Friday Wrap-Up

This was something I said I wanted to do more regularly a while back and like comes naturally to people like me I promptly stopped doing it and immediately began hating myself. I knew it would happen almost the second I hit publish on that first Friday post and while I don’t regret stating the goal I do regret not following through. One because it sucks to make a promise and not come through and two because I actually legitimately enjoyed writing it.

So let’s give it another shot, shall we? I’ve missed a lot in the past month because of the aforementioned personality defect which I’ll wrestle with until I’m dead so I’m not going to bother recapping it all. We’re going to start fresh and cover a few interesting things that happened more recently.

In past posts I’ve been pretty harsh on companies like Ubisoft for their myriad failures and gaffes so I wanted to take this opportunity after reading an interesting article over at Kotaku to give them some kudos. We’ve had plenty of examples of companies who instead of fixing their mistakes simply abandon them and move on to a new project without so much of an admission of guilt. Unfortunately we don’t have a lot of great examples of game devs who are willing to stick around and fix what they broke. Bungie did so with the first Destiny and are in the process of voluntarily re-living that adventure with Destiny 2 for reasons that escape me and everyone else.

The Division was a good game that failed to deliver on its promises at launch, a story as old as time, song as old as… anyways, suffice it to say that it struggled along for quite a while. In a surprising move Ubisoft and Massive were unwilling to simply let the game languish and die so instead they persisted until with the final content update it felt like the game they’d promised from day one. This questionable financial move was validated with the return of scores of new and old players giving what should have been a dead title a new lease on life. Even more to their credit with the announcement of The Division 2 complete with extensive gameplay previews they still haven’t stopped giving people reasons to play the original game. New challenges and badges have been added in order to earn cosmetic items in Division 2. They’re being drip fed to the community as the release of the sequel gets closer. As someone who stopped playing a while back after finishing the game finally I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t considering going back to get these shields.

I have high hopes for The Division 2 and this only serves to bolster them as Ubisoft and Massive continue to prove that they stand by their promises while striving to learn from their mistakes.

On the opposite end of the spectrum lets rewind several years and remember the somewhat hilarious disaster that was Aliens: Colonial Marines. Recently it was revealed by an enterprising modder who was dead set on fixing the game that some of the more noticeable problems may have been caused by a typo. For anyone who has ever dabbled in any level of programming you can understand how much frustration a typo can cause you, only for most it isn’t to the tune of six figures and international ridicule.

If for nothing else it highlights just how delicate the development process can be and the kind of hell  these developers put themselves through with 80+ hour weeks in crunch time trying to get games finished. I can’t even imagine the amount of typos my code would be riddled with in that environment. In the case of this game it was one mistake among many but one of the few that was truly funny.

I came across this announcement about a game called Digimon Survive and 16-year old me has completely lost his shit especially since it was announced for the Switch which is exactly the right platform. I honestly don’t even remember much about Digimon in spite of watching the cartoon but I’m excited none the less to see how it turns out.

We. The Revolution is possibly one of the coolest game concepts I’ve seen in recent memory, either that or I have some kind of undocumented fetish for pixelated death after playing Domina for way too many hours. It doesn’t have a release date but I’ll be watching it closely.

I feel like this needs little or no explanation. It exists, yes I love it and if you don’t understand why, I can’t help you.

Young Justice Season 3 was announced which is fantastic! DC has had the market cornered on great animated content and its nice to see one of their best coming back.

Similarly the announcement that Clone Wars is finally going to get some closure has me once again anticipating a Star Wars release.

And Godzilla because, Godzilla.

Lastly I want to touch on the Shazaam! trailer that came out and say that I’m really happy to see that DC is attempting to loosen up a little bit and have some fun. It’s no secret that DC’s top superhero line-up is decidedly darker and more dour than their competition but playing into that has done them no favors so far. Their animated offerings have struck an impressive balance between being somber and funny but so far its eluded their DCEU outings except for brief moments here and there. And a somewhat ham-fisted attempt with the Flash in Justice League which was plagued with other issues. I’m not sure where the DCEU is going from here and if we’ll even see Shazaam team up with the rest of the Justice League but if for nothing else I hope this marks a new beginning for them. From here I’d definitely like to see them reintroduce Green Lantern who to date has been a conspicuously absent piece of the puzzle.

I think that’s it for now! What cool things did you come across recently? What things should I know about?

I hope you have a great weekend full of whatever it is you like to do or just some good old relaxation and doing nothing at all.

See you next week!

  • Non-Washable

Not Just Strange For The Sake Of It

I don’t think there are many people who would look back on 1995 and refer to it as a landmark year. Things happened, certainly, as they do every year and there are definitely things that made and are still making impacts all this time later but alas thirteen year old me was focusing on other things. Namely, TV.

You wouldn’t be wrong in thinking back and not remembering any real classic TV that debuted in 1995 with the most notable ones being Star Trek: Voyager, The Drew Carey Show and, Baywatch Nights? Pinky and the Brain may have been out that year as well. My parents loved Star Trek and we watched it regularly as a family so that was an instant hit but for the most part everything else sort of fell flat for me. Like many freshly minted teens in ’95 I had a voracious TV appetite and no access to it in my room so that meant if I couldn’t sleep or I simply wanted to watch more the only option was to sneak out to the living room after everyone had gone to sleep to see what was on.

Infomercials mostly, much to my chagrin.

At some point though I got lucky and something magical happened when I realized that after a bunch of the crappy infomercials there was a run of shows on that included Hercules the Legendary Journeys, Xena: Warrior Princess and, The Outer Limits. While Hercules and Xena will always have a special place in my heart as some of my all-time favorite cheesy adventures and acting this article isn’t going to focus on them. Rather on the strange misfit in that trio, The Outer Limits and what had me thinking about it again recently.

For me the only version of this show that I knew was the one that aired between 1995-2002 however it did exist prior to that in a short run during 1963-65. It’s more popular kindred show The Twilight Zone was just coming to a close at that time as it had aired between 1959-64. The Twilight Zone generally held to a more Fantasy-Horror theme where The Outer Limits skewed more towards Science Fiction which meant for me it was a perfect match. They both certainly strayed into each others chosen flavors but they primarily stayed in their own playgrounds.

Speculative
adjective
1. pertaining to, of the nature of, or characterized by speculation, contemplation, conjecture, or abstract reasoning: a speculative approach.

Over the course of my life I don’t think I’ve ever been a bigger Fantasy fan than I have Science Fiction but for no other reason than I simply enjoy the expansive nature of Sci-Fi.

Make sense? It didn’t to me, either.

It’s hard to put into words why one similar passion might necessitate winning out over another and I’ve long been loathe to name my “favorite” of anything much to the frustration of my friends. The fact is that for me it really depends on my mood, no one thing ever ranks as my all-time favorite regardless of what else may come along. Even the incredible tent-pole passions of my life like Star Wars, Star Trek, Dragonriders of Pern, Lord of the Rings and numerous others spend their time at numbers other than one as much as they do occupying that top spot. Like some sort of primal atavism they’re what I revert to when there is nothing to currently be consumed in the fire of my passion for new and exciting content.

Watching Amazon Prime’s Electric Dreams over the weekend, and by extension considering what I loved so much about The Outer Limits, I think it gave me some clarity. As I mentioned above Sci-Fi has this expansive quality to it where it takes bedrock principles of our daily reality and nudges at the boundaries to push us into new and exciting places or ways of thinking. What made me really appreciate the style and execution of these shows is how they explored big ideas in very small, personal and, relateable ways. Even though the vast majority of episodes shared no story, characters or common threads it was nearly impossible to not understand their plight and ride that feeling willingly to whatever bizarre destination was in store. As a young man with a fairly active imagination it was like taking a seat on a familiar carnival ride instead of the usual blind leap needed to immerse myself in a concept.

Fantasy for as much as I love it requires you to stand at a precipice of disbelief and leap armed with only the faith that the author has provided you with a soft spot to land so that you can get up and start exploring. Suspension of disbelief is a vital part of how we connect with these stories and worlds on anything more than a superficial level. This isn’t to say that Sci-Fi requires none of this in order to work but the type of speculative fiction present in these shows, and genre as a whole, has an almost seductive way of drawing you in. By the time things get truly weird you’ve barely noticed the transition and now you’re simply along for the ride. It’s pretty close to the exact reason that I appreciate the writing of Stephen King so much because many of his stories begin as you imagine many normal, average days do around the world. It takes the mundane and stretches it like taffy to sometimes laughable lengths but each step along the way is cemented in plausibility.

Fantasy will never make me look at my reality any differently, even for brief amounts of time, in the same way that Sci-Fi does, especially when presented in the style of The Outer Limits and Electric Dreams. Fantasy is like a bath that you immerse yourself in to lose any concept of your daily existence, to be transported to another world, to become another person entirely. It is an experience wholly removed from our own except in the most allegorical sense, something that can be ignored or acknowledged to the extent any individual chooses. Sci-Fi to me always feels like a more direct extrapolation where instead of fantasizing about living in a place that cant possibly exist, you are bidden to consider what small things would need to happen to bring us to this future.

Like in the oft repeated quote of George Santayana, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” watching this type of Sci-Fi seems like an exercise in the inverse of that idea. Instead of dwelling on things already past and how to avoid them in the future we look to what might be if only we could collectively clear a hurdle or two. Or in some cases fail to avoid the clear pitfalls before us. In this era of our existence we seem to constantly be on the precipice of some new wonderful, bizarre future and while we have yet to truly realize any of them the prospect is tantalizingly close. What The Outer Limits and Electric Dreams do for me is take our present reality on a walk through a maze of fun-house mirrors. Stopping occasionally to marvel at the warped and twisted caricature that stares back while trying to imagine what might have led us there and indeed what may lead us there if we aren’t careful.

While not all cautionary tales presented may have a basis in any possible future there are more than a few which seem less crazy today than when they first appeared on TV decades ago. A trend I suspect that will continue and actually accelerate as humanity stumbles onward into an increasingly muddy future. For example in the past decade we’ve started to have serious conversations on the governmental level about the regulation of AI development. A discussion most people viewed as an inevitability but just not one we’d have to address within our lifetimes, yet here we are.

It makes laughing at things like this a little harder and instead raises some questions we don’t have any easy answers to. It is sure fun to ponder though.

Many of the ideas and thought experiments posed are more philosophical in nature but that level of ambiguity often begs more consideration instead of less. It starts to become more about what we might do when it arrives and less about if. That is the conversation that holds my attention and its the one I enjoy having almost above all others. When I read or watch science fiction everything there seems within our reach if not for a few mathematical equations that elude our understanding. As much as I may want it with every fiber of my being I know I’ll never be able to conjure fire by sheer force of will. But conceivably before I’m dead I might be able to travel into space or visit the moon as an ordinary citizen of Earth.

So, what does this all this mean?

Honestly, I have no idea.

What I can tell you is that you should take some time and watch Electric Dreams then let me know what you think.

Thanks for reading!

  • Non-Washable

A Busy Week But No Excuse

Hi, I’m Non-Washable and it has been days since my last post on this blog.

You may fairly raise your brow at me and think, “A confession doesn’t really count, man.” and you would be absolutely correct. Regardless of how much time it takes me to write this out and start feeling better about my aggravating lack of posts this week it doesn’t make up for it. So while I’m busy confessing that I have been absent I will take a moment to at least try and justify why I was pulled away if you’ll humor me for a paragraph or several.

The first up is the reason which is least absolving for me which is that I spent some time playing video games. For the last few weeks I have played the absolute bar minimum by which I mean almost none save for trying to knock out my daily quests in MTG:Arena. Fortunately you can have up to a maximum of three quests build up, one per day, so I only really need to play twice a week to keep up. Unfortunately this also means a lack of time to brew decks or play just for fun but, nature of the beast, right? What did happen was that I picked up Frostpunk and allowed that to eat up nearly a day and a half of time I should have been working on things for this blog. Whats worse was that I didn’t take the time to use any of that gameplay to prepare for a review on the game. Feeling utterly stupid about that I did start writing up my feelings on the game and should be posting it shortly to rectify that mistake.

Short answer: If you like city-builders that pull no punches and punish you for sloppy play by piling up the corpses of your citizens like cords of firewood then you should be all over this game. Not to mention it is beautifully realized, sleek and feature packed all for the very reasonable price of $29.99USD. 11 Bit Studios is also offering 10% off that on Steam if you own This War of Mine, until May 1st. Hard to say enough good things about it but more on that later.

Ultimately I forgot my own rule which I set at the beginning of this that whatever I do I should make sure I can extract something from it for this blog to continue the feedback loop so I am always producing something. A lesson learned and I will be better going forward.

The second thing has been regarding my other decision to branch out and try to do things outside of my previous limited comfort zone and be a larger part of the D&D community. I really do love the game and for all my failures as a player and DM I do hope to use those experiences to help inspire others to join in or avoid the pitfalls I myself have fallen into. The last post I wrote was D&D related and got a good response which I felt really happy about! A conversation I had with some folks on Twitter this week reminded me, while I was telling them, that even the most basic of information re-iterated can help. A subject that has been expounded on thousands of times can still escape newcomers to our hobbie so it helps to have it done again, tweaked and put in different terms. You never know who you might reach that others have missed. Smaller creators and commentators communicate regularly with those who the larger personalities may miss. Not through any fault of their own but they have simply grown to play in new arenas, they have new concerns and demands on their time. So it is up to us to take up the banners in their place and be new conduits for advice and help in their stead. Ultimately we too may eventually find ourselves too busy to answer all the questions we may get but hopefully by that time we have helped to inspire new people to offer their unique perspectives and experiences on the game.

Aside from this I have found myself with a couple of other opportunities to become more involved and while at the moment I can’t really talk about them (I don’t think? Better safe than sorry.) I am incredibly excited/nervous for them. If for no other reason than I expect to embarrass myself in new and unexpected ways. Forcing yourself outside of your comfort zone is often stressful and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel it but I’m determined to get past that and embrace the experience. In response to that I buried myself in some prep work to the exclusion of keeping to my posting schedule which was certainly unwise but for my own sanity I think I needed it. Balancing this stuff is certainly going to be tough but that is just one more thing in a sea of them that I need to put in some work on improving.

So what positive things happened this week?

We recorded another episode of the Ourcast which was a lot of fun! It wont be up for a couple weeks as we still have a one week buffer between releases but I think it’s one of our best so far. I’ve become a little more proficient with editing which is shortening the time it takes to produce episodes. The downside to that is that now that its going quicker I’m experimenting more with different techniques and musical additions so really its taking me more time to do them now. Insert sad-face here. It’s good though, shows me I’m improving and its hard to feel bad about that. Prior to this last episode I also adjusted my desk and audio setup a little as I work on improving the audio quality on my side. Since I’m using a broadcast mic to record instead of my gaming headset there are a lot of factors I was previously unaware of that are messing with the quality of my output. For instance I was unaware of the part the vibration of my case fans would play in the audio quality though a 3.5mm jack. Hopefully the adjustments will show in upcoming episodes. Also because I have listened to way too much of myself speaking on the podcast I have realized that in an effort to hold a more conversational tone as though my co-host and I are sitting across from each other at a table I have inadvertently caused myself to sound somewhat boring and mono-tone. This past episode I was particularly annoyed at myself during the editing as it oftentimes felt like I was utterly lifeless while talking. I have a few more criticisms of my performance but suffice it to say going into our recording session this past Thursday I made a concerted effort to adjust my approach and be a bit livelier. Hopefully it’s a welcome change and going forward I’m going to try and embrace my “radio voice” and bring the enthusiasm out a little more.

On the D&D front my group finally was able to get together again after a couple week hiatus. The “Band of Others”, as they have chosen to call themselves, got their first taste of the Dungeon Trials beneath the beautiful city of Orskr. In a competition with adventurers from all over for wealth and rewards beyond imagining they’re going to face the toughest challenges of their lives over the next few sessions. First room of whirling blades caused a few cuts and dings but they got through it largely unscathed.

Tougher challenges to come however and I’m excited to see how they deal with them.

We’re also just a couple weeks shy of restarting our Dark Heresy Warhammer 40k campaign which I get to be a player in and we were all assigned a little homework prior to getting back in. Working on that has been really fun as a way to get reacquainted with my character and the setting.

Basically there a lot of things that are “coming soon” that I of course wish could get here maybe just a little faster. Until then though there are plenty of things to keep me busy so It’s time to refocus on those and first up I think is going to be starting on the project I set for myself with my Games on the Silver Screen post from when I was on vacation. Mortal Kombat is currently on Netflix and I can’t think of a better way to to start things off.

For now thanks for reading! Hopefully this offered a little insight to where I am right now and as an adequate apology for not keeping up through this week. Just know that no one will ever feel more irritation or disappointment from these failures than I do. The important thing is finding motivation in them instead of defeat.

In the interim thank you if you read this far and I’ll be back soon.

Happy gaming, folks!

  • Non-Washable