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