Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Whale

After nearly a year of reading it off and on, mostly off, I finally finished Moby Dick. I liked it, for the most part. Some of the in-depth biological descriptions of whales lost me a bit, but the episodes the story is constructed of were pretty entertaining, and believe it or not I did not actually know how the book ended before reading it.

Granted, drawing the reading out over 10 months didn't help my understanding or memory of all the events within, but a quick read of the Wikipedia page of the book helped to job my memory and let me get a grip on the entirety of the story and structure of the book.

My slow pace reading Moby Dick shouldn't reflect on the book's capacity to be enjoyed, but rather on how busy I have been with other concerns this year, and how entertained I have been in other arenas lately. I'm looking forward to getting back into reading in a bigger way soon.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The War Grind

Playing through The Phantom Pain at a very reasonable pace really puts me in the mindset of a longtime private military corporation boss. Taking things relatively slowly gives a sense of what a long period of this type of operation might do to a character, the time it fills and how it functions as a segue from one time in their life to another. This is the real exploration of TPP, after all, filling in a crucial missing link in Big Boss's character evolution. As I progress through the missions and side ops I am slowly building up Diamond Dogs' presence in the market and on the battlefield, but also in the minds of allies, foes, and rivals. I sometimes hear two guards speaking to one another about the rumors that Big Boss has been seen in the area, that he's back after what the CIA and the US did to his former outfit, and that he's pissed. There are fears their outfit may one day be up against the legendary soldier and his own.

Evolving my own play style over weeks and many different missions and emergent situations also lets me further inhabit the role of a veteran operative. Sometimes everything goes sideways and you have no choice but to go loud in a big, brutal way. I try my best not to kill my fellow soldiers, even when we are at odds, but the mission must come first. I feel like this is true to Big Boss's character as spelled out by canonical cut scenes throughout the series. The Boss would much rather win you to his side through his charisma and ideology than put a bullet through you. The last plot-critical mission I did involved a troop of child soldiers. The contract was to kill them, and Miller would have had it done that way. Not Big Boss, though. He'd bring them back to base and at least attempt to give them something more approximating a pleasant childhood than they would get in the war-ravaged country they are native to. And that's what we did.

Destiny recently updated to 2.0 and it's primary "Year Two" release, The Taken King, is out. I've been re-acquainting myself with the game for a couple of weeks, now. Because of an improved campaign experience, a streamlined faction reward system, and more total content available to the lone wolf, I think it's in a better place than it was a year ago, but my core complaints are still valid. I find it simply absurd and arrogant and purposefully obstructive as a design practice to artificially limit what content is available to players the way Bungie does by denying matchmaking for certain content. More thoughts on TTK later.

Friday, September 4, 2015

The Phantom Pain

It's here. Finally, the long-awaited interquel, the missing link, what is sure to be the final Kojima-directed Metal Gear Solid game...this year, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain has been released.

What transpired between Operation Snake Eater and Solid Snake's infiltration of Outer Heaven has been a question of large import for fans of Metal Gear since MGS3's release 10 years ago. You could imagine Snake/Big Boss's frame of mind at the end of Operation Snake Eater, as he stood there saluting The Boss's grave, but what actually happened to put him in place as the big bad later in the series?

Portable Ops, while filling in a few ancillary series details, offered little in the way of clues. Peace Walker did a little bit more, but that game still left more than enough undetermined in Big Boss and Outer Heaven's future. Ground Zeroes, the prologue to MGSV, really got the ball rolling with the attack on Mother Base that put Big Boss into a 9-year coma, and The Phantom Pain looks poised to finish closing the loop. I expect more on the nature of the conflict between Major Zero, who created Cipher, Cipher itself, and Big Boss to come to light during Snake and Diamond Dogs' exploits in 1980s Afghanistan and Angola and Zaire and beyond. Who is Quiet? Is she really Chico, a decade removed from the trauma of Peace Walker and especially Ground Zeroes? What's Miller's aim, besides revenge? Or is it all-consuming? Who else is Ocelot working with besides Diamond Dogs? Who else is he working against, perhaps, is the question. Where are EVA, Amanda, Strangelove, and others?

What is Snake's will in all this? So far he's only sought advice from Kaz, and taken orders from Ocelot. Does Big Boss want to usher in The Boss's dream of a nation for soldiers because he believes in it, or because it's all he knows anymore? Is his heart still in it? These questions may be up to the player to decide, since we are the ones inhabiting his being in the game.

The play is fantastic in MGSV. It's the sort of open-world stealth you would see in something like a Hitman or Far Cry 2 or Deus Ex, done very well with lots of overlapping and interlocking systems that ensure no two encounters or missions play out alike. It also brings back the base building side systems from Peace Walker as well as that game's discrete missions, though these can also be accessed from the free-roam maps of the game's world. It's easily as much or more of a functional sequel to Peace Walker as it is to the rest of the series proper. I like this because it shows Kojima Productions really believed in the Peace Walker formula, despite it being released on an otherwise dead platform and overemphasizing the multi-player components of that game.

The Phantom Pain seems like it is shaping up to be a very large and very long game, so I'll continue these thoughts later. I should mention here, though, that I did play a lot more of Ground Zeroes leading up to this release, and it is also great in its own right. It is very much a smaller-scale version of MGSV, elaborated upon and made into a fine smaller-scope game of its own.

Exile's End

Exile's End was recently released on Steam, a game I contributed an ever so slight amount of writing to. I haven't played enough of it to see any of my work just yet, but supposedly it's in there. Which is pretty cool! I've wanted to be a published writer for some time, but I never thought it could happen like this, I must admit. I'll have to update my resume.

The game Exile's End is a remake of Inescapable, a 2D 'not-metroidvania' adventure game that pays homage to old Commodore and Amiga style games. What I have played so far is cool, and I'm looking forward to digging in more.