Monday, July 31, 2017

The Near Horizon: August 2017

I admittedly don't have a whole lot to report, although I have one cool thing to say.

First, apologies, for not having finished Episode One of DOOM yet. On top of being extremely busy, I'm having some pretty serious sleep-related problems. I think it's because I'm so fucking stressed and anxiety-riddled from all the work I've been having to do. I never thought I'd be at the point where I was *happy* to get just seven hours of sleep a night, but if I could reliably count on that, I'd be fucking thrilled.

If anyone cares, my main problem is that I can't *get* to sleep. I'm a night owl. I know the fact that I stay up very late isn't the problem, because it's been working for years now. Something's changed in the past few weeks. At first, it was that I couldn't get to sleep at my normal bedtime (4AM). I'd lay there, go into a kind of half-doze for about 20 minutes, and...then I was awake again. For like, fucking hours. I'd lay in bed for fucking HOURS trying to sleep, eventually passing out at like 7 or 8 in the morning.

A temporary solution was adjusting my schedule slightly. I found that if I went to bed after the sun came up, at around 6AM, I was so tired that I was thrilled to be laying down, and I'd go to sleep almost right away.

Then that stopped working. No idea why.

I'm doing things to try and fix this, (avoiding anything stimulating later in the day food/drink wise, stopping doing anything involving a screen before going to bed, reading), but honestly it's a total shot in the dark whether or not it'll work. Last Sunday night, tried and failed to get to sleep at a regular time, and I was so pissed off that I said FUCK IT, and decided that if my fucking brain and body was so fucking convinced that it didn't need to sleep, then I wouldn't give it ANY goddamned sleep.

If you can't tell, this is really bringing out my rage side.

I stayed up for 36 hours. Finally caved and fell asleep at 2AM Tuesday morning, slept til 1PM and felt a whole lot better. Tuesday night going into Wednesday, couldn't fucking sleep again. I was up until 9AM, had to get back up at 1PM. Thursday night went better, although it was a close call. Laid down to sleep at 5:30AM, woke up some short time later confused, exhausted and incoherent as hell. I'd been having a sort of half-dream about Fire Warrior (I'm reading it again right now), and found that I was having a bit of trouble differentiating between reality and my dream. But I could tell that I was waking back up. While I was laying there, exhausted out of my fucking mind, trying to figure this out, I apparently fell back asleep, cause next thing I knew, I was waking up to my alarm.

Since Friday it's been going...okay. I've at least fallen asleep when I've tried, but I've been staying up until 6:30AM or so because I'm so paranoid of it happening again. I'm...trying to deal with it in my own way, as I'm reluctant to put anymore pills in my body. It's not that I have a problem with pills at all, it's more that I'm just fucking paranoid. I've heard too many stories of people accidentally ODing on stuff, having lethal allergic reactions to basic stuff. I mean fuck, that's how Monty Oum from RoosterTeeth died. Then there's stuff like Serotonin Storm that can come up out of fucking nowhere from a basic psych med and KILL you. I'm aware that the chances of something like that happening are very low, but it only takes once, you know?

If it persists and I exhaust all other options, though, I'm sure I'll get there eventually.

So...yeah. I'm sure you're so thrilled that you got to read all that.

Anyway, about the story stuff.

The DOOM Chronicles has one more chapter and an epilogue, then it's going on hiatus. Then Gone Home will start posting. After that, I'm genuinely uncertain if I'll be able to return to fan fiction for several months. I really want to get The Shadow Wars wrapped up, republished, and put into paperback as soon as possible. I'm having a difficult enough time finding time to do so as it is, so I really think fan fiction needs to go on the back burner for a little bit. So that sucks.

Speaking of the Shadow Wars...Dead Ice has begun posting! It and Dead Skies should go up pretty quickly. Then the first stumbling block will hit: Dead Rain. I've got it planned out, but as for when I'll find time to actually write it? I can't say. I've begun working on it, but haven't made a great deal of progress yet. I'll make a real effort, but I can't promise anything. After that, though, lots more regular publishing. Then again I've gotta stop for Quarantine. Then smooth sailing all the way up to Into the Void, which is a total rewrite. Then, once Saturate is finished, six brand new shorts!

After that, paperbacks!

If I'm VERY lucky, and work VERY hard, I *might* be able to get paperbacks out before the end of the year, but I would absolutely not count on it.

So...sorry about all that. 2017 doesn't really seem to be my year. Partly because I'm working my ass off in an attempt to enter 2018 from a much better starting point.

Thanks for the support.

-Obsidian

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Game Talk #20: Call of Duty - Infinite Warfare


So, why has it been so long since I've done one of these?

I'm so fucking busy that I don't even know how to describe it.

So anyway, I've been obsessed with Infinite Warfare. This game is one of those like underdog, snatching victory from the jaws of defeat at the absolute last moment kind of games for me. Why? A little history.

I first became introduced to Call of Duty with Modern Warfare. It blew me the fuck away. MW2 only blew me away even more. It remains, I think, the best Call of Duty game, (although now Infinite Warfare is my favorite). Modern Warfare 3 I loved as well and that's actually where I got into the multiplayer. In fact, it was the only time I've ever gotten into CoD multiplayer.

I didn't care about anything that came before Modern Warfare, nor World at War, nor Black Ops 1 & 2. But when Ghosts came out in 2013, I was excited, because it sounded interesting. I got it, fully intending to get back into multiplayer, but it just didn't work out that way, mainly because I found the game lackluster. I didn't even beat the campaign first time through, but going through it a second time, I actually enjoyed and beat it. And then haven't played it since. Extinction was a great idea, too. I really wish that would have taken off.

Also, on a side note, while I gladly would sacrifice Ghosts 2 for IW, I am kind of disappointed that they just left that cliffhanger ending.

When Advanced Warfare came out, I really liked that one. Fantastic campaign and gameplay. I thought it managed to feel different while still also feeling like a CoD game. Not to mention, good lord, those cut-scenes still look cutting edge.

Then Black Ops 3 happened, and I grabbed a copy, brand new, full price, launch day, and played through the campaign. I was less enthralled with this one. I mean, at first, I really liked where it was going, especially with some light horror aspects, and later some psychological thriller aspects. Unfortunately, it didn't build to a satisfying conclusion. (Seriously, I was so confused by the ending, I had to go look it up, and even then it still seemed weird.) So it was a great idea with a bad finale. And I still didn't like the damned multiplayer.

It was after finishing up Black Ops 3 that I decided...you know what? I need to stop buying these games brand new, full price. I mean, I'm only playing the campaign through once, maybe twice, and that's it. I just don't care about the multiplayer, and I don't even care about the zombie mode anymore. (Advanced Warfare didn't even ship with it!!!)

Then Infinite Warfare started getting teased, and I was fucking amped. I have been waiting for Call of Duty in space, and I mean ACTUALLY in space, not just like in Earth orbit for like one level, but fighting on Mars and the moon and all over the solar system, for like eight years now, back when I first got the idea. And of course we all know how the IW launch trailer became the most disliked video on YouTube ever. Or close to it, anyway.

Let's talk about that for a second. Why are/were people bitching SO much about that? Like, listen, WWII has been done TO. FUCKING. DEATH. There are so many fucking books and games and movies about it, and it's all CoD even was before Modern Warfare came along and finally made the series actually interesting. And I know people are going to say the same thing about 'future' CoD now, but I honestly think that while, yeah, I was actually getting tired of fighting robots in the nearish future, Infinite Warfare broke through the ceiling and catapulted into an entirely new realm of storytelling. This wasn't just Earth in 2050 or 2080, with some high-tech stuff and robots. This was fucking actual, real outer space, for almost the whole game.

Ironically, I did not purchase Infinite Warfare in 2016. In fact, I kind of forgot about it, since I've got so much else going on in my life, and so many other games on my to-play list. In May of this year, I decided to take a quick look at the price, and saw that it was half-off, down to 25$ on Amazon, and figured, 'Okay, yeah, a good a time as any.' And I bought it. Started playing it, got pissed off in the prologue because of one poorly designed area, and...stopped playing for about a month and a half, since that whole busyness thing doesn't really go away.

Fast forward to this month, July, where I look at the game case and think, 'Okay, CoD campaigns aren't THAT long, and I started it, I've at least got to beat it once.' So I put it back in, started a fresh campaign, and got to work.

And then I fell immediately in love.

Currently, I'm on my like...fifth playthrough of the campaign. It's rare I do that anymore, especially when I'm playing it for the sheer sake of experiencing the game and I'm not going for any achievements or challenges or anything. I'm simply enjoying the story and the environment.

So why is that? Well, let's start with a quick plot synopsis to make sure we're all on the same page.

It's the future. The game doesn't specify the year, but we've got FTL flight and colonies all over the solar system and the Earth is basically unified. There's mining colonies on moons and asteroids, orbital shipyards, and research outposts and full colonies on several planets and larger moons. Now, some time ago, during the 'gold rush' era of space colonization, the Settlement Defense Front was a military force created to instill some law and order out there on the frontier. Eventually, they decided they could do it better all by themselves and went rogue, launching the Secession Wars and attempting to seize control of the whole system. Ultimately, it culminated in peace accords and the divvying up of the system.

Apparently, though, they never stopped thinking they could do it better, and were really just biding their time. The game opens with the SDF launching an all-out surprise attack on Earth and, in the process of driving them off, the Earth loses all but two of its space-worthy destroyer ships. In the chaos, the main character, Nick Reyes, a veteran combat pilot, gets put in charge of one of these ships. And now it's up to you and your crew to stop the SDF from finishing the job by kicking their ass all over the system.

So, pretty cool premise. Gameplay wise, the game has a little over a half dozen primary story missions. That sounds like not a lot, but not only are these fairly lengthy levels, often divided up into multiple parts, but the game is supplemented by an additional nine side missions that are either areal combat or more traditional FPS style.

It's a pretty solid campaign.

So why do I like it so much?

For the sake of transparency, I think that it's really more of a coincidence that I love this game. I don't love it because it's Call of Duty, or even because it has a truly stellar campaign or story or characters, but mainly because I finally, finally have a game where I can play in the solar system. I've never really had that before. I've always had a love of astronomy and the planets and their moons. I obsessed over it all when I was much younger, and today that translates into a passing interest that, if properly stimulated, becomes intense.

Like with this game.

All that being said, Infinite Warfare is still a great campaign. It has a simple but well-executed story, a very good cast of characters that aren't 'Generic Marine #7' or 'Typical Technician #28'. When you are onboard your ship, the Retribution, even the background characters feel pretty real and diverse. That's another thing, diversity. Most of the gaming industry just got its ass handed to it in terms of having an inclusive cast by a fucking Call of Duty game. That's kind of unreal, and awesome.

So what's wrong with the game then?

Right off the bat, I didn't try the multiplayer even once. Although I glanced at it a little, and I liked what I saw in that there's a bit more of a story to the MP, I'm still not interested. The wall-running and jump-jetting and gadgets and crap, it's too much for me. I'm boring in that I just want more old school, Halo 3 and MW3 era gameplay in my multiplayer. Also, again with that busy thing, I don't really have time for multiplayer.

To be honest, not much is really wrong with the game, per say. If anything, the complaints I had were really just me wishing there were more things.

The side missions. Although they did get a bit repetitive, (every single one of them where you get out of your space jet takes place on an enemy cruiser, I wanted to go onto more planets and moons!), they're still good missions in and of themselves. And furthermore, why didn't they DLC in more of these side missions!? It'd have been absolutely perfect for such an opportunity.

The ship itself that you occupy between missions. What there was, was pretty cool. But you were confined to a very small portion of the ship. I wanted to explore! I wanted more areas to see, more features, more conversations, maybe even mini-games? It was a hugely wasted opportunity.

The zombies. Okay, this is really my biggest gripe. The zombie mode in this was just fucking stupid. The story was so out there, so over the top, so unnecessary that I didn't even see the point. I mean, it has nothing to do with the universe or the campaign, as far as I can tell. Maybe I'm wrong and I missed something, but I don't even care. In a universe of gritty military sci-fi, I don't want to play a sub-game where I'm trapped in a carnival on the moon because an '80s horror director made a deal with the Devil to be immortal and...needs to feed people to zombies to keep it going? I don't fucking know.

All I know is that they wasted a perfectly good opportunity. Why not have it be part of the universe?! It'd be so easy to have like, a research station on Venus go dark, and you are part of a four-person squad sent in to investigate, and find zombies! That'd be so fucking awesome!

Actually, you know what? Fuck it, I'll do it myself.

 
The other real criticism I have of the story is the bad guys. The SDF. Their intentions are really kind of basic and as an enemy, they're a little lame. I mean, they have this asshole boss who is just a lunatic. At one point, he literally tells you all to 'surrender for execution'. Like, why even bother? Is this guy really so fucking stupid that he thinks that would work? If death is a certainty following surrender, what person wouldn't keep fighting?

Really, they just kind of came off as space Nazis. They basically think that they have the right to rule over the solar system because they're tougher. Seriously, that's their argument. We are tougher than you are, so you don't deserve your stuff. We do. I mean, that makes for a quick and easy bad guy army, I guess, but it would have been nice if there was some more thought put into this.

That's all I can really think of in terms of complaints.

Oh wait, one more thing. A lot of people have complained about the name of the game, and...yeah, I mean, I can see. Infinite Warfare. What does that even mean? It sounds like a really high-concept sci-fi, but this is decidedly not high concept.

What was wrong with Solar Warfare? Spacial Warfare? Interstellar Warfare?

On the good side, there's a few cool things worked into the game. Like your 'Most Wanted Board'. Basically, it's the command structure of the SDF, and they let you know every time you kill someone on the board, and they get crossed off the list. In most cases, you actually have to fight them. Typically in dogfights. Honestly, it doesn't amount to much functionally speaking, you don't get perks for doing it or anything, but it adds to the atmosphere.

And then there are Armories you can find scattered throughout the game. Finding these will give you tangible perks in the game like faster reloading, better equipment, increased accuracy, etc.

To be honest, the game is a little basic, and I feel like that was intentional. Either they left it basic so that there was a good and easy foundation to build off of, (they say they want to make it a series within CoD, ((PLEASE)), so that would make sense), or they were spreading their resources between campaign, zombies, and multiplayer, and this was as much as they could do. Either way, despite being a bit simple, the campaign is great and well-crafted.

So if you've got a love of the solar system, or really just First Person Shooters in general, give the campaign a shot! This is a solid game. (Again, just the campaign, no idea about MP.)

My only genuine concern now is that due to the bitching and the comparatively less sales of IW, they'll cancel their plans to do sequels. Please don't, Infinity Ward! Make more! Make many more! There's so much left to explore, so much potential for expansion.

Here's hoping.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

The Near Horizon: July 2017

Hello everyone!

So...this isn't going to be a happy update. I mean, well, it kind of is, but...okay, there's some good news and some bad news.

Here's the good news: I have finally unlocked the ability to reliably create print-on-demand paperbacks! This is something I've been trying to figure out for years now. I'm also in the process of getting The Shadow Wars up on other sales platforms. Or, I mean, I will once I have gone through the process of editing and adjusting the whole series.

Side Note: If you have missed out on it, I'm editing, touching up, or otherwise revising the entire Shadow Wars series, AND releasing everything on my S. A. Lusher WattPad account starting 08.01.2017. For the most part, everything will remained untouched, but the pertinent facts are that I'm going to expand Quarantine into a full-blown novel and The Blind War and Into the Void are being boiled down into a single novel, to be titled Into the Void, and I'll be adding a third novella to the prequels called Dead Rain. I'm also going to be releasing six brand new short stories that each feature one of the surviving main characters, taking place after Saturate, as well as a six novel sequel series to The Shadow Wars that takes place ten years later and features a brand new protagonist. If you want more details, check out the first post on my new blog for S. A. Lusher. Web Address: salusher.blogspot.com.

The other good news is that I'm still making slow but steady progress on my new original Post-Apocalyptic Survival/Horror novel, although it is going slower and less steady than I would have hoped, as June, particularly the last half of it, was insanely busy. I'm looking for to, starting Monday, a huge segment of time where I just work on writing stuff with few interruptions.

So that's the good news. I'm basically going to be dedicating the rest of the year to writing my new novel, and editing, touching up, and expanding upon The Shadow Wars, and turning them into paperbacks.

The bad news is that this is going to cut into my fan fiction writing even more than before. Here's what I'll say: I'm going to keep writing fan fiction in whatever spare time I can find, but I won't be able to promise any kind of upload schedule.

So...sorry about that. I'm hoping that the return of The Shadow Wars, with new content, will make up for that.

Also, either to help make up for that or to make myself feel better, (because please believe me, I feel the pain, I want to write all the fan fiction, but I just don't have the time, and I have to sacrifice something), I'm going to talk about other fan fic projects I have planned in the future.

First of all, let's get the immediate stuff out of the way.

Gathering Darkness is finished. In case anyone is interested, I do actually have a couple more ideas for potential entries in that series, but it will be awhile before I even think about getting to them. All I can say is that the sequel will be REALLY weird and different and a fan fiction crossover of a game I don't think basically anyone ever has written about.

The DOOM Chronicles: Episode One is really close to being done. I'm going to try and finish it as soon as I can, and then I am putting that series on hiatus for awhile because holy crap, that was a LOT of writing. And the series isn't even close to finished.

As I mentioned earlier, I'll be posting my novelization of Gone Home as soon as The DOOM Chronicles Episode One is finished.

I've been blathering on about my secret project for awhile now, and although I've made some good progress on planning it, I've also been feeling a slow, subtle shift in my desire to write it right now. I honestly hate to say something vague and stupid like that, because it sounds like such a useless, wishy-washy thing to say. But that's really as well as I can put it.

Let me try to articulate it a little better.

I think the problem is that as time gone on, and will continue to go on, my desire to work on this project has diminished and my desire to work on other projects has gotten more powerful. The obvious answer to get over it and work on the project. And that's what I do when working on original fiction. But with fan fiction, I do it more for pleasure than anything else, as a kind of stress relief, and it's harder to do so if I'm working on fan fiction I don't want to. Now, obviously I don't abandon any fan fic as soon as I start to get tired of writing it. Once I start, I try really hard to commit to the end, and I've gone pretty well so far, I think.

So anyway, I'm not even sure what I'm going to do next and it doesn't even matter all that much right now since I just explained how little time I have. I'm hoping that, after a few weeks of consistency, I'll start figuring out how to manage my time better.

Right now, I think I'll probably tackle Unreal 2: The Awakening, but honestly, I've been fairly consistently fighting the urge to write some Halo fan fiction for a long time now. Like, since the beginning of the year. Technically longer, I guess. Gathering Darkness did a little bit to help, but it was kind of narrow in terms of getting to write in that universe. So...I dunno, maybe I'll start working on both of them? We'll see.

Now let's talk about everything else.

I do still plan on novelizing both of The Suffering games. Those are a pair of third person shooter horror-action games released back on the original Xbox back in the day. They are awesome. Lots of crazy monsters. I am going to try and also created a third story, closure, as there was never a third game.

Red Faction. I plan on doing a full novelization of Red Faction, Red Faction: Guerrilla, and Red Faction: Armageddon. Red Faction will be a pretty straight novelization. I'm going to expand a great deal on Guerrilla, since the story was extremely threadbare. I also plan to make a big tweak to Armageddon's story as it had a massive plothole and it was a little weak, and I thought of an absolutely awesome way to make it more in keeping with Red Faction tradition.

Split Second. This one is an obscure, strange as hell buddy cop comedy/horror/action B-movie staring freaking Rutger Hauer of all people. I think you can find the whole thing on YouTube. It is so worth watching. I want to novelize it, and possibly even make a series of it. If the power is ever available to me, I want to purchase the rights to the film so that I can do it officially. A pipe dream, I know, but it's nice to dream.

Half-Life. I have an epic series planned. Much in the same vein as DOOM, it will feature a few different protagonists and span the breadth of the Half Life series...and extend beyond it, since Valve has officially fucked us over and abandoned the series because 'they just don't really feel like it right now' and 'the time just isn't right to make a new Half-Life' game. Seriously, fuck Valve. This one will admittedly be more difficult, as my stories take their cues from the games. So I guess I'll just have to continue the franchise in my own way. But I can at least say it's going to be a lot of fun.

Halo. I plan on writing a sequel trilogy to Halo 3. Halo 4 sucked. Halo 5...I didn't even fucking bother. And it seems like I was right not to. The franchise is dead to me now. But I suddenly got a pretty cool idea for my own version of Halo 4, 5, & 6 last year. I want to get to this, you know, someday. Eventually.

Before I get started on that, however, I plan on writing an epic Halo serial. If anyone here is familiar with any of my old Halo content like Through the Eyes of Another, To Be A Marine, or, more recently The Rookie Chronicles, it's basically a hard reboot of almost all of my Halo-related ideas I've ever had, put into one epic length series. It's going to be so long that it will put The DOOM Chronicles to shame by comparison. I fully expect to still be writing this particular fan fiction for five years at least. Probably longer.

See You at the Bottom. I haven't forgotten about this! It's still a secret. Sorry. But I'm going to actually try and get this one out of the way in the relatively near future.

Knights of the Old Republic 3. Yes. In 2004, 2005, and 2006, I wrote a 187,000 word epic called Heroes of the Old Republic, and it served as a sequel to KOTOR 2, and it was only the first story in a trilogy that never manifested. Now, granted it was overly wordy, and I could do a way better job, but I do plan on writing this one at some point. I've been thinking about KOTOR 3 for over ten years now and I've got a really, REALLY cool idea for how to end that particular trilogy.

Those are the most certain ones. I have a handful of other stories that I'm kind of certain about, ones that interest me, but I haven't really had any time to think about. I'll briefly touch on those.

StarFox 64. A little under ten years ago, I wrote what I felt, at the time, was the StarFox 64 fan fiction I had been trying to write for years by then. It was called Hero and it was my own idea for a sequel to that game. I ended up writing a sequel to Hero, and had intended to finish it off as a trilogy. However, by the time I could even think about writing that final story, so much time had passed that I realized I should probably rewrite the first two stories, because I had come a long way, writing wise. I actually still want to do this.

Dead Space. I was fairly disappointed with Dead Space 3. Not necessarily for the story, (interesting story/atmosphere), but for the execution and gameplay. God the gameplay sucked. But at one point I had an idea for my own version of Dead Space 3 before there even was a DS3. It was long and epic and I still might write it someday.

Friday the 13th. I've been a fan of this series for awhile, and I've incorporated Jason Voorhees into my fan fiction before, but I've never actually written a Friday the 13th fanfic. Well, after learning that, after years and YEARS of being in development, the new Jason movie has officially been canceled, I just said, "You know what, fuck it. I'll do it myself." I've got an idea for not just one story, but a sequel series to the original series. Again, someday I want to do this.

Star Trek. I've talked about novelizing certain Star Trek episodes. Horror ones, obviously. But those ideas faded...all except for one. One episode I keep coming back to is TNG: Schisms. Although I lament the ultimate payoff of the episode, (and so do the producers, according to some interviews), I think that the episode had a fantastic build-up. I'd like to expand on that with a novelization/adaptation.

StarCraft. I've toyed around with writing StarCraft fan fiction only a handful of times over the past fifteen years. I love the games, (though I have yet to play the sequel trilogy, someday!). But with the news of StarCraft: Remastered, I realized how much I missed that series, and how much I actually really do want to write fan fiction for it. At the moment, I have a tentative idea, and it'd be fairly standard fare for what you've normally seen me write, just StarCraft flavored. This is definitely another one that'll be a ways off, unless, of course, when I get StarCraft: Remastered (we finally have a release date!), and I not only get super amped and into the idea of a fanfic (that's going to happen, I'm sure), but I stay super amped for a month or more, then it might end up getting prioritized. I dunno, we'll see.

Right now, that's all I have written down in my database. I have a few other ideas floating around, but they're all pretty distant. A few more novelizations of obscure (and not so obscure but mainly forgotten) horror games. But to be totally honest, I really need to whittle down my current list before I can even think of adding anything new, and given how my primary focus right now is original fiction, that may be awhile.

Honestly, I'm hoping that by the time this year is winding down, I might be actually on the road to having a more viable and stable income. Is this is true, then I should be able to actually start posting more fan fiction more reliable. Also, I've been thinking a lot about machinima for some reason a lot recently. Someday, I really do plan to get back to it. I really want to finish the Not Alone Trilogy and continued beyond it.

But anyway, that's it. Thanks for the support everyone, I really appreciate it.

-Obsidian

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Game Talk #19: The Elder Scrolls - Oblivion


So, I have a lot to say about this game. Pretty much all of it good.

I'd like to preface this by saying that I had never played an Elder Scrolls game before Oblivion. I know, I'm a horrible blasphemer, I never played Morrowind. I actually tried it, but I just don't have the patience for it.

Let me set the stage.

It's late 2006. My mom had gotten an Xbox 360 for me for my birthday several months ago. At this point in my life, the most expansive games I'd ever played were World of Warcraft and Knights of the Old Republic. I had never really played an 'open world' game, and they weren't nearly so common back then.

I had been hearing so much about Oblivion and I finally managed to grab a copy. I knew that the game was going to be big, and amazing, and beautiful, but I really had no idea. One of my most distinct memories is playing the game with my wife beside me, (at that point, we'd been dating for just a few months), and I had just left the Imperial City and had crossed a bridge. Making my way up a steep incline, I killed a giant rat and immediately noticed the way its body actually reacted to gravity. I remember hitting it with my sword and watching it roll a few feet down the hill. It looked so realistic.

My mom came out and was like, "What the fuck are you doing?"

And we had to explain to her why physics like this in a game were so amazing.

Also, as a kind of final side note, there was once a period of time where my wife would come over after work and play the game until she had to go home. That's about an eight hour block of time. And she did this for several days in a row. She'd never really played video games before we started dating, but she'd always wanted to, and I became a gateway. At this point, she plays more games than I do.

In The Elder Scrolls - Oblivion, you play an unnamed, unspecified protagonist who has been locked up in prison. You get to determine basically everything about your character in true RPG style, and that was something that blew me away. Before, the most customization I'd ever encountered was probably KOTOR, which isn't really a lot, or WoW, which was more, but still not much compared to this game.

Honestly, is there anyone out there actually interested in this game who doesn't know the specifics of it?

The sheer amount of stuff to do in Oblivion was crazy. I mean, looking back on it now that we have Skyrim, it doesn't seem like all that much. Skyrim outperforms Oblivion in basically every way. And I imagine if you're going back from Skyrim to Oblivion, then it'd be hard to get into. But I was there at that perfect moment in time when Oblivion totally blew my mind. There were just so many people to talk to and entire towns with buildings you could go into. You could go into basically every building! I'd never seen anything like that.

And then there was the environment. It's obvious that the designers spent a lot of time painstakingly handcrafting that environment. It wasn't just beautiful, but also unique. There were just so many little things you could come across, so many little scenes with contextual storytelling. By that I mean, there were whole areas that had nothing to do with the main quest, or any quests for that matter, that had been set up to tell very simple little stories about the people inhabiting it or why it was there.

One thing I remember is coming across a tent with some garlic hanging down from the top and a book inside about vampires. Really basic stuff, but it just worked. Maybe I'm easily impressed, but little stuff like that was always so neat, especially considering they didn't have to do that. How many missed out on most of these little details because a lot of people don't naturally go exploring? It's actually a little depressing.

I could go on for pages about the specifics.

Final thoughts? The game has a lot of problems, but that's the nature of Bethesda games. When you make games this huge, there's going to be bugs. But Oblivion was, for me at least, and I imagine a lot of other people, groundbreaking. I understand that a lot of people who were already invested in the Elder Scrolls series, specifically Morrowind, were fairly disappointed with this game, as they felt it had been dumbed down and made into generic fantasy. Which, given how intricate and difficult Morrowind was, I guess I can see it. But this is just my perspective, and my opinion, and for me, Oblivion was simply amazing.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Games That Should Be More Popular in Fan Fiction

I've been writing fan fiction for almost fifteen years now.

Something that's always bothered me, and continues to do so to this day, is that there are some games that seem like they should have a great deal more fan fiction than they do. And I've never been able to really figure it out. I guess this post is kind of asking for opinions.

Why do you think these games never got off the ground in the fan fiction forums?

Also, a few things to consider. When I go looking for fan fiction, I mainly go to Fanfiction.net and WattPad. I know there exist other sites for fan fiction, (and even WattPad is, well, debatable as to whether or not it caters to fan fiction, I don't consider stories about Youtubers and bands fan fiction), but every one I've come across tends to be far less well put-together and enjoy far less traffic than either of those two sites.

So, first on the list: ID Software games.

By that, I mean the unholy trinity that is Doom, Quake, and Wolfenstein. I mean that in a good way.


I think there is an obvious and direct correlation between popularity and the amount of fan fictions. So why are these three series so dormant and unpopular in that regard? There might be somewhat of an argument for Quake and Wolfenstein, they're popular, to be sure, but fucking everyone knows about DOOM. I mean, come on.

And the numbers do actually reflect this. On Fanfiction.net, the stats for these three series are:

DOOM: 351 Stories
Wolfenstein: 23 Stories
Quake: 48 Stories

But those numbers seem abysmally low, especially considering that all three series have seen a resurgence recently. (Although the new Quake game is both non-story oriented and not out yet.) And, on top of that, both Wolfenstein: The New Order and DOOM were very good games with completely solid, well-crafted campaigns.

It gets even more confusing when you consider the fact that all three series were already well established by the time Fanfiction came online in 1998, AND you consider the fact that these are all the stories we have access to after eighteen years of continuous gathering. Sure, some people will have deleted their stories, but this is absurd. All three franchises have interesting storylines and universes that easily cater to fan fiction writers.

Okay, this one is even more perplexing.


Half-Life is really popular. Although it's past its heyday, it still has a very strong following if only because everyone is fruitlessly holding their breath for Half-Life 3.

The game is fairly legendary. Half-Life 1 and 2 were both pretty groundbreaking when they came out, and it was awesome when Episodes 1 and 2 came out as well. Given the sheer amount of mods, machinima, and other content related to this, you'd think fan fiction wouldn't be far behind.

And yet, there's just over 1,200 fan fictions on Fanfiction.net. Sounds like a lot, but consider that Half-Life came out the same year that the website launched, and what you're seeing is the culmination of eighteen years of traffic. Also consider the more popular games like Mass Effect or Dragon Age or Final Fantasy 7, which enjoy tens of thousands of fan fics.

You'd think Half-Life would be up there, not just because of its interesting and huge universe, but also because of the fact that the series ends on a fucking cliffhanger.

(Side note: Fuck you, Valve.)

Next on the list is somewhat more understandable.


Sorry I couldn't find a better banner. Don't get me wrong, this one is nice, but I would have preferred a more series-encompassing one.

Anyway. The Red Faction series.

I was there from the beginning. I played Red Faction on the PS2 in 2003 and fell in love. I played Red Faction 2 and was deeply disappointed to learn that it actually wasn't a sequel to Red Faction, because it had nothing to do with that game. I had mixed feelings about the third and fourth game, but have come to really love them.

So what happened?

The Red Faction franchise takes place across over a hundred years, has had some comics, five games, (if you count Battlegrounds, which I never played), and even a movie. (That didn't totally suck! Is it possible?! A made-for-TV video game movie, handled by THE FUCKING SYFY CHANNEL, that didn't suck?!).

And yet there are a grand total of twenty eight fan fictions. The series was obviously popular enough to warrant three sequels and a movie. I'll grant that interest in the franchise has dropped off since Armageddon flopped, but there's been over a decade to build up the library.


Granted, SubNautica hasn't been around nearly as long as these other games, but this game has been in development and available to play for approaching two and a half years now. It clearly has a large following and a pretty solid community. Given that it's an open world game with a plot that has been largely absent until recent updates, (and is still, right now, incomplete), with a lot of mystery still left to the player's imagination, including a silent protagonist, this seems like the kind of thing that would have exploded.

And yet Fanfiction only has fourteen stories for it. Fourteen. WattPad has about as many, maybe more, (although I don't count those self-insert Markiplier stories, and, given the view count on a lot of those, apparently neither does almost anyone else).

So what's the story?

There's more, but these are the ones that immediately come to mind. From a personal standpoint , I find it kind of depressing, and I plan on writing fan fictions for some of these, so I obviously have some kind of investment.

But really, it begs the question, why do some games take off while other games, which are just as popular, if not more so, get left in the dust, in terms of a fan fiction archive?

There are others, obviously, but these are the most immediate ones that come to mind.

So why is this? I don't have a lot of ideas, but a few things come to mind. In regards to the first person shooters, I think that fans of this genre just don't do a lot of reading and writing of fan fiction. Glancing over even the top twenty games being written about on fanfiction.net, the only first person shooter up there is Halo. It seems to be the exception, not the rule. For whatever strange reason, it broke the mold.

There is also a very good chance that I'm just not looking in the right places. While FanFiction and WattPad are certainly popular, the internet is an enormous place, and I'm sure I'm missing a crapload of fan fics being written on smaller sites or forums.

Oh yeah, also Metro 2033 and Last Light. I know that the books have a huge following and the author even allowed a ton of other people to extend the universe with lots of other novels, novellas, and short stories. But there's less than one hundred fan fictions on FF for Metro, and the only section it has is in the game section. There's nothing for books. What happened there? Those two games were fucking awesome.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

The Near Horizon: June 2017

Like I predicted, production output for May was way down and, unfortunately, it's going to stay that way through June and probably July.

My tentative plans on the fan fiction front as as follows:

-Gathering Darkness will be finished this month.

-The DOOM Chronicles: Episode One will be finished in July.

-As soon as Episode One wraps up, I'll begin posting my novelization of Gone Home on a Monday/Wednesday/Friday schedule. I'll be able to do this without a problem since I've already written it. This will take up the rest of July and some of August.

-After that, I will post a short story that I've already written that takes place in the same universe as the mystery fan fiction I am writing to serve as a sneak preview of that story's universe.

-The mystery fan fiction I'm writing. It's going to be a novelization, it's going to be fairly good sized, and it's going to be a game I don't think I've ever even talked about. I'll release more information on it as we get closer. I'm going to start planning it over the course of June. The reason I'm releasing Gone Home and then that short story is so that I'll have time to get a good amount of the project written ahead of time.

-After wrapping this secret project, (I don't know how long it will take to post), I plan on writing Episode Two in The DOOM Chronicles, which will be significantly shorter than Episode One.

Beyond that, I don't want to say too much. I'm still tentatively planning to tackle my novelization of Unreal II: The Awakening after Episode Two, but we'll see.

Sorry fan fiction is going so slowly. I'm working on my Post-Apocalyptic Survival/Horror novel, and I'm also taking more time with it. I set a pretty fast pace for myself for The Shadow Wars, and the novels suffered for it. That's why I want to take a bit more time with this one.

Also, a ton of things happened in May that kept me busy. I'm hoping June will be less cluttered.

I'm hoping that the actual writing of the novel will be wrapped up by August, which will free me up some. I'll try to take that time to write more for this profile.

Finally, in late July, I should be able to start posting The Shadow Wars over on my other profile. Dead Ice shouldn't take too long, but then it'll go slower, because I intend to rewrite Dead Skies to make way for the third in the trilogy of novellas: Dead Rain.

The last thing is that I've finished posting Shadows, a horror novella I wrote back in 2012 that actually got published by a small publishing house. With the finalization of Shadows, I've finished up what I call the Classics, or the stories that I had actually written and finished from before the Necropolis era, and didn't suck too much. Now, I've just started publishing Unknown, which transitions nicely into the next era, which is original content written for S. A. Lusher, as I wrote four or so chapters for it back then, but didn't finish it, and now will do so.

So check that out!

Thanks for the support!
 
-Obsidian

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Game Talk #18: The Thing


This game is another one that I have a lot of history with. I was kind of obsessed with it for awhile. In fact, I novelized this game more than once. I finally got it right (I think) in 2015. And then I wrote a sequel to it. So, I really liked it.

A bit of history.

This game, released in 2002, is a sequel to the masterpiece horror film John Carpenter's The Thing. In short: Watch the damn movie if you haven't. If you're a fan of horror or mystery, even a little, this is an absolute must. And this film isn't a masterpiece in the sense that some films are considered masterpieces even though, by today's standards, they're boring as hell or 'they were great at the time'. Not to knock those movies, or anything.

No, even by today's standards, The Thing is fucking amazing.

Just watch this trailer.

Basically everything about this film is stellar. And the practical special effects for it are so good that they look better than most CGI even today. In fact, the guy making them, Rob Bottin, worked so hard on it that he both invented new forms of practical effects and had to be hospitalized from exhaustion after the film was finished being shot. As a bonus, Stan Winston, possibly the best practical effects guy in history, had a hand in this film.

So obviously the game had a lot to live up to.

From what I remember, it didn't have a lot of fanfare when it came out. It was just kind of...there, one day. Of course, I could be totally mistaken, I'm not exactly know for my attention to detail. Anyway, I got it from Blockbuster for PS2 as soon as I was able.

You know when you're on the start menu of a game, and if you don't do anything for like a minute or so, it launches into a trailer?


I used to watch that like over and over again. I mean, is that not just fucking awesome?

Obviously I was in love with the game.

As a side note, I think a part of what really cemented the game in my mind was the fact that the only copy Blockbuster had...was broken! I would make it to about the 1/3 mark in the campaign, go to load the next level and...nothing. The game would freeze every time. And this went on for months and months. I don't think I even got to see the rest of the game for another year or so, when I finally got an Xbox.

Anyway, let's talk about the game now.

To be honest, it hasn't aged very well, and it isn't a masterpiece. So keep that in mind.

The Thing is a third person shooter with survival-horror aspects. In it, you play Special Forces Captain J. F. Blake. You have just been flown down to Antarctica and given command of a small squad to investigate Outpost 31, which has gone silent. You arrive to find the base in ruins, and the further you search, the more the mystery grows. Things only get worse as a bad storm sets in and you receive fragmentary distress calls from a second team investigating the Norwegian outpost. You are then dropped off, alone, and begin your search for the second team.

That's when shit gets real.

The game takes you across a lot of different locations, ranging from old, burned-out outposts to derelict more recent structures to a submarine to chaotic high-tech (for the 80s) installations. It features a fair amount of different enemies. You've got horrific smaller enemies called Scuttlers that are basically human heads walking around on little legs. Then you've got Walkers, which is just the general name for a varied of horrifying twisted proliferations of waxy flesh and protruding bone and slit mouths stuffed with uneven, broken razor teeth. I mean, there is one monster that has a silently screaming human torso for a tail.

LOOK AT THIS THING
So obviously they really captured the body horror of the original movie.

There are a fair amount of guns, though they're all kind of basic. You've got the MP-5. The pistol. The shotgun. The sniper rifle. But the interesting one is the flamethrower. This is absolutely necessary to make it through the game because you cannot kill Walkers without fire. The idea is that you've got to hit it with gunfire first to whittle down its health, then set it on fire. This can create some pretty chaotic gameplay.

And then there's the infection.

One of the core ideas behind the Thing is that basically, it's an entity that infects you. If you touch a Thing, there's a decent chance that it will infect you and slowly take you over from the inside out, the end result being that you are no longer you. You are dead. Now, something is wearing your body. So obviously, this means that anyone can be a Thing. They walk, talk, and act human. They are chameleons hiding in plain sight. This bleeds over into the game, though unfortunately not very well. You encounter a variety of different NPCs that you induct into your squad. They can be infected and they can become infected.

Seriously, if they get attacked by a Thing, there's a chance that they are now infected and may, at some point in the future, at random, turn on you.

Unfortunately, this is a very primitive implementation of this really cool idea. It often doesn't work out like that and one thing that's really annoying is that even if you are SURE that some characters aren't infected, they have scripted moments where they turn on you. Which kind of sucks.

They can also distrust you if you do things like shoot them (accidentally or on purpose, they don't discriminate), take away their guns, stuff like don't they. If their trust meter drops low enough, they attack you. Even unarmed, they will steal your gun. They can also totally lose their shit if they're in a particularly fucked up, gore-soaked room. And you have ways to counteract this. You can try to gain their trust back by proving you aren't a Thing, or giving their guns back, or, if you're a dick, you can manually aim your gun at their head and coerce them. Literally. Also, if they're flipping out, you can give them a shot of adrenaline to calm them down.

Wait, what? That never made sense to me.

As for your squadmates, you've got the classic trio: Soldiers, Medics, and Engineers, just like Half-Life: Opposing Force and Quake 4. Soldiers and medics are useful, but in some areas, Engineers are an absolute must. And everyone can die in this game.

While graphically the game is a dinosaur, aesthetically, it's amazing. The artists and sound designers managed to do a brilliant job in capturing the hauntingly desolate and mind-numbingly bleak isolation of Antarctica. The wind howls constantly. You can't see more than ten feet in front of you when you're outside. Windows are smashed, rooms are frozen over, and although the gore can be excessive, if you pay attention, certain areas tell little stories. Sometimes literally, you can find text documents or hastily scrawled last messages from dying men. And the minimalist soundtrack, which obviously takes its cues from the film, only accentuate all of this.

This is a bleak fucking game.

One more thing that's really cool is that John Carpenter officially endorses this game. So much so that he offered his likeness and voice for one of the characters. And that's awesome.



There are some bad things about the game. For the most part, it hasn't aged too well. Although it probably looked pretty decent at the time, the talking animations are kind of laughable now. On top of that, and this is honestly the worst part for me, the plot is really threadbare. I don't want to talk about it too much, because the game really should be played for itself, but there just isn't a lot going on. Or, maybe it's not even that. There's actually a fair amount going on, but it never leads anywhere. They hint at a lot, but nothing comes of almost any of it.

My last real complaint is that the game gets INSANELY hard at about the three quarters mark. I mean, I get it, the endgame has to be tough, but they went kind of overboard on it. Once everything starts catching on fire, you'll know you've just entered this section.

The last thing I want to go into is that there was going to be a sequel! I didn't find that out until like ten years later, but apparently Computer Artworks was green-lit for an immediate sequel and promptly began work on The Thing 2. Concept art and basic animations still exist, and from what I could see, it looked like it was going to be awesome. They were something like a year into production when it got canned. There's no real explanation for why as far as I can tell.

If you want, you can check out the info and concept art here.

That's all I've got to say about it really. Go watch John Carpenter's The Thing, then go play the game. Also, PLEASE disregard the 2011 The Thing. That's utter garbage. You want the 1982 The Thing, with John Carpenter's name on it.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Game Talk #17: Beyond Good & Evil


This game is just...unreal.

I don't even know where to begin.

I guess with the premise, which should give you an idea of how out there this game is. It's the future and you are Jade, a photojournalist living on a distant world called Hillys, which is caught in the middle of a conflict between the dark, mysterious, and very alien DomZ and the human government, the Alpha Section. On this planet, humans live alongside many anthropomorphic people. They've got everything here from an air-hockey obsessed shark guy to a group of Jamaican rhino mechanics. Yes I said that.

Jade lives on an island with a lighthouse with her adoptive uncle, Pey'j, a middle-aged overweight, badass pig man, where they take in war orphans. Near the beginning of the game, a lack of funds leads you to lose power during a crucial moment: during a DomZ attack. After defeating them, (Jade is a badass with a combat stick, called a Daï-jo), she decides that they need money, badly, and she manages to pick up a job from the local science institute, who needs someone to photograph and document all of the various species that inhabit the planet. This ultimately leads her into an underground rebel network intent on uncovering a dark truth behind the war.

And that's the set up to this game. Seriously.

I kind of feel like this game was made near the end of the era where publishers were willing to take more of a chance on the weird, out there games that don't easily fit into a certain kind of genre or narrative. Maybe I'm showing my ignorance or age, but it seems like most AAA titles are getting a lot more cookie cutter. And I honestly get it. I mean, it sucks, but video games are becoming absurdly expensive to make, and the price isn't really reflecting the rising costs, not that I'm necessarily wanting to pay more for video games, but I can understand why some people would hesitate to sink a hundred million dollars into a game that wasn't pretty damned certain to sell, and sell big.

But anyway, Beyond Good & Evil is a unique game.

It's a...an action-adventure game with lots of stealth elements. Or that's what people say about it. And it's largely true. But there's a lot more to it.

I'd like to say that I played the game way back in the day, when it came out in 2003 for the Xbox and PS2, but I didn't. And, in a way, I think that's actually for the best. In 2011, the game was given an HD makeover, both on the visuals and audio design, and released onto the XBLA and PSN. Somehow, we ended up with it, and I saw my wife playing through it.

I thought it looked really weird and interesting.

So I gave it a shot, and despite the fact that it had some...annoying gameplay aspects, (I suck at stealth sections and don't have the patience for them, plus this is from the era where stealth wasn't much of a thing and it was often half-baked at best), I beat it. And did almost every side quest. I don't do that unless I really like the game, especially if it's annoying.

One of the things that stood out was, despite the fact that everything has kind of a cartoony feel to it, and there certainly is a lot of comedy in the game, the plot gets very heavy and very serious at times, but not in a way that a lot of people think of as serious, where everything gets unrelentingly 'grim and dark', but they actually tackle some heavy issues in a fairly mature way.

Now it's time to talk about what I think is the most significant thing about this game: Inclusion.

Although it was just as big a problem back when the game was being made, if not more so, inclusion in gaming wasn't really being talked about. (Or maybe it was and I just didn't notice, but it seems like this is a discussion we as a society are having far more often and openly now.)

But there are so many different types of people in this game that it's just impressive as hell. People don't feel very cookie-cutter. And although most of the characters are anthropomorphic, Hillys feels like a realistic cultural melting pot. It's clear that a lot of work went into all the various characters.

And another great aspect of the game and plot is the main character herself: Jade. It's obvious that most form of entertainment struggles with female characters. I'm not really sure why, there seem to be a lurid cocktail of half-assed reasons, but that's the way it is. Jade is a great example of how to do it right, not just in her character, but in the way the game, the plot itself, treats the character. Jade ends up doing some extremely risky, dangerous things, a lot of them, and no one questions if she can do this based on the fact that she's a woman, no one is overprotective for this reason.

In all honesty, her gender never seems to be taken into account. It's almost as if being a woman has nothing to do with her capabilities, her resolve, her role in the larger plot.

There's a lot to say about Beyond Good & Evil, but it's better to experience it yourself, instead of having someone tell you about it. I'd highly recommend it. Right now, you can get it for 10$ digitally. I'd suggest at least getting the demo, because although this is a great game, I can also understand that it's really not for everyone.

Final piece of news: They're making a sequel! Beyond Good & Evil 2 has been in and out of production for years and years now, but as of October 2016, it is official, the sequel is being worked on full force. And as for how that's going? Well, just read this quote to see how insanely ambitious the team is: "Beyond Good & Evil 2 is a very serious development for Ubisoft, big questions that are so big you can't know the answers because no physics engine can handle all of the dimensions and speeds and things like that, It's like 'Okay, if no physics engine can do it, how can we achieve that? It's crazy and difficult to explain to people how technical making a game is. Now it's not anymore about polygons and things like that, it's about millions of behavioral AIs, systems, and giant spaceships crashing on big planets."

So...yeah. Obviously it's going to be a huge game. I'm looking forward to it.

The Near Horizon: May 2017

So, for once, I think I'm not disappointed with the amount of work I got done on The DOOM Chronicles and Gathering Darkness. Although I can't say that I'm satisfied.

That being said, I'm afraid that I must now deliver unhappier news. After almost a four month break from writing original fiction, I am now officially back at it. As of this week, my original fiction project has shifted from planning and pre-production into actual writing. So far, I've got about 4,000 words written for it.

I don't want to say too much about it, mainly just because although I'm very certain about the project itself, I'm not sure about its publication. This is a list of what I'm willing to release.
  • I am going to attempt to get this published at an actual publishing company. I've been scoping them out for years and not only do they seem pretty competent and dedicated, but they seem interested in publishing primarily exactly the kind of stuff I write. Honestly, I'm more concerned about convincing them that I'm good enough to offer a contract to.
  • It will be novel length. Probably longer than most of the Shadow Wars books.
  • Although it can stand alone, it definitely can and, if at all possible, will be part of a series.
  • It will be a post-apocalyptic survival/horror story.
  • Yes, there will be monsters.
  • This will not be released under my name. I'm staring a second pen name. I learned a lot writing The Shadow Wars, and it'd be nice to be able to put that knowledge to work from the beginning, instead of precariously piecemealing it together over months and years.
That's about it, honestly. I'm going to try and focus hard on getting this novel written. Waiting to find out important stuff really messes with me, and this novel is kind of the next big step in my career. Honestly, the biggest so far. I need to find out if this is going to work.

As always, thank you sincerely for the support!

-Obsidian

Friday, April 7, 2017

Game Talk #16: Mass Effect - Andromeda


I just beat Mass Effect: Andromeda last night, so I figured it was time to talk about it.

First I'll talk about the game, then I'll talk about the...'controversies' surrounding the game.

For transparency's sake, I liked Mass Effect 3. No, I loved it. It was one of the best games I've ever played, maybe even the best. And yes, I also think the ending flat out sucked at first, and then became tolerable afterward. It went from not making sense to being kind of disappointing. And honestly, that fourth option, where you shoot the stupid star child (I still think that whole thing was dumb), and he's all like, "Fine! Then go ahead and DIE!" and then you all die, well, it felt like BioWare responding to fan's legitimate complaints with a middle finger, you know? Like, fuck you BioWare, you're really cool most of the time, but that was fucking disrespectful.

Or maybe I'm misinterpreting it.

Anyway. Everything up to the ending was just fucking amazing. Mass Effect 3 started out stellar and compelling, and never really stopped being compelling. Pretty much everything about it was fantastic, from the music to the art direction to the graphics to the gameplay, the acting, the missions that all felt necessary, the multiplayer, ALL of it felt like what I like to call Mass Effect Fully Realized.

So obviously I was pumped for another Mass Effect game, even knowing it wouldn't have anything to do directly with the trilogy. Which was good. It was good that there was a solid, firm end to the trilogy.

Except for watching a trailer and the occasional overheard piece of information, I avoided Andromeda related media pretty much for as long as I could. I managed to get my hands on it at around 9:30 PM on the 20th of March, since my wife and I pre-ordered the special edition and showed up to pick it up when we could at GameStop. (Normally we'd go for a midnight launch, but apparently they didn't want to stay open until then, so they told everyone to arrive between nine and ten for their pre-orders.)

Overall, I liked the game. A lot. But it made me really sad, because it could have been so much better.

More specifically, here's some of my problems.

SPOILERS, obviously.

-Yes, the facial animations. They're a problem. A big problem. I want to say "WTF happened BioWare? You had like five years and how many millions of dollars? AND an extension? How was this not priority number one?" But, on the other hand, I understand how insanely difficult it is not only to make a video game, not only to make a Triple A game, but also to make a game like Mass Effect: Andromeda. And there have been a few articles giving theories about why they sucked. The primary idea being that there are SO many characters, with so many different possible dialogue options, plus, the fact that Ryder can have like a million different permutations, PLUS all the 'cut-scenes' are actually in-engine to compensate for this fact, and it means that some serious compromises need to be made, especially when you're trying to make a game as big as Andromeda. (Which was a problem, I'll get to that later.) Even worse, they switched to a brand new engine, which means that they built literally everything from the ground up. So maybe it's not as easy as everyone thinks it is. But, despite all that, I just wish they'd prioritized it more.

-Character customization is definitely a step back. The scars do NOT look like scars, at all. The tattoos are almost all stupid looking. I mean, fuck, come on, Skyrim had this shit down five years ago. And the hair. Oh my fucking God, the hair. At least for the guys. Besides there being just not enough options, MOST of the hairstyles look FUCKING. STUPID. I mean seriously fucking stupid. Like, I couldn't take my character seriously at all if I used this goddamned hairstyle. Maybe it seems shallow, but this is a fucking RPG. A 'Role Playing Game', as in, you're supposed to get invested and immersed in the story, so every little bit of immersion counts. Especially when it comes to the main character that you are going to be looking at and playing as the entire game.

-Team control. Why the fuck did they take away the ability to control your team? At best, now you can make your team go places or attack specific enemies. But nothing beyond that. I looked it up and the official reason was 'It slowed the combat down.' You know what? It did. But you know what else? It didn't HAVE to. I've played entire playthroughs of the previous campaign where I didn't, not once use team control. So it obviously didn't slow down the combat at all for me, did it? Why should thousands of people who loved playing tactically like that get fucked over? Because it was never mandatory to use it, it obviously didn't force the game to slow down. You could have left it in with literally no loss to quality in terms of how 'fast' the gameplay and combat was.

-Contextual cover. This is fucking stupid. In previous Mass Effect games, you pushed a button to get into cover behind something. Now, you just have to kind of approach it and then your character will maybe think about getting behind cover sometimes. Seriously, I've died so many fucking times because my stupid fucking character wouldn't get behind cover. I don't know what they were thinking. You know what actually slows down combat? Fucking dying because my stupid character won't decide to get into cover.

-Flanking. Holy shit. Enemies flank so much in this game that it's absurd. Some people say that it's 'more realistic', but do you know what else is 'more realistic'? Having more than two fucking people covering your ass. In a realistic situation, you'd have a whole squad that would help prevent flanking. So since we're not being realistic in that regard, how about we just keep it how it was in Mass Effect 3? Yet again, if it isn't broke, don't fix it.

-Quantity over quality. Gaming in general seems to be suffering from Open World Syndrome. Basically, all these games that open world games come out always have to say 'The biggest open world EVER.' They're constantly in competition with each other and even themselves, in terms of previous entries, for making bigger open worlds. Unfortunately, they waste so much time and so many resources making a bigger world that they never stop to think if maybe they should be making a better world. Because although it's a really good effort, it's obvious that it diluted a lot of the game. The game is just spread so thin that all the cool stuff that happens seems pale, because it's lost in a sea of boring mediocrity. I'd rather they have cut about 25% of the 'open world' sections and used that time and effort on polishing what remained. You can have the biggest open world ever but if isn't worth exploring then it isn't worth shit.

-Dialogue. For the most part, the primary dialogue is decently written and decently acted. But the off-hand comments or the stuff that wraps up conversations, stuff like that, is just bad. Like, way too often someone tries to make a joke and it's so lame. I hate forced humor because there's no need for it and its just painful. It brings the quality of the whole scene down, and in this case, the quality of the whole game. Not everyone needs to be a fucking comedian. Plus, one problem is that it seems like all of your dialogue options are too...samey. Like, Ryder delivers everything in basically the same manner. This is a problem.

-Romance. Okay, to be fair, I've only had one romance so far. It was with Vetra. I also had a one-night stand with PeeBee. So that's as far as my experiences with the romance subplots go. But holy shit, this feels like a huge step back from Mass Effect 3. The romances themselves are so...threadbare. There's almost NOTHING. And I know that Vetra is supposed to be the one that takes the longest, but still, even after we'd officially become a couple, you'd hardly know it! There's no real changes in the way she treats me or talks to me, no real extra scenes, no sense that you are in a relationship. Compare this to Mass Effect 3, with the little bits of extra ambient dialogue or the extra scenes in the Citadel DLC. I understand that Andromeda should be more comparable to Mass Effect than ME3, given that it's the first in a new trilogy, but it is being made after ME3, which means it should be using some of the standards set by that game. They were spouting off about how the sex scenes are like softcore porn, but what about the relationship scenes actually leading up to it? There's just not enough of them. You get like a few options to say something 'romantic' and then there's one scene where you actually become in a relationship, and then there's a sex scene. Which, okay, let me tell you, here's a huge annoyance for me: Vetra has no sex scene. Seriously, it's just fade to black. She still has her armor one! Compare that to PeeBee's or Cora's, which has full on nudity that goes pretty far. WTF happened? Did they just not know how to handle it? To make matters even worse, I took a glance at one of the side romances, where you get to hook up with one of the new alien women...except you don't. There's like nothing. Not even a fade to black moment. You literally just kiss once, and not very passionately, and then basically you're both like, "Well, we're too busy right now, I guess we can be romantic later." And again, the build-up to that doesn't seem worthwhile. I've also heard that there's pretty much nothing for Suvi and Kerri, so like...WTF BioWare? Did you just run out of time or something? You can't hype having 'softcore porn' romance scenes if there's only like two of them.

-Useless quests. In the true open world style, there were too many 'go here and find eight of these things' quests. I don't mind a few of them, but this was just ridiculous.

-Quest markers. Okay BioWare, either have quest markers, or don't. Some of the quests, specifically those 'find eight things' quests, don't have quest markers! I get that they must have been going for a 'you should explore your surroundings' kind of vibe with that, but this is ridiculous. I'm not spending four hours combing through one of these giant ass worlds looking for six datapads or eight dead bodies. Like, I have shit to do. If I have to go look something up online, you've failed in your game design.

-Glitches. This has to be my absolute number one problem with this game. The glitches. I don't mind the little stuff. It's annoying, sure, not a huge deal. The big stuff, on the other hand? Yeah, game breaking glitches are bad. I've had a fairly decent run through, but I've run into some situations where there was literally no way to advance the plot. After exhausting every option, I go to look it up and find out that it glitched out. I did everything I was suppose to, but the game shit itself, and because of the fucking stupid checkpoint system they force on you during the actual missions, you usually have to lose a decent amount of progress by reloading, because they fucked up. I've also run into situations in which enemies glitch into a wall, and they can still shoot me, now from literally any angle, but I can't shoot them, unless I find one specific spot, which there's no way to actually discern, by firing at random from every angle I can think of, to eventually finish them off. It wouldn't be that big a deal, except that several of the completion conditions are 'kill all enemies in the area'.

-Ambient dialogue, or basically any dialogue that isn't part of an actual scene where the camera zooms in and there's choices, can be cut off way too easily. I can't tell you how many times something someone was saying, and sometimes it's actually pretty interesting, like banter between crew mates, but also important mission-related stuff, gets cut off abruptly. It's really annoying. I think what's happening is that some things have a higher priority and basically overwrite the dialogue, but whatever algorithm they wrote is clearly fucked up, because I'll be saying something important after finishing a piece of a mission and suddenly get cut off because I opened a door or like, the tiniest sound in the world that no one can actually hear occurred. It's ridiculous and annoying as hell. I often find myself just dead stopping if I hear dialogue start up, because I know how easily it can get randomly cut off for no real reason.

-The gun play. It just doesn't feel as tight and balanced as previous installments. There's something just off about it. I'm not sure how to describe it exactly, but I guess it's just not intuitive, and I don't remember having this problem in ME3, or maybe even ME2. Considering what a big part of the game it is, this really should have been prioritized.

-Healing, for you and your vehicle. Now, you have to find boxes of medical supplies in the field, instead of carrying around medpaks with you. This was annoying. Same for your vehicle, you have to find a Forward Operating Station if you want to repair it. Also annoying. Just let me choose when and where to patch myself and my vehicle up.

-Shepard. This is a minor one, but in the beginning you get to choose Shepard's gender, which is the only reference to the original trilogy and your actions, and the only customization, that there is. Now, the devs claimed that it makes a 'big impact' on the game later, but I beat the whole damned game and never, not once, did I see any of that 'impact', let alone a 'big' one. Am I missing something? WTF happened?

There's other things, but these are the biggest complaints I have. I'm probably missing some stuff, but it's still early. I've beat the game once and I've started a new playthrough. After all that bitching, you'd think I hated this game, but I don't.

I actually really like it. A lot. Enough to finish it and then immediately dive back in.

So what was good about it?

-Exploration. I really love the idea of exploration, so having this new open-world philosophy was a step in the right direction, at least for me and my tastes. I felt like that was something they were trying to go for with ME1, but couldn't deliver. Most of the worlds were just too bland, and it was way too much of a pain in the ass to get around with that fucking Mako. Andromeda almost feels like a fully realized version of that dream of exploration. Although I still say the worlds are too big. I'd rather have better content than more content.

-The outposts. If there's one thing I love more than exploration, it's base-building. It's why I love MineCraft and SubNautica so much, and why I poured so much time into State of Decay. (Okay, one of the reasons.) Building up a base. Establishing outposts is fun, although I'll be completely honest, I thought there was going to be a lot more customization to the outposts. I really only like this idea in theory, because basically, you do some missions, you establish the outpost, then you do like...one or two missions to help them out. I seriously hope this is something they expand on in future installments.

-The missions. For the most part, with the exception of the fetch quests, most of the missions feel either important or like they belong. Like they fit into the story. Like they're there for a reason. That's not always easy to do.

-The controls. When they work, they work well. When they don't work...they crash and burn. Thankfully, they work more often than not, so overall, it's a satisfying experience. To go a little more into depth, it feels really cool to jump-jet up the side of a huge building or cliff sheer...when it works. Or to jump across a chasm. But every now and then, it'll just fuck up arbitrarily, which takes control away and totally breaks the immersion. Also, the fact that you spawn back where you were when you die from falling off a cliff is crucial, since that can happen a lot, so I'm very glad they put that in there.

-Multiplayer and the Strike Teams. I haven't even touched multiplayer yet, but I love concept of these Strike and APEX Teams Kandros has lined up to go out into the galaxy and do dangerous but necessary things. I also love that you can level up your Strike Teams, and that they're adding a little bit of a story into the multiplayer. I definitely plan to get around to it soonish. My only real lament so far is that there isn't enough customization to the Strike Teams.

-The aesthetics. Not to get confused with the graphics, which are actually pretty good considering the fact that this is a HUGE game and everything (cutscenes, etc.) has to be done in-engine pretty much. But the general art design, the color scheme, the way the planets look and the ships, it's all fantastic. New, and yet it keeps that ME style. That is very easy to fuck up, especially when you're trying to reinvent.

-The story. I like the story, it felt good. Without really talking about it, it feels appropriately epic, without actually being too epic. It feels like the beginning of a solid trilogy. Also, there are a couple of pretty cool twists in there, which is classic BioWare. (That KOTOR twist, holy shit.) Although the Archon seemed like a cool antagonist in the trailers, and in the beginning, he kinda fell flat in the game. I'm not even sure why. Hopefully the next bad guy will be better. Although, ugh, hopefully he's at least better than freaking Harbinger in ME2, who featured such FREQUENTLY repeated catchphrases as 'You feel this.' and 'This hurts you.' Holy shit, those were stupid.

-The fact that the game stands on its own. I had no idea how they were going to handle a new Mass Effect game. When I heard it specifically wasn't going to be Mass Effect 4, I was really glad, because it didn't seem necessary at all to do a sequel to ME3, and yet it seemed perfectly fine to do another game set in the same universe. I'm glad that Andromeda turned out as well as it did, and had a stand-alone story as good as it did.

So, overall, I guess I'd have to get the game a B. The biggest thing that stands out about this game to me is the fact that it could have been better, like, a lot better, if only BioWare had had more time. On the one hand, I want to shout at EA for making them push it out before it was ready. On the other hand...they had like four or five years of development time and an extension, and every month that a game doesn't come out just keeps burning through a lot of money, so...I don't really know how to feel about it, except to say that I wish it was better, but it's nice that it turned out as well as it did.

I'm also glad that they've acknowledged a lot of the problems and have already released a huge (2.3 Gigs) patch to fix a lot of them, and have committed to fixing more about the game.

Okay, let's talk about...the ugly part.

I don't really want to go too in depth with this, because it's really just a fucking cesspit of the worst parts of humanity, but there have been a few things said about the game that I feel should be addressed.

First of all, everyone's going after BioWare for being inclusive and diverse. I don't know why this pisses people off, I really don't. My only theory is that it makes them uncomfortable and feel 'threatened', so they lash out in response, which is stupid. People call it 'pandering', which is also stupid. The reality of the situation is that all media companies pander. It's just that 95% of them pander to white people, in video gaming, it's mostly straight white men. (God, even typing that phrase out, 'straight white men' just makes me feel weird, it's like it's because a curse word or phrase or something, people flip the fuck out over it, which is super ironic because these are the same fucking dicks that always make fun of people for being 'triggered', and yet, they get 'triggered' as fuck over this shit and threaten to literally fucking kill and rape people over this stuff. Seriously.) So it feels 'weird' when a company intentionally puts in a female protagonist or a gay protagonist or...basically, a not white protagonist. Which should tell you how fucked up the whole situation has become.

Being inclusive is a good thing. That's...all I really have to say about that. If you need someone to explain to you why being inclusive is generally a good idea, I'm not sure I can help you, but I suppose I could try. The reason being inclusive in media is a good thing is because it has a positive overall effect on society. People don't like to admit it, and a lot will actively fight against it, but media influences you. A lot. Sometimes in ways you don't even know. If we normalize diversity and inclusion in our movies, books and video games, then it will help create an overall less hostile atmosphere. There's other reasons, but I think this is the big one.

The women. A lot of people were complaining that the women were made intentionally ugly. I don't really know how to feel about this. Mainly because I don't see it. If anything, I think they look more attractive because they aren't all fucking fake, plastic super models. (Not to bash on super models.) I guess it's just nice to see women that have flaws. I mean, not everyone is traditionally attractive, and this feeds into the diversity and inclusion. Now, there was an argument that while the women were made less attractive, the men remained very attractive, which unbalanced any reasonable argument BioWare had for doing so. I don't really know how to react to this, either, because in the actual game, it doesn't seem like the men are generally more handsome than the women are pretty. Overall, this is how I feel about it: If you're sitting there, complaining that the women in a video game, a video game that is about sci-fi exploration, combat and adventure, aren't all fucking 10s, then...that strikes me as pretty shallow. Or I guess just a dumb thing to complain about. I don't want people to think that I'm dismissing every argument about the appearance of the characters, but a lot, not all, but a lot, of the people yelling about these just seem to be freaking out because they aren't sexually attracted to literally every woman they see in the game.

Manveer Heir. There was a lot of controversy surrounding this developer at BioWare. If you don't know, basically, he was a guy who worked at BioWare, on Mass Effect: Andromeda, and he was super racist towards white people. I'll be honest, this seemed like a really fucking toxic topic, so I avoided it. Glancing over some of his tweets, yeah, it seems like he is racist towards white people. There's a whole debate there about 'you can't be racist towards white people', which is not as black and white as it seems. (Not trying to make a joke there, seriously just the easiest way to say it.) I think both sides have merit, but what it really boils down to is, yes, you can. I don't want to get into the depths and complexities of this issue because it would take pages to explain, but racism is racism, and shouldn't be tolerated, no matter who it's toward. If you hate someone because of the color of their skin, then, uh, yeah, that's racist. Either way, he was fired, or quit, I'm not sure which, but he's gone now. Another small note, if they were defending/tolerating his racism, then they fucked up.

Sara Ryder. There's a lot of jokes going around about her facial expressions means that she's autistic. This really seems fucked up. Something like autism isn't a punchline. And this isn't an issue of me being 'super PC' or whatever else it's call nowadays, I just think it's fucked up.

That's basically all I wanted to talk about. There's a lot more, but I don't want this post to go on forever. I think the biggest problem with people who disliked this game is that they tended to either get confused by or be confused with an absolutely toxic group of people. I've noticed that people who frequent use phrases like 'Social Justice Warrior' or 'Libtard' or 'Special Snowflakes', shit like that, tend to be fucked up pieces of shit that hate everything, and they attempt to hide blatant racism, sexism and homophobia behind ideals like 'free speech' and 'telling it like it is'. Which is actually painfully ironic, because they accuse those they percieve as SJWs to be doing something very similar, trying to make one thing happen while cloaking it in a good cause. Can no one here see the irony? Like...are that many people not self-aware?

Now, that isn't to say that anyone who doesn't like this game doesn't have a point. Because there are valid reasons not to like this game. Not liking this game doesn't make you a racist. And liking it doesn't make you a saint either. People need to stop having such binary fucking thinking. It's causing a lot of problems.

So yeah, hopefully the next Game Talk will be less heavy.