the queen’s story first, so it was like…enh, OK, I’ll do the main mission. What the hell, it’s right here.

Butch:

It’s the tomb back in the other village. The first one. It also has a crypt you need the shotgun for.

Magpie incoming !!!!!!

Feminina:

Nice! As soon as I get out of this…place where I am. The place with the thing.

You’ll know it when you get there, because it’s where you get the shotgun.

Butch:

I wanna shotgun!!!!

I shouldn’t have told you. You were doing so well.

Feminina:

It’s fine. I’ll probably get distracted and have completely forgotten by the time I get out of here.

The real issue is that I passed a shotgun-permeable barrier JUST LAST NIGHT, some climbing and swimming back from where I am now. So…do I retrace my steps now, while I’m at least in the same general area, or do I press on?

I think I have to go back now. All that important quest stuff I’m in the middle of can definitely wait.

Butch:

I’m stunned you haven’t already.

Shit, even I went full magpie earlier.

Feminina:

Hey, hey–finding the shotgun was literally the last thing I did last night. It was like, “oh, hey, campsite! Ooh, shotgun! And it’s bedtime.”

I haven’t had a chance to do anything yet.

Butch:

Or you would have magpied.

Feminina:

Indeed. It goes without saying.

Butch:

Especially since this is the first time you’ve had a game shotgun ALL YEAR! Not since CHLOE!

How’d you GO that long?

Feminina:

Dude, Lincoln had a shotgun. Sometimes. I mean, my loyalty to specific guns was extremely low in that game, it was pretty much whatever was to hand that I had bullets for, but I swear I had a shotgun from time to time.

Butch:

Oh right. My bad. I was all silenced pistols.

I should have known.

Happy December!

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Some spoilers for locations and story in Shadow of the Tomb Raider

Butch:

Greetings from scenic Paititi.

Man, you weren’t kidding. This IS a different city. I’ve been exploring, but I don’t think I’m supposed to, yet, as I can’t really find much and there should be documents everywhere. It’s my own fault, really. We got there, and she was all “meet me in the market” and I was all “Wow…this is amazing! A discovery that will change science! My father would have been blown away! This is the very thing that could restore the Croft oh, sure kid I’ll help you find your dice be right there.”

So now I’m tracking down outcasts.

But I’m confused.

So I’m playing with subtitles here cuz kids were being loud, so on that walk down to the city I had all SORTS of shit on the screen cuz you get subtitles from every NPC and I kind of missed some shit.

So….the woman. She’s the queen, right? But still a rebel? Cuz we’re wearing something that lets us talk with rebels, and she’s on our side….so she’s NOT the boss? Or is she the boss and this is, like, a rebel outpost?

I get that there’s a “cult” that is either Trinity or has been bought/corrupted/whatever by trinity, and that they are bad. Right? Bad. They’re bad. And I get that this woman and her kid are queen/heir or rightful queen/heir. Are they in power or not? And they’re also rebels? Which would imply that they are not in power and rebelling against whoever is. But, if that’s true, how come she’s just strolling through town all “Hey, howya doin’? Rebel queen here. How you doing, enemy cult leader? Oh me? Yeah, good, rebellion’s good.”

I’m not sure that’s how rebellions against death cults work.

So I’m confused. Who’s who?

Feminina:

“I’ll get your dice back, kid! Anything to help on a mission of such importance!”

Ha. I did much the same thing, though I might have read a few more murals and such first, since I did manage to pick up most of the documents and artifacts.

I do think ‘rebellion’ is sort of the wrong term here, given that the rebel queen does just stroll casually around the town, but yeah, you’ve basically got it.

If I got the story correctly, there were two brothers who argued over the fate of the city during a famine. One, the city leader (Unuratu’s husband) was killed while hunting for food. The other went off and made a deal with Trinity, which gave the people some food and now supports/runs this Cult of Kukulkan, which is currently in charge of things. However, Unuratu is the rightful queen and her son the rightful heir, and they’re ‘rebels’ in the sense that they disagree with the cult.

They don’t seem to have any formal power, but since they aren’t actively being hunted down at the moment, ‘rival political party’ might be a more accurate term than ‘rebellion.’ Maybe that just doesn’t translate well from the Yucatec.

But yeah, basically, Cult is Trinity, Cult is bad, Unuratu and the ‘rebels’ are good. Or at least on our side and opposed to the remaking of the world. Also, better fashion sense. That ‘rebel’ tunic is stylin.’

Butch:

I figured you did. The magpie is strong with you.

I dunno, man, none of the artifacts are popping up. But then, I haven’t really finished the queen’s orientation yet. Maybe I have to do that?

That’s what I thought. But I was confused because they did seem rather tolerant of rebellion.

But the cult’s in charge. Ok.

In that case, Lara’s being rather brave here. “I’ll just chill here in a village run by people who are sympathetic to trinity. They’ll NEVER find me.”

The tunic is nice. But those are very impractical shoes. Love the necklace, though. I think she borrowed it from Morrigan. The BEBHBB line of fine jewelry.

See, the tunic is what threw me. I went to see if it gave me any perks, and what it said was “Allows you to talk to rebels.” Like, ok, the rebels don’t talk to anyone but each other, but the cult in charge is cool with that. Ok. Makes perfect sense.

I’m still a tad confused. Hopefully, this becomes clearer as I play.

Feminina:

I dunno, I pretty much looted the entire city before I went to meet her downtown, if that’s what you mean. Just poking around, finding things. Like that locked chest under the dock. Gold veins, monoliths, murals, etc. Not all that many artifacts, so it might not be that you’re missing stuff, it might just not be there. Some documents.

But talking to outcasts is a good call. One of them might turn out to be a merchant. Who might sell you something useful. I mean, you never know.

The shoes are kind of silly–but I love the woven bike shorts! Very comfortable and practical for all that climbing and hanging off of cliffs.

Butch:

Figured the outcasts would be helpful. And themey, maybe.

Yeah I’ve found murals and monoliths I can’t read. But one measly artifact. One.

Shorts are nice. Necklace makes it.

How does she swim in that?

Feminina:

If she can swim while somehow not losing two climbing axes, a bow, a giant knife, and a couple of guns, I’m happy to accept that there is no improbable accessory that can slow her down.

Butch:

There’s gotta be a final straw sometime. And that’s quite a necklace.

Feminina:

I go diving in enormous solid gold jewelry all the time!

You’re just concerned because you hate swimming.

Butch:

You never see Morrigan swimming. She knows.

Another reason to like her.

Some Days are Slow Days

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Minimal spoilers for a location in Shadow of the Tomb Raider

Butch:

Nothing but nothing.

Tell me you have something.

Feminina:

Very little.

Here’s what I’ve got: that underwater locked chest, in the submerged palace with the piranhas? You don’t want to go back for that. I mean, there was a bit of gold or something and some XP, but you have to swim all the way over there and then all the way back out of that place again. I thought maybe there’d be a way to backtrack and avoid some of the swimming, but no.

So in case you were thinking about that, I’ve saved you some misery. Just looking out for you, dude.

Butch:

True friendship, that. Though the chances of me going back to do extra swimming were slim and none. I mean, shit, I didn’t even swim to get the playboys. Or I wouldn’t have, if I had had to.

Feminina:

Oh, did I forget to mention the locked chests contain Playboys? My bad.

Butch:

Meh. I bet they were REALLY chaste in 2432 BCE.

Feminina:

No, they’re actually the same issues that Mafia 3 used, only it’s all the articles and none of the centerfolds. And unlike Lincoln, Lara comments on every single article, so it gets kind of old.

Ha.

Butch:

She likely reads them, like journals.

Feminina:

You need something to read, on those slow evenings around the campfire.

Some of Us Put More Effort Into This Than Others

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Minor spoilers for mechanics and locations in Shadow of the Tomb Raider

Butch:

Oh boy. Everyone’s home cuz conferences. Can’t wait for the conference.

Played through that weird saily thingy. What WAS that weird saily thingy? I mean, shit, if you want to do a trial, aren’t there more menacing, simpler ways? Damn, ancient peoples.

But what was weird was the first two trials really weren’t much of anything. I thought I missed stuff. Spider? Jaguar? Like, what? Eagle? A bit over the top. I can see it:

Spider: Hey Eagle, the fuck is that?

Eagle: It’s my trial. Like it?

Jaguar: The fuck is it?

Eagle: It’s a big saily thingy. It’s got decorations and square gold trim, and twirly bits and spikes on the bottom where you fall if the controls get wonky. Too bad I kinda messed up the look spilling grey paint where you’re supposed to go, but hey, can’t be perfect. What are you guys working on?

Jaguar: Uh…..

Spider: Well……

Eagle: C’mon, guys, show me.

Jaguar: Well….mine has water! And…uh…an eel?

Spider: And mine has…uh…this windy bit where you can get lost for, like, five seconds…..oh! And some dead guys!

Eagle: So how are you going to decorate them? Where are the twirly puzzly bits gonna go? Ooo! How about quick time events? You gonna throw in some quick time events?

Spider/Jaguar: ****sheepishly avoid eye contact****

Eagle: Wait….you’re done?

Spider: Well….

Jaguar: Uh…..

Eagle: I can’t believe you guys.

Spider: ***whispers*** Show off.

Eagle: What was that?

Spider: Nothing.

Feminina:

Ha! So true. I bet it was exactly like that.

Because yeah, the hardest thing about the one that came right before that was trying to figure out why there was that climby bit of rock that on that one side that didn’t seem to go anywhere.

Did you manage to get anywhere on that? I climbed around, swung back and forth, rappelled down, but there was nothing anywhere. It seemed like there had to be something there! But I couldn’t find anything! Was there a treasure I missed?

So yeah, you’re moving right along through those previous ‘trials’ and then: POW. Giant murder windmill. I mean, it was fun, I enjoyed the puzzliness of it, but it did seem like they put a lot more effort into that one.

Butch:

I didn’t find anything there, either, and I did look, There was some jade by the dead guys, but that was it. (I’d tell you that I looked at the map obsessively to see if there was anything I missed, but I know you did that, too, so whatever.)

It was fun, but it made me fall into the same trap (pun sorta intended) that this game makes me fall into when I play around dinner time: Pacing. You get all “I have time for another bit” cuz the bits you’ve been doing are short. “Oh, hey, these trials are nothing. I’ll just bang out this eagle one, get to a save point….OH COME ON! Well, ok, in for a penny and THE FUCK YOU MEAN THIS LADDER WON’T TURN YET? I’m hungry here! Oh, well, don’t want to interrupt the flow of the game and WHAT? IT’S BROKEN???? DUDE! The first two trials were nothing! I’M SO HUNGRY!!!!!”

That’s happened more than once. This week. (See also: long, swimmy, fishy bits that came after long fighty bits that came after very simple puzzles.)

By the way, on puzzles:

I thought it was cool as hell that a photo/relic was relevant to a puzzle. I did NOT think it was cool as hell that they told you that right off. Letting the player figure that out would’ve been SOOOO cool. Especially as I was on the right path, all “Wait…haven’t I seen….” and then BOOM the relic screen opens.

I might turn hints off.

Feminina:

Well, I’m glad you didn’t find anything either…maybe it was just a red herring. These games don’t usually do that, we’re well trained to believe that if you can go somewhere there has a be a REASON to go there, but at this point they certainly know that, and maybe they’re toying with us.

Or maybe there was something REALLY COOL over there that we didn’t get. Oh well.

It was cool that we referred back to a photo for that puzzle–but yes, ha, they pretty much threw that right at you. It was actually to the point where I got the hint before I even fully understood what they were hinting about because I’d been looking around at stuff, so it was kind of like “wait, the photo is relevant to what now?”

So still kind of a puzzle, I guess…

Butch:

Still. Could have been a cooler mechanic. I’m all for hints when the player has proven they need them, but this game really hops right to hint. I seem to remember the last two gave you a few minutes or so before Lara started musing, but here it’s seconds, if that. And this is “normal” puzzles! This says “Vague hints,” where easy is “clear hints,” which must be “grab that thing there, now that, now that.” What’s the point? That’s like cheating at crossword puzzles. Why do the damn puzzle at all if you’re going to get the answers given to you?

Feminina:

Well…yes and no. It seems to vary depending on what you’re doing. Did you go into that tomb, near the village? I could kind of have used clearer, more obvious hints on that. Eventually I just gave up, in fact–I’ll go back later and see if it makes more sense to me.

But I suppose it’s reasonable that they give more immediate/more obvious hints on the things you need to do to progress in the game, than on the optional tomb locations. If I never finish that tomb, I’ve missed out on some loot, and really, whatever. But if I never solve that puzzle to advance in the game, I get frustrated and angry and don’t play anymore or buy the next one. That’s bad.

Butch:

Haven’t been in there. Tried, and it was all “You need the rope thingy thing that I don’t have.”

You can always switch it to easy for one tomb here and there.

Feminina:

Oh, right, that thing. Whatever I needed it for that tomb, I bought from one of the merchants in town, I think. Shop around. Whenever you get back there.

No rush, it’s not going anywhere.

Ooh, speaking of shopping, I just got the lock picks! Time to retrace some steps and loot some chests!

Butch:

Where? Merchant? Want!

I also want a shotgun.

Feminina:

I don’t have a shotgun yet. But I’m waiting anxiously for it to appear.

The lock picks are in the next town you come to. Shop around. You’re gonna love it.

Butch:

Next town? There’s more than one?

Feminina:

Outlook suggested options:

  • “That’s the only one.”
  • “I think that’s it.”
  • “I’m sure that’s it.”

WRONG, Outlook!

That’s not what I wanted to say at all! It’s a dirty lie, and it’s not even a good response to the question in the text!

Perhaps you won’t be writing our blog posts anytime soon after all. I am gravely disappointed.

But yes, there is another town. Somewhere in the jungle. You will surely get there, in the fullness of time, for it is a major quest location.

Be sure to visit the friendly and helpful local merchants. [This message brought to you by the Paititi Chamber of Commerce.]

Butch:

I will! Cuz that other merchant didn’t have much. He had a silencer, but it won’t fit the dudes family gun and I just upgraded the fuck out of that.

Not using guns much anyway. Lots of bow, machine gun when things go very wrong. Which will change when shotgun.

Feminina:

Yeah, I haven’t been shooting very much either. Bow and arrow works for most things and is quiet. Or just stealthy stabbing, honestly. I stealth-kill at every opportunity.

Probably the next time I’m getting attacked by jaguars, I’ll grab a gun, though. The arrows are awkward at close range, and jaguars are harder to surprise by leaping from the bushes.

Butch:

Oddly, that’s the one time I forget about guns. When they’re useful.

Have you dragged dudes underwater yet? That’s fun. Best part of swimming.

Feminina:

Absolutely the best part!

Probably wouldn’t work on jaguars. Jerks.

I did kind of like that they let you hide in underwater weeds now…even while I don’t love the piranha you have to hide from.

Butch:

The piranha are just a cruel twist.

Swimming’s bad enough, game.

Feminina:

And you can’t even fight them! At least with the eels you have a chance!

Butch:

As for fighting, I SO wish I could fire the bow from the water. Treading water. I’ll settle for that.

Feminina:

You need to purchase the special swim fins from that other merchant for that.

Note: I made those up. As far as I know.

I would totally buy them, though!

Butch:

I would so get that.

Just like I always hit l3 to swim faster. Always.

Feminina:

I always hit R2, and then I’m trying to craft arrows while walking. I multitask, man.

Butch:

As one does.

Much like I often set arrows on fire when I’m trying to heal.

Feminina:

Hey, there are a lot of important actions to take, and limited time. As soon as you’re healed, you’ll be glad you have that flaming arrow.

Butch:

You mean after the loading screen?

Hey, on that, as everyone is home, my brain is fried, and I have no attention span today, are your load times, especially the first time you boot up, really REALLY long? Like “did the game crash?” long? Or is this cuz I’m playing in 4K hdr beauty?

Feminina:

Ha. Yes, directly after the load screen.

And yeah, it does seem to load slowly. It’s not so bad in the middle of things, so if you fall to your death in a tomb or something it comes back pretty quickly, but that first load…settle in. Fast travel, too. It’s certainly faster than walking all the way back to some long-ago region, but it’s not, you know…FAST.

Butch:

Phew. Thought it was just me. And my SWEET 4K HDR set up.

Feminina:

Yeah, yeah.