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About googoogjoob

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  • Birthday 01/20/1992

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    Deus Ex, Anachronox, Machinarium, Geneforge, HoMM 3, Bus Driver

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  1. googoogjoob

    What have you been reading recently?

    How about those books, folks. I read a lotta good books in the past year (and a few less-than-good ones). October: The Story of the Russian Revolution, by China Mieville: a genuinely exciting and fascinating work of history. Poland, by James Michener: if you've read one Michener novel, you've sort of read them all, I guess. But this one is probably my favorite. A History of Histories, by J W Burrow: a historian gives a guided tour of his favorite chronicles and historical works. Less interesting than it sounded beforehand. Stalingrad: The Fateful Siege, 1942-1943, by Antony Beevor: solid and thorough, but weirdly unexciting and unmoving, unless you're into extended descriptions of soldiers freezing and starving to death on the Volga. God's Chinese Son: The Taiping Heavenly Kingdom of Hong Xiuquan, by Jonathan Spence: a very good book on a fascinating and important (and horrible and tragic, of course) subject which unfortunately has a very sparse English-language literature. The five Plantagenet historical novels by Sharon Kay Penman: very good novels which manage to bring the historical figures they feature to life vividly, but which are also absolutely scrupulous about historicity and accuracy and verisimilitude beyond the obvious necessarily-fictionalized parts. To Hell and Back: Europe 1914-1949, by Ian Kershaw: another solid history book, which is thick and detailed but necessarily can't cover everything of import in any great depth. I feel like I understand the period better in the bigger sweeps of it, though, so it was very worth it. Montaillou: The Promised Land of Error, by Emmanuel le Roy Ladurie: methodologically exciting, but actually reading a chapter about the gestures and expressions used by late medieval peasants, heretics or not, is not really actually very fun. For Want of a Nail: If Burgoyne had Won at Saratoga, by Robert Sobel: probably the best "straight" alt-history novel I have ever read; certainly the most focused and thorough. Instantly a favorite book. The Cyberiad; Mortal Engines; The Star Diaries; and The Futurological Congress, by Stanisław Lem: very, very good, and very difficult to say anything concrete about. All nine Sherlock Holmes books, by Arthur Conan Doyle: the good ones are really, really good, but reading them in chronological order is sort of a tragic experience of watching a writer find his footing, mature, and reach brilliance, then slowly trail away into ineptitude. Hav, by Jan Morris: another book which is brilliant but almost impossible, for me anyway, to say anything useful about. Things I am have and am going to read next: currently reading Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino; then, The Sunne in Splendour, by Sharon Kay Penman (and I intend to read her new novel which is meant to be out this year), Texas by James Michener, and then I will probably read at least some of the collected works of H P Lovecraft.
  2. At least this time you apparently get to walk to the linearly-ordered places, instead of just taking a teleporter.
  3. I am very marginally excited by the apparent inclusion in the game of multi-tile enemies.
  4. googoogjoob

    The point of Haste?

    Changing how Haste works in the later Avernums is necessary to compensate for the reworked AP mechanics: in terms of movement in combat, a later-Avernum character can move before attacking about as far as a Hasted older-Avernum character could before attacking; they just can't (normally) attack twice. In a battle with a lot of movement (which is pretty rare in the Avernums), a newer-Avernum character with new Haste is probably going to perform about as well (relatively) as an older-Avernum character with old Haste. Thus, Battle Fury, which operates basically the same as Haste did in the older Avernums, becomes much more powerful than Haste ever was or could be in the old Avernums.
  5. googoogjoob

    Geneforge - Diablo 3 Makeover

    Jeff Vogel pulls a Robots and Empire, awkwardly fusing together his totally incompatible fictional universes in a way that makes each of them, individually, poorer. It is revealed that Erika, Ghaldring, and Redbeard were all R. Daneel Olivaw in disguise.
  6. googoogjoob

    Geneforge - Diablo 3 Makeover

    Geneforge 1 is already going to be remade as Spiderweb's next project, after Queen's Wish. These are things which might plausibly appear in the remake, in line with new creations being added in Geneforge 4 and special combat acts being added in the later Avernums and the Avernum remakes. This would be a totally different game from Geneforge and is irreconcilable with the design of the game. There doesn't seem to be much point in making a 2d game VR-capable, and real-time 3d graphics are far out of Spiderweb's budget. Further, even if it was in 3d, it's very doubtful that Spiderweb would ever go to the extra effort and expense of making the game VR-capable, as it would almost certainly not net enough extra sales to be worth it. Only two Spiderweb games have ever been ported to Linux for this reason. Remember Spore?
  7. googoogjoob

    Geneforge - Diablo 3 Makeover

    Personally, I think Geneforge should be remade as an FPS.
  8. googoogjoob

    Queen's Wish - Romance

    Well, like I said, you can sort of allot games based on their general outlook and thematic content to various artistic movements, but it is hard to say what an actual artistic movement would look like in the context of video games. The player's interaction with the game complicates everything, and most games design their mechanics based on what players like or know, rather than using them to make an artistic point. Mechanically, the gap between Ultima IV and Avadon is relatively quite small, while the gap between Angband and Evoland is pretty big, despite thematic similarities or differences. There are a lot of consciously deconstructionist games, but they're too disparate in outlook and the use to which they put the tools of deconstruction to really be considered a cohesive "movement": Braid has serious if confused things to say about video games in general, while Evoland has no real ambition to make a statement about the games it parodies, and is mostly oriented around what mechanics (cut down bush with sword to find coin) and iconographic elements (slime monsters) players will recognize and enjoy. Pony Island is mostly designed around what will be the most fun or surprising, and the Karoshi games use the central deconstructive premise as an excuse to devise a bunch of fun puzzles. I think the simulationist impulse in video games, in eg System Shock or Deus Ex (that is, games which model in the gameworld, physically and functionally, objects or characters which have nothing to do with the main mechanics or story of the game: a soda can you can drink or throw, a basketball you can throw through a hoop, characters who go about their business, eating and drinking and going to work without the player's intervention, etc), might be considered an artistic movement or proto-movement.
  9. googoogjoob

    Queen's Wish - Romance

    I don't really have anything else to say about Curses. I like it well enough, it just doesn't engage me very much beyond the puzzlefest structure. 3.5 stars out of 5. I think it's sort of interesting that a few years ago there was sort of an uproar in the popular discourse on video games about "walking simulators" (Dear Esther, Gone Home, The Vanishing of Ethan Carter), when games which are essentially "walking sims" (A Mind Forever Voyaging, Photopia) had already existed in IF for decades. I spent a while a few years ago trying to think of what a "modernism" (or realism, or romanticism, etc) might look like in the medium of video games. It is difficult given that the medium has existed entirely after the advent of postmodernism, given that essentially all commercial video games (with some notable exceptions) either deliberately eschew artistic aspirations or have their artistic aspirations mangled by the demands of what will sell, and given that there is little critical literature or coherent theory for video games. There are a lot of little independent art-for-art's-sake games, but they tend to be extremely idiosyncratic and to have limited or incoherent artistic aims. (That is, they are often just "here's a little game mechanic I came up with which I think is sort of cool, but which I have no intent of developing into a full game.") There are games and game developers which might be described as having a modernist perspective on art by analogy with modernism in literature or film etc, but it is very difficult to try to articulate what an artistic movement or set of shared ideals might look like in a video game context- because it can't just pertain to the thematic elements (the story, the art direction, the theatrical direction of cutscenes, the music), but also how these elements all come together, and how they interact with the game mechanics and the player's input.
  10. googoogjoob

    Queen's Wish - Romance

    There is no way for an Inform game to know whether or how many times you've saved, as far as I know. I don't think the source for Curses has ever been released, but it's possible to disassemble z-code games in a way that pulls out all the potential text you can see in the game (and any unused text), and if there was an actual last lousy point, it would almost certainly have been discovered in the time since the game came out. I'm almost certain the "missing" point is a deliberate poetic echo of the end of the story. I wouldn't say I judge the whole game on the last point thing. I still think it's a generally very good, well-implemented puzzlefest adventure game, and it's historically important for the IF renaissance it led to. It just doesn't really connect with me as a work of art in the way I find most satisfying. (Also, as interesting as the themes of the game potentially are, you are still going to spend most of the game fiddling with, like, the frustrating sliding-block puzzle, or typing out PUT STAFF IN SARCOPHAGUS. CLOSE SARCOPHAGUS. OPEN SARCOPHAGUS. TAKE STAFF a dozen times.) I think the romance with Black is good. It's underwritten rather than tastelessly overwritten in the way a lot of genre fiction romance is, and you can read as much or as little into it as you want. This might be considered a problem in that it leaves the romance sort of half-integrated with the main story of the game, but this doesn't really bother me a lot. Having the characters' genders remain resolutely undefined is a nice touch, and surprisingly progressive and tasteful for an adventure game from 1995. It's also the sort of thing you can only really do in a purely text-based medium. PS it's probably too late to save this topic, and all the stuff about art and IF should probably get shaved off into a separate topic.
  11. googoogjoob

    Queen's Wish - Romance

    I mean a) you end up not actually finding the map the search for which set off the entire game, and then b) there's the meta-joke of the omitted traditional "last lousy point" so you end the game with one point less than the claimed maximum (unless you kiss your aunt immediately before ending the game, and end the game before the temporary points this gives you wear off, in which case you can end the game with a few points above the maximum). The former comes across to me as a little bit precious, and the latter is sort of dated by the near-death of scoring systems in IF which happened within a few years of Curses's release. I would define puzzlebox storytelling to mean stories could easily be told in a straightforward, coherent way, but which are deliberately told in an obfuscated and difficult way either in the usually-misguided belief that this will make the story itself more interesting, or in a cynical ploy to drive consumer engagement. Part of the definition has to hinge on there being one "correct" reading of the story which must be deduced by the consumer(s) from the hints and clues to it in the work. I do not think a work which deliberately disavows the existence of any authoritative interpretation can be a puzzlebox. (Where definition gets tricky is with something like Lost, where the writers clearly intended at some point for the story to be tied together and for each of the pieces to mean something, but then kept adding to or changing the intended story, and eventually failed utterly for a variety of reasons and had to throw out a lot of the hints. The "correct" reading as ever-receding chimera: a bunch of puzzle pieces that ultimately do not fit together.)
  12. googoogjoob

    Queen's Wish - Romance

    Implication/explication can cut both ways for me, I think. Curses is, to me, an almost-interesting mixture of an initial setting and premise I do not care about at all (a crusty manor belonging to a house of eccentrics; finding a map in the attic), the eclectic fantasy (and intermittently sci-fi) elements, a bunch of lightly-implemented scenarios strung together with very light plot elements, and then the joke ending (spoilers for this 25+ year old game) which never worked for me. Jigsaw means more to me because I'm more invested in 20th century history than in slightly twee British fantasy (and I think Jigsaw has generally better puzzles and a more consistent tone). Even though no given scene or setting in Jigsaw is particularly deep or fleshed-out (except maybe the Titanic), I know and can recognize each historical scene, and the knowledge and feelings I already have about these scenes, I guess, lets me bring what I already have and sort of meet the game halfway, so the game means more to me. (Putting part of this another way, you could say Curses's metatextuality is oriented towards TS Eliot and Greek and Egyptian myth, which don't mean a lot to me, while Jigsaw's is oriented towards real history- and Lenin's sealed train or the ULTRA codebreaking operation mean more to me than the story of Andromeda ever did or could.) So Far has some beautifully-written settings, but you only ever see them briefly and in no real depth. All Roads takes the unifying mechanic/image of So Far (traveling via shadows) but puts it to more focused, deeper use. Neither game actually explicitly spells out its story, but So Far is sort of a series of memorable but disconnected dream-like images and settings, while All Roads uses its little hints and implications to limn the silhouette of a bigger story. At the end of each game the player is left with a lot of questions, but in So Far you get the impression that the questions may not have answers, and if they do, they are irrelevant; while in All Roads you get the impression that the questions do have answers, which you might be able to deduce, and which might make the narrative more interesting or meaningful. Both of these have a sort of beauty, but I find the latter more compelling. (Although I'd distinguish the latter sort of thing- a story which might benefit from close reading or multiple readings- from the increasingly-popular "puzzlebox" mode of storytelling, which I hate, where the narrative is deliberately obtuse but gives you a bunch of hints or clues, and the "fun" comes from simply attempting to work out what actually happened, preferably on Twitter or a popular forum for maximum exposure and buzz and free marketing. It's sort of a fine line between the types though.)
  13. googoogjoob

    Queen's Wish - Romance

    Jigsaw is so, so much better than Curses. There's a lot of IF I've enjoyed, but not a lot I would call good art... Jigsaw, Make It Good, All Roads. (Ingold is great. 80 Days was great but only sort of IF; Heaven's Vault looks great.) The Dreamhold, Spider and Web. All of Plotkin's games are sort of mechanically beautiful, but he's so much better at implying than at fleshing out interesting details that they only occasionally really connect satisfyingly. Maybe Aisle. I like or at least do not hate basically everything Emily Short's ever done but I think only Savoir-Faire is really great of her stuff.
  14. googoogjoob

    Queen's Wish - Romance

    I think Cliff Johnson's games, and also System's Twilight, have a sort of austere beauty to them as a result of their total dedication to being what they are, and how well-crafted they are. (But also: I played them like 15 years ago and have no real interest in playing them ever again.) A problem with video games being great art doesn't have anything to do with how old the artform is, I think, but is a result of several intersecting and complicating economic factors, which I was gonna explicate in detail but then I realized this post is already much too long so I excised it. It's more possible for small independent developers to make good art than big-budget established developers, but indie devs don't have the same resources (money, time, staff) to devote to something the way a big dev can. Another problem with video games as art is that most video game developers seem to be stuck conceptualizing video games as being, basically, movies shackled to crosswords. I think for a video game to be great art, form and function have to coincide perfectly, with the mechanical and thematic elements reinforcing each other to result in something greater than the sum of its parts. I think Cliff Johnson's games do a good (but relatively primitive) job of this insofar as they sort of slave the thematic elements to the mechanical elements in a way which I think is effective. I think Papers, Please is another good example of a game which has its mechanics and thematic elements perfectly tailored for each other, although it ultimately does not do anything particularly interesting with them. However, most games think of these elements as being essentially segregated, and use the thematic elements either as another little incentive to make the player keep playing (play more unrelated gameplay to see what happens next in the story!), or as an unrelated domain which has to exist to justify the game itself, or as an opportunity to communicate some story or message the developers cannot or do not know how to communicate via gameplay, or more often some combination of these. I hold out hope that eventually someone will manage to synthesize the two elements in a successful, satisfying way, though I have not yet played a game that does so. A last major problem, related to the prior problem, is that the games which do get praised for being good or great art tend to be crude melodramas stapled onto middling gameplay. The people who review video games professionally tend to be uh. Undiscerning would be the polite way to put it, I guess. Video game reviewers tend to be essentially hobbyists who are just glad to be getting paid to write their reviews. They might like or dislike a video game, but they tend to be very poor at explaining why they do or do not like it. Most of them have a sort of lingering defensiveness about whether or not games are a worthwhile thing to write about or dedicate your life to, and many are extremely eager to seize on any opportunity to argue games are "actually art" as a result. Both reviewers and popular audiences tend to favor works that manage to make them feel strong emotions, regardless of what those emotions are or how manipulatively or incoherently the game makes them feel these emotions (although this is also the case to an extent with popular cinema and literature). Video games has not yet developed the robust critical industry that literature or film or music have, which I think is necessary to a healthy artform. (Not that plenty of terrible films or books don't get released even with their artforms' established critical industries, but on the one hand good art criticism allows consumers to work out their own tastes more clearly, and allows artists to learn more effectively from the strengths and weaknesses of other artists; and on the other hand it would be very difficult to find a professional literary critic willing to defend something like The Da Vinci Code as great art, while it is distressingly easy to find professional video game critics willing to go to the mat to defend something as simultaneously dull and reprehensible as Bioshock Infinite as one of the best video games ever, and a crowning achievement of art.) As long as it's possible for a video game (The Last of Us) to get extremely positive "buzz" (however many dozens of Game of the Year awards!) and extreme critical acclaim (95% great on Metacritic!) by being essentially a mediocre third-person shooter awkwardly coupled with a sub-mediocre melodrama plot that rehashes and recycles decades of existing fiction, there is no real economic or social incentive for game developers, already in a risky hit-based business (a large majority of the profits are made by a small minority of the releases, and most games lose money for the publisher), to try to make truly original or brilliant work. (Not that there aren't those who try anyway.) (Sidebar: some games which I think are good art: the Blackwell series of adventure games; The Real Texas; Night in the Woods; Immortal Cities: Children of the Nile; The Deadly Tower of Monsters; the first third of Knee Deep; Windosill.) (Excited for someone to violently disagree with my theses.)
  15. googoogjoob

    Queen's Wish - Romance

    Well, when I say great art, I mean, uh. Art which creates in the consumer an awareness of the Sublime, in the Romantic sense, which is sort of undefinable, and is totally subjective to the consumer. There are books I think are great art, there are pieces of music, there are paintings, etc, but my experience with video games is that maybe none of them ever actually reach that point, and thus might be entertaining or interesting, but I would not describe any of them as "great art". But again, this is a totally personal perspective, and I am sure there are video games that fit the same role in some peoples' experience as a particular work of art does in my experience, and apart from that, what each person would describe as "great" art is unique as well. My former comment should be understood in light of this. Anyway this is all tangential to the topic, I think.