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About googoogjoob

  • Birthday 01/20/1992


  • Walruigisus

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    Deus Ex, Anachronox, Machinarium, Geneforge, Thief, Mark of the Ninja, Hard West, Bus Driver
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Garrulous Glaahk

Garrulous Glaahk (8/17)

  1. Update: The Volunteer, by Salvatore Scibona. Intermittently beautifully written, but ultimately kinda aimless both in plot and themes. I found out after reading it that it was expanded from a short story, which comprises the first 20 or so pages of this 400-page novel, and that unfortunately makes sense. Spying on Whales: The Past, Present, and Future of Earth's Most Awesome Creatures, by Nick Pyenson. A pretty good overview of current whale science, written by a working scientist (a paleontologist, to be exact). Kinda incoherently organized but a decent read. Main Street, by Sinclair Lewis. Unsubtle but effective. Slow-paced until the last quarter or so. Very good.
  2. It does. The tooltip showing how much damage an ability causes shows the base range of the ability's damage, which is determined by the Creation's level, and then it shows a percent modifier (eg, "+15%") based on the relevant stat. The percent modifier is not factored in to the numbers the tooltip shows, just shown after the base range, which is what's confusing here. Increasing any stat will raise the Creation's level, and thus increase the damage its skills do, but only increasing the relevant stat (Strength, Dexterity, or Magical Skill, depending on the attack type) increases that percent multiplier.
  3. Time for another one of these. In order of completion: A Wizard a True Star: Todd Rundgren in the Studio, by Paul Myers. What it says on the tin. Remarkably thorough and detailed on what he chooses to cover- Rundgren's and Utopia's albums, plus major Rundgren production jobs- with lots of new interview material and anecdotes and the like. That said, Todd Rundgren remains sort of elusive and difficult as an artist; this book is mainly about his craft and influence on other artists more than about his own art. Spoon River Anthology, by Edgar Lee Masters. It was, in fact, pretty good. Unfortunately I struggle to say much more about it. The poems were pretty good. First Person, by Richard Flanagan. Turned out to be a b, basically. Slippery and tricky. Weird metatextual stuff going on with Flanagan's real life. I'm not sure it ultimately achieves any great artistic statements, but it was worth reading. The World's Greatest Short Stories, James Daley, ed. Maybe not quite, but it certainly did have some Great Short Stories in it (Bartleby the Scrivener, The Death of Ivan Ilych, The Yellow Wallpaper, The Lady with the Toy Dog, A Hunger Artist, A&P). Also had some less-great stories, but what can you do. The Civil War: Great Speeches and Documents, Bob Blaisdell, ed. I read through a Dover Thrift volume of Civil War primary documents. That's all there is to say about that. Winesburg, Ohio, by Sherwood Anderson. Pretty great. Has been described as "Spoon River Anthology translated into prose" which I can see, and which is why I read this soon after Spoon River, but I think Winesburg is more impressive both technically and artistically; it feels like an American Dubliners. The Ditch, by Herman Koch. Underwhelming. Another dollar store find. Plain, conversational, easily-read prose, but not gripping at all. Essentially plotless. Repeatedly avoids climaxes in favor of... nothing, really. The resolution of the book is so understated as to be nonexistent. It just kinda stops. Next: Main Street, by Sinclair Lewis, to round out the trilogy of early 20th century literature about the Midwest.
  4. The rank badge system seems to have... entirely wiped out the custom ranks. They don't seem to be displayed anywhere, at all. Everyone just has the generic Geneforge ranks now. Depressing.
  5. The pattern for the past decade or so (since Spiderweb started launching games on Steam at the same time as elsewhere) has been that Spiderweb games normally launch at $20, and then after some undefined period of time drop to $10 (except, perversely, if you buy them directly from Spiderweb- I guess nobody's thought to adjust the prices offered in the Humble widgets). Presently, the games running from Avadon 1 (2011) to Avadon 2 (2013) are $10, while the games from Avernum 2: Crystal Souls (2015) onward are still $20. (AFAIK, all prices are consistent between Steam and GOG.) So, if this pattern holds, Avernum 3: Ruined World will drop in price maybe three or four years from now, then Queen's Wish a year or so after that, and Geneforge 1: Mutagen about two years after that. That said, Spiderweb games start regularly going on sale for 50% off a year or so after release, and sometimes for 60% or 70% off a year or so after that. It isn't. Mutagen just happens to be on sale on Steam at the moment.
  6. A month later: more books. A Column of Fire, by Ken Follett. Pretty much as described in the last post; it doesn't improve markedly in the last stretch. Historical research on par with World Without End, but storytelling inferior to either Pillars or World, resulting in a book that is curiously both very eventful and very lifeless. Oh well. His Master's Voice, by Stanisław Lem. Probably the densest and driest Lem novel I've read- which is saying something- but also, par for the course for Lem, absolutely packed with ideas. Intellectually very rewarding, but as a "first contact" novel overall, second to Fiasco in Lem's oeuvre. The Laughing Monsters, by Denis Johnson. The first of four books I have acquired in the past month from Dollar Trees, which are a good place to find a) absolute garbage books, and also b) misunderstood literature which has fallen through the cracks and gotten remaindered; sometimes c) both. This fits firmly under c. Apparently the last novel of a late major author who I have no prior familiarity with, and a weird mess of a book; a tensionless espionage thriller which uncomfortably rides (and honestly really sometimes just crosses) the line of "Darkest Africa" tropes, with zero feeling of authenticity. Not even enough character development to make it interesting in that way. At least some of the prose is pretty good. And it was only a buck. The Civil War: A History, by Harry Hansen. A 1961 single-volume history, it avoids being dated by the simple expedient of avoiding any in-depth interpretive work in its rush to get play-by-plays of every campaign and major battle into a single (albeit fat) volume. Very very dense with military history, with hardly any political/diplomatic analysis, or coverage of the home fronts or culture, or economic issues. (I'll give Hansen credit, though, for not remotely bothering to pretend that the war was over anything but slavery, which is more than can be said for certain Civil War histories.) Taken on its own ground, it's solid, but very dry. Overall: it was fine, and I certainly understand the military side of the war better now, but deep down I know I should just like see if I can get Battle Cry of Freedom out of the library at some point. Currently: inching my way through Spoon River Anthology, by Edgar Lee Masters; I am not big on poetry, but it's pretty good. Also: First Person, by Richard Flanagan, another Dollar Tree acquisition by a major novelist which seems to have fallen through the cracks. Very good prose, but time will tell whether this is a b or a c.
  7. Khyryk is by some distance the most interesting character in Geneforge 3, and more or less fits this description. (He turns out not to be quite so loyal in 4, but you can't know that at the time; within the confines of Geneforge 3, he is indeed loyal to the death- you cannot progress the game as a rebel without killing him.) I'm pretty sure I recall such Serviles in Stonespire, as well. But- these bright spots in the writing of the game come in pretty late, after you've been brutalized and desensitized by the atrocities of the first three islands, and exposed to dozens of blander, less-interesting, more-confident characters of both sides. And then, of course- you are, for example, forced to murder Khyryk if you're playing as a rebel, as I said above, which just rubs in the mindless, brutalizing nature of the conflict. While Geneforge 3 is the starkest and most extreme of the games in its depiction of the Rebellion and the Shaper-Creation conflict, it's also, curiously, easily the least ideological. The character writing in 1-3 is middling to subpar in comparison to the writing in 4/5, but even when the characters in 1 or 2 aren't especially interesting as individuals, they're interesting in the way that they serve as avatars of their ideologies, and argue for their ideas and seek to put them into practice. In 3, 90% or more of the characters are just exhausted, unhappy people who desperately want to murder their enemies, with ideological concerns mostly thrown under the bus in favor of less-cerebral war/action stuff. Even Greta and Alwan are dull and underdeveloped, despite their screentime, as it's very clear, from the very start of the game, which side of the war each of them will end up on. Fingers crossed for the remake.
  8. If you follow the same link you got from Humble in February, it'll take you to a download page where you can download an updated version of the game. The installer that Humble has is on-par, version-wise, with the version on Steam.
  9. Books I have read since the last post I made in this thread: Highcastle: A Remembrance, by Stanisław Lem. Atypical for Lem, as it's a memoir of his childhood in interwar Lwów- it very pointedly ends before he reaches adulthood; he turned 18 in September 1939. Perceptive and unsentimental, as one would expect from Lem; surprisingly moving in places. The Anarchy: The East India Company, Corporate Violence, and the Pillage of an Empire, by William Dalrymple. A very good history of the East India Company and its interactions with the Mughals and other South Asian powers, up till about 1800, by which time the EIC was the dominant power in the subcontinent. Dalrymple is an excellent writer and historian in command of his material; and he does a good job at conveying how disgusting and criminal the EIC conquest of India was, although it's clear there are figures he likes and dislikes among both the Indian political scene and the Company. Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War, by Mary Roach. If you've read one Mary Roach book, you kinda know what you're in for with all the others. She's never anything less than an excellent writer, but sometimes she writes about material that ends up being not-so-engaging. This book is about military science, so it's only intermittently interesting, and on top of that, she only writes about the science-and-technology side of things, so what exactly all this science and technology is for is a constant, uncomfortable, unexamined presence- there's lots of talk about how soldiers will need to be able to stay cool or survive IEDs in "the Middle East," but no examination of why they might be in the "Middle East," or what exactly they're doing there. Not great. She has another book coming out later this year, in any case, about animals and the law. Hope it's fun. The Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follett. Super-popular, and generally regarded as a classic, but: actually pretty bad. Flat characters (the women in particular; Follett struggles to find anything for his women characters to do beyond get raped), weak historical research (the feudalism presented in this novel bears about as much resemblance to the actual Anglo-Norman political system as do the systems in Dune or ASOIAF), curiously old-fashioned, episodic plotting (crises are usually solved tidily, and while the stakes rise over the course of the novel, it never feels very tied-together), and an odd, late-emerging sheen of Whig history (presenting the Becket crisis as a step towards modern liberal democracy). I must assume that it's mainly popular among people unfamiliar with the actual history of the time period in question, and who haven't read very many good historical novels- this isn't just far from being the best historical novel I've ever read, it's actually not even the best historical novel about the Anarchy I've read (that'd be When Christ and His Saints Slept, by Sharon Kay Penman). The Last Mughal: The Fall of a Dynasty: Delhi, 1857, by William Dalrymple. Sort of a followup to the prior book by Dalrymple (published earlier, but covering a later period of history), this is a close-focus account of the Great Mutiny in and around Delhi, and especially in and around the Mughal court. Excellent and evenhanded. World Without End, by Ken Follett. Perhaps unwisely, I ended up getting the two sequels to Pillars of the Earth. This is the first sequel, set about 150 years after Pillars. Surprisingly, it's also much, much better; Follett clearly improved greatly as a writer in the 18 years between writing Pillars and this book. Much better historical research, much better characters (nobody's too perfect; everyone's believable; the women have much more depth and agency), more-integrated plotting (though it speeds up a bit too much near the end, and nearly glosses over some major developments). Not a masterpiece, but a really solid historical novel. My computer's motherboard burnt out a month ago, so I've been reading a bunch in that time (though only the last two books listed above; they're pretty long). I'm currently something like two-thirds of the way through the second Pillars sequel, A Column of Fire. It's not great. He tries to pack too much real history in, so it's super-eventful, but the writing is sometimes almost telegraphic, and none of the characters have much room to breathe or develop. Ah well.
  10. I agree with this. A lower Control Level being better might make sense from one design perspective (since there's no theoretical maximum, it's not really possible to set a certain value as the default, and have the Control Level decrease to represent weaker control), but on the other hand, its being higher being worse is just counterintuitive (naming it "rogue proclivity" or something might make more sense). It's also frustrating that nowhere in the game can you see, explicitly, how the Control Level is calculated (the information in my post above is largely derived from Mechalibur's testing-deduced stats, here), and you can't actually see what it means (AFAIK, no one has yet figured out the formula that determines a Creation's chance to go rogue- a higher Control Level clearly makes it more likely, but it's not clear exactly how likely). The game also tells you to raise your Shaping skills to increase your control over your Creations, which is sort of misleading, in that, as in the example I gave in the post above, it's actually possible, especially at low levels, for raising a Shaping skill to actually weaken your control over a Creation by a level. I disagree with this. One of the risks of a Creation going rogue has to be the chance that said Creation will attack its Shaper or teammates. The game happens to implement this via the "Charm" effect, presumably as a result of Jeff Vogel's traditional parsimony (why create a new effect that does exactly what an existing effect does, but with a different name?). Calling it "Charm" is maybe misleading, in that it implies active hostile action in a way that words like "fear" or "confusion" don't. But you get used to it.
  11. This is very deliberate. It is happening because your Control Levels over your Creations (visible on each Creation's stats page, and varies by Creation) are too high. Somewhat confusingly, a higher Control Level represents weaker control over a Creation: the higher a Creation's Control Level, the more likely it is to go rogue when it has low HP, so you want it as low as possible. Things that raise a Creation's Control Level include said Creation's level (if it's greater than your Player Character's; a Creation's level is itself determined by your relevant Shaping skill and how many upgrades you've bought for the Creation), the number of Creations you currently control (each additional Creation makes all of them harder to control), and your difficulty level (minor; but on Veteran there's a flat +1 to each Creation's Control Level). The only thing that reduces Control Level is your total Shaping skills- that is, the sum of each of your Fire + Magic + Battle Shaping skills past the first point. So: to stop this happening again, or at least make it less common: Run fewer Creations at once. You probably won't be able to effectively run more than 2-3 Creations at once until a good ways into the game; Run lower-levelled Creations. The way combat works in Mutagen, you don't want to have Creations that are too low-levelled; but while higher-levelled Creations are more effective, each level they have above your PC's means an additional +2 Control Level. Generally you want to keep your Creations at about the same level as your protagonist until a ways into the game; Raise your Shaping skills, even if you don't use each of them. The sum of your Shaping skills reduces a Creation's Control level. Raising a given Shaping skill increases the level of all Creations of the relevant type, which can actually more-than-offset the Control Level gain you get from the additional point- for example, if you're level 5 and have two level 5 Fyoras, and raise your Fire Shaping by 1, you'll gain 1 more Control Level over each of your Fyoras, but lose 2 because you've also increased the Fyoras' level above your own, for a net loss of 1 Control Level. As such, while it's effective to focus on one type of Shaping (Fire/Magic/Battle), you can't afford to minmax these skills, and need to put at least a few points into even the ones you don't use so much.
  12. Queen's Wish (2019) is the first Spiderweb game to introduce this feature. No prior games have it. I forget exactly when this feature was introduced- Avadon 2? 3? In any case, it's another thing that wasn't standard in Spiderweb games until very recently. It's not really something that's moddable, unfortunately.
  13. There not being such an ending doesn't really make sense from a player-choice perspective, but I think it makes sense from a thematic perspective. Sucia is deliberately set up as sort of a microcosm representing the injustices and latent, potential problems of Shaper society, and the endings are ultimately about the effect on Shaper society of what happens on Sucia. None of the factions on Sucia are content with indefinite isolation, and the thrust of the story is towards re-establishing contact with the Shapers on the mainland. If you don't return to the mainland, it'll probably be a long, long time before the mainland Shapers even realize anything is amiss on Sucia, as they don't seem to even keep an eye on it- nobody's been there legally in a century or more. (And illegally- the young Shapers you can meet in the southeastern docks are an addition to the remake, rather than part of the original conception of the game.) Geneforge 1 was originally conceived of as a standalone game. The original version has no sequel hooks at all, and wasn't designed to be easily followed up. The vial of red goo is an addition to the remake. Thus, the reasons for requiring the player to return to the mainland must, I think, be thematic, rather than to tie into future planned games.
  14. There's a single smart Ornk in 5, which IIRC is capable of some speech. Not even as an Easter egg- it's canonical, and part of a sidequest.
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