Zero Summer

Apr. 4th, 2013 07:13 pm
green_dreams: Books, and coffee cup with "Happiness is a cup of coffee and a really good book" on the side. (Default)
Zero Summer identifies itself (quite honestly) as a wordy Western RPG. It's a free browser-based game, that uses (almost) the Fallen London engine. It's fairly grindy at times, which is usually really not my thing. I cope with it for the writing; I actually think that the amount of text helps me slow down and not click through it all so quickly.

Here's the thing: there are individual stories (as opposed to the repeatable mundane actions) which cannot be repeated. You play them once, you read them once, and then they are gone forever, unless you care to start over again with a new character. So when I run across a step in the story that reads in part (yes, in part; I did say it was wordy):
What does it say? It says: under clear skies and the fresh fingernail moon and the bright brilliant stars when the world was young there was the masterless Dog. And still he howls. His voice freezes the blood. His tongue is warm and wet. His pelt flea-bitten but strong and golden. His ears hung with carved wooden rings. His eyes too-human. His paw outreaches. A mark is left.

Suddenly Jim is on you, wrestling the book away and slamming it back onto the shelf where you found it. Real panic in his eyes. A high unexpected color.

"What did you see?" he says. Demands. "What did you see?"

Under a fingernail moon, there was a hound. Under the clear sky he reached out. Under his paw there came a mark. It itches and burns. It weighs on your heart.
...when I come across that I stop, and reread, because I know there are no save points, no rewinds, no YouTube captures, no wikis, no-one I can ask for an explanation. (Okay. Technically I could go poking around the Failbetter forums and see if anyone had theories, but it's not like sitting around a gaming table and troubling a Storyteller for clarification, you know?)

It's oddly lovely, and no less so for being so transient.

========

ETA: Aaaaaaand I just got a message related to that specific storylet. I'll, uhm, be shivering gleefully, visiting the Scrublands, and dealing with the Jackal-Caller now. :D
green_dreams: (avoid danger and damage)
Having made breakfast, run errands, had lunch, put away groceries, etc., the following dialogue was heard in our house:
"Okay. I'm going to go shoot people until enough dollars come out that I can play Pretty Pretty Princess. That is how the game works, yes?"
"That's about it, actually."
"Cool. ...you get to shoot bad guys, right? Not cops?"
"Oh yeah."
"Awesome."
I think this is about what I need to unwind right now.

(The nice thing about starting to get on top of the laundry and kitchen and everything? It means that when there is a morning where I am all "Ugh, I don't wanna deal with Generic Housecleaning Stuff, then the result is "Dammit, the dishrack is full and there are two minutes worth of dishes to clean." Not "Oh god I am never going to see the bottom of the sink again I don't wanna even be in this room.")
green_dreams: Sepia-toned picture of a dog, with the caption "Will reload saves for Dogmeat." (wasteland hero)
So. There's this thing Fallout: New Vegas lets you do, which is talk to people. Almost all people, in fact, and if you're good at it, you can win a great number of conflicts that way. (I think I did that with everyone of note in my playthough, except Caesar and the Legate, because, uhm, no. It's my game and my story and my relaxation, and I get to decide that some people are horrible enough that shooting them is okay.) People will let you go, people will decide to cover for you or actually support you.

Colloquially, this is called talking the monster to death (thank you, TV Tropes!), even if you usually don't actually kill them, and I tend to think of it as talking them 'round, as Daniel Webster is purported to have done to the Devil's jury.

Anyway.

John and I were discussing F:NV this morning, since the weather brought on thoughts of snow globes, and from there we got to the cigarette butts (these are A Clue) you can find early on in the game, and I was mentioning that I'd missed them the first time. John was surprised, and was explaining their use at one particular point, and then a sudden realization came upon me.
"...son of a bitch, Benny talked me to death."
*pause* *John started laughing*
"No wonder I let the little prick live.[1]"
*laughing harder*
And then there was a lot of, well, sputtering.

I mean, I went there with a plan of what to do. There was no advantage to changing it, and there was, I think, some personal satisfaction to letting it play out as it would have. And then the character said things, things mostly that weren't even intended to persuade me, and the next thing you know I'm thinking "okay, right, I personally object but I can see the rationale, here," and the next thing I'm dishing out resources to let him get away and busily annoying certain people it is expensive (in terms of game resources) and painful to annoy by doing so.

I know that part of it is that I generally actively dislike being a bad guy in video games, but... damn. A story that can change your mind, even a bit, is not a hugely common thing. Affect you, upset you, show you something new, sure[2], but not so much make you ditch a plan and decide to do something harder. Admittedly, most stories don't unfold in a context where you are directly involved in making decisions, but still.
---
[1] I am not in the habit of using such language, but really, he shot me in the head and buried me in a shallow grave before the game even started, I feel some acrimony is not unwarranted.
[2] Okay, not sure, but a lot of stories do and can.
green_dreams: (little red heart)
I noticed a certain common colouration in the books I had to hand:

Covers of /Lies and Ugliness/, /Bedlam/, /The Weird/, and /Breed/.

I'm cheating a bit with this picture, since both the hardback cover and the dustjacket of Breed are shown. (I took the dustjacket off because something about the paper just feels subtly repellant--some weird combination of sooty and greasy.) On the flipside, I'm not including The Rivals of Frankenstein, which continues the black-white-red theme, so it all balances if anyone's keeping score, which I sort of doubt.

Am mildly amused by this, especially since the other books I am reading, or have just finished, or have just started, have a black-and-white thing going for the covers. (Apparently the subtraction of red takes you from horror to crime, who knew? Although Bedlam is an exception to that.)

Not feeling well today; I'm hoping it's just after-effects of the flu shot, since those should clear up more quickly than anything I might have actually caught. Managed to get a little cleaning done, though, and get out of the house to pick up groceries and return library books. (Mildly annoyed that one of the books I have on hold has been in transit for just over a week, now, and is still not at the local branch. It's a Lovecraft collection, so I suspect I could find the contents on Gutenberg, but I find I really prefer physical copies of anthologies and collections. Screens and ereaders work best for single works, for me--novels or novellas or standalone short stories, any length is fine, just not several short stories.

Probably turning in early tonight; the nap after the vet's was nice, but I'm still wiped.
green_dreams: Sepia-toned picture of a dog, with the caption "Will reload saves for Dogmeat." (will reload for Dogmeat)
There was a Kickstarter for miniatures for Hell on Earth, which is a Deadlands thing.

I will, uhm, have a few things to paint. And a bit of Classic Hell on Earth[1] to read through.

It's been a long and kind of draining day, and I'm not quite finding myself in a state to discuss Hell on Earth[2], which is sad, because there are a lot of things about it that I would like to articulate. But I am glad that I will have some more Deadlands to read, and I am trying to get my thoughts on Hellstromme in order.
---
[1] Bubbly Fizz. Mmmmm.
[2] Except to say dammit, they cheated.
green_dreams: Sepia-toned picture of a dog, with the caption "Will reload saves for Dogmeat." (wasteland hero)
Fifteen-odd years ago, someone told me a story about how the world was going to end in eighty years. In 2077. On October 23, 2077, in fact. Told me a story about how the world did end then--
In 2077, the storm of world war had come again. In two brief hours, most of the planet was reduced to cinders. And from the ashes of nuclear devastation, a new civilization would struggle to arise.
--and what came after.

So you can be the Vault Dweller. Or the Chosen One. Or the Lone Wanderer, if you must. Or the Courier. And you make it through the weird double-beat story setup, and you learn to care about the world. And over and over again, you go slogging through it and-- well, there's a reason John calls games that give you scenarios that have no clear good answer "Fallout scenarios". And sometimes the better thing--best of a bad lot--is so hard to do, and it would be so much easier to not, and...

It's hard to do a good thing, sometimes. Oh, it's possible, often enough. F:NV is the game John teases me about taking the talk-the-enemy-to-death-or-alliance tack with, but dammit, you can. That's deeply awesome to me, and I will patiently get shot at for the chance to pull it off, because come on, is that not among the best things you can do? Communicate, community, to hold communion, and yes I am tipsy hush.

This is the truth of Fallout--if war never changes, then people must. Must. There are alternatives, surely--there is the Master, the Enclave, there is Caesar and Brother Elijah and First Citizen Joanne Lynette. But there are no acceptable alternatives. People need to change.

Sometimes you can't get to a good enough change. I remember those times. I remember them as a world and a setting that was hurt too badly to work well, not as a poorly written game.

(Like Vault 11. Jesus. That place made Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" seem like a sweet and pleasant setup.)

But yes: if war never changes, then people must.
"Begin again, but learn how to let go."
"She cast aside the recording of her grandchildren, no longer remembering its significance."
"I wish them well. It's been a gift to me, at the end of it all, to behold innocence."
The first time I played Fallout: New Vegas, I ran across the Yang-Tze Memorial. And I didn't have a lot of time to look around--it was a hectic moment, early-game, I was busy surviving the hostile wildlife[1]--but I came away thinking it was an apology. A recognition that what had been done was wrong. That made me smile. It's not enough, it would have been better to not have happened, but it's a start, you know?

Sixty-five years and counting until there's no more jokes about the story happening--like counting down to August 29, 1997, I guess. That's okay.

It's been a pretty awesome story to have around.
---
[1] Oh, the wildlife. "Docile. Curious. Safe. Sterile."--my ass. My bitten, stabbed, slashed, poisoned, hit-point-deficient ass.

Ugh.

Oct. 11th, 2012 06:26 am
green_dreams: (zombie friendly DO NOT EAT)
Went to bed later than I ought've last night. Woke up half an hour ago after a long and complicated series of dreams that mostly involved needing to playtest adventures for The Secret World for jasmine-koran.livejournal.com and getting incredibly frustrated because I couldn't tell the difference between regular content, her content, and quest requirements.[1]

I'm tired.
---
[1] It was like Story Nexus, but all the Qualities and Storylets were showing up in one spot on my screen.
green_dreams: Lamppost and orange-leafed trees against a cloudy sky. (autumn lamppost)
hbgjnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn Angus says, walking on my laptop as I try to post.

Is anyone else having trouble with GMail? I can get in on my phone, but not my computer, and I'm not sure anything on my phone is actually making it out to anyone.

(Steam is asking people to rate possible games. Things I would like to see: Dorian Gray Syndrome.)
green_dreams: (Halo Jones)
And a puzzle. And coffee cups.



Alright. See, there's a game called ADOM--Ancient Domains of Mystery. I'd link to my earlier discussions of it, except it's not something I mentioned much on LJ. It's a dungeon crawl, with... well, pretty much everything. Secret passages. Writhing masses of primal chaos. Altars to the gods. Holy water. Gremlin fluffballs. Angry trees. Cats. Traps. Blankets. The Black Tome of oh god I did not just get that did I? Shining silvery two-handed swords--well, sword. Smithing. Herbs. Pools you can drink from with uncanny effects. Weird mutations from the background corruption slowly destroying the land of Ancardia. Wishes being granted. And puppies that should really, really not need to be rescued.

And sheep. Spoiler-y protip: DO NOT wish for sheep.

And there's $1,013 $971 $946 $861 left for it to make the stretch goal of publishing it to Steam.

Could do worse than check it out, is all I'm saying. :)

Puppy.

Jun. 21st, 2012 09:55 pm
green_dreams: Sepia-toned picture of a dog, with the caption "Will reload saves for Dogmeat." (will reload for Dogmeat)
I played a bit of Fallout 3 on... Monday, I think. Touring the Capitol Wasteland and sticking my nose in abandoned factories to see what would bite it off. Would have gotten killed if it wasn't for Dogmeat, who single-handedly (pawedly? jawedly?) dispatched the feral ghoul reaver that was still doing just fine after being hit by a Nuka-Cola Grenade[1].

(Who's the best puppy ever? You are. Yes you are!)

He didn't even need healing afterwards. I paused the game and went downstairs to make startled noises at John.

Anyway. Had a bit of time before knitting tonight, and... eh, well.


---
[1] The second most damaging weapon in the game, after a mini-nuke. "Imagine the look on your enemy's face when they're burning alive in an explosion of effervescent cola and fruit flavors!" Have said repeatedly that Fallout 3 is not a patch on F:NV, but dear god the dialogue sometimes. O.o
green_dreams: (judge dredd snowman)
32°C as of 3 p.m., calculated to come across as 41 with the humidity. (That's 105 down south, I understand.) I'm going to grit my teeth, get through the trip home, and then not move outside the air-conditioning until a civilized temperature is re-established.

Going to give the e-reader a factory reset. The Kobo help desk suggested this might also solve the battery problem[1], which could be due to a firmware issue, but I confess to being somewhat skeptical. Will be very happy if it works, though.

Also! Pretty things, for values of pretty things that cover post-apocalyptic video games (no, not Fallout).
green_dreams: (telling stories - trust me)
Someone (quite reasonably!) asked if the new Deadlands Noir wasn't just going to be a Call of Cthulhu game set in the '30s. And I ended up trying to articulate the differences between the two. I think I may have gotten giddily idealistic (which is a weird thing to be when discussing a horror game, one which initially billed itself as "The Spaghetti Western... with meat!"); I also think it's worth saying.

See, in Deadlands, the enemies can know what they're doing and still be sane, and that makes a huge difference. You can be sane. The horror is a lot closer to the surface.

You can fight. You can, sometimes, win[1]. And that you did, that someone did, that can literally change the damn world. Might not make it a happy place, but you can at least keep it a human one.

I call Deadlands "Cthulhu and Six-guns", sometimes--a term from [personal profile] theweaselking--but that's not "unbeatable eldritch horror and pop-guns". That's "in the bloody sneaking teeth of inhuman horror, among the crooked or the corrupt or the afraid, you may look into the darkness (or the pitiless glare of high noon) and pick up your weapon and stand your ground."

You may lose. Or you may die. But by god you can do it with grit or compassion or knowledge aforethought, flawed and human though you be, and that--that is where the game shines.

(Also? Zombies. Possibly even you.)

Deadlands is awesome. How they are going to mesh this with the mean streets of Chandler (down which a man may go who is neither tarnished nor afraid; I love that line), I don't know. I've seen what a good Deadlands game can be, though, and given the products to date I figure it's worth my time to see.

It may not be your thing (and that is more than fine!). But hey, they've gotten the second installment of the video story up, and if you are interested in the setting the first and cheapest thing they're offering is an illustrated story, no gaming required. Could do worse than check it out, you know?
---
[1] Even if the Reckoners cheat. They cheat, the bastards, and I still get a pang in my heart when I think of Coot Jenkins. He came so damn close.

Good news!

May. 17th, 2012 07:05 pm
green_dreams: (we're all mad here)
The city will not actually be removing a wall of our living room!

(There's still going to be scaffolding and brick removal and stuff around the front porch next week, though.)

It feels like Monday. Keep reminding myself that this is not the case, and there is a long weekend coming. I keep getting jittery over details. If I don't stop waking up at three in the morning, I'm going to start going to bed around eight until I feel better.

Also: picture! And link to the story, if you click it.



ETA: John has improved my day!
green_dreams: (Nic Whateley (shinier))
Was feeling pretty lousy; I e-mailed work at 6:30 to excuse myself and got up about half an hour ago. John made chicken soup. John is awesome.

And then he brought me news.

Backing up a bit.

There's this setting called Deadlands. It's an alternate history that diverges from the real world on the day the Battle of Gettysburg was called on account of zombies, a Lovecraftian steampunk wild Weird West. I am very fond of this.

I am presuming that the noir genre needs no explanation.

So the news that "Hey, Pegasus Games is trying to fund their next setting through Kickstarter. Deadlands Noir."? That vastly improved my day. I mean, I still feel sick, but I'm happy.

(I just realized who the guy in the picture is eeeeek.)
green_dreams: Lamppost and orange-leafed trees against a cloudy sky. (autumn lamppost)
Bubbly Fizz. Mmmmm.[1]

Spoilers follow--no, honestly, serious spoilers--but it doesn't matter unless you game. I'm not kidding. )

John talks about the concept of a game contract; when you run a game, you agree to its basic conceits. If it's a heroic fantasy game, then you do not create a character who reacts to seeing someone about to fall off a cliff by stopping, giggling, and saying "Gee, I wonder how high he'll bounce." Your character doesn't need to be happy about the fact that they're going to go save the guy, but they are by-god gonna go save the guy, because you do.

The Storyteller agrees to these conceits as well. And one of the near-universal ones is that you will have a chance to survive. And I'm not sure if simply telling players straight-up that yes, one of them is going to die in this story is the best way to handle it. I'm not even entirely sure it's better than not telling them.

Thoughts?
---
[1] I suspect there are a very few people who will get that. To them, I apologize. To the rest of you, humour me. No, it does not have anything to do with Pepsi, no matter what Google tells you.

Timeline.

Apr. 3rd, 2012 06:07 pm
green_dreams: (Tower raven)
Looking forward to the long weekend. I wouldn't say my time's already booked, but I expect I know how most of it is going to go. Hoping I can get a couple of hours in to sit down and write, and a chance to goof off and relax so I actually feel up to same.

(Running around an alien mothership without your faithful canine companion: totally relaxing.)

I need to reorganize my office again. My London-and-Mythos shelf needs to become just a Mythos shelf; with the latest anthology, there's no more room for them both. Even if I relocate the London stuff, there's only about another foot of space, but it'll last for a bit.

Pelgrane is putting out another sourcebook in the vein of The Dead White World. I'd like it, but I'm not sure I would ever actually get to run anything; there is a derth of gamers I know who are both local and interested.

I wish gaming books were something you could get at the library; it seems like a waste to buy one and then not do anything with it. They're not like most books; they're not just for reading. More like recipe collections or knitting books. Buying them and not doing anything with them is sad, and rather cluttered.
green_dreams: (fallout icon - love. love never changes)
I swear I play this (the video, not the page, obv) to cheer me up on my lunch break.
Brian Fargo meeting with an executive for the hypothetical Big Ass Games, during his efforts to get a sequel to Wasteland made, at 3:08.

BAG Ex: Okay, let's talk about a few minor tweaks.

Fargo: Well, I don't want to stray too far from the original.

BAG Ex: Oh no no, these are just tiny modernizations, if you will. Take for instance, ah--we would like it to be a first person shooter.[1]

Fargo: Excuse me?

BAG Ex: And our numbers people, they tell me romantic vampires are very big right now, and we feel like they would seamlessly fit into the Wasteland world.

Fargo: Maybe we should do birds as well

BAG Ex: Oooh. Oh, that's good. I'm glad we're on the same sheet of music. What do you think the boots look like? Are they red? 'Cause red is really big. Are you seeing red?

Fargo: I'm definitely seeing red.
But yeah! It looks like Wasteland 2 is a go. I am sort of ridiculously happy about this. Fallout was where and why I started playing computer games, and the idea that there's going to be a sequel to the inspirational prequel is making me grin.

I hope they manage to make the October 2013 deadline. I also sort of hope they'll release it on the 23rd, but either way. :)
---
[1] This might be slightly more funny to me personally than to most. Long story.
green_dreams: (spooky cats)
I got out early today, which was nice. They're asking if I can come in next week, and stay late tomorrow, and we'll see how all that plays out. But for tonight... nice.

Also! I got home to find that Future Lovecraft had made it to my mailbox, with a bookmark and a little holiday card.

I'm going to try to get in early tomorrow, and stay late if I need to. Tonight, I'm going to the SnB potluck, and I understand there are zombies to deal with in Papua New Guinea. (I may be fuzzy on the details.)
green_dreams: (fallout icon - love. love never changes)
Well. After starting on January 15, 10:28 a.m.[1], I have finished Fallout: New Vegas. 263 hours of gameplay, although my winning character only had 212 and change on her--the difference is in reloads, going back and redoing things, and I think a couple of time I may have paused the game and gone for dinner and of course the total time keeps ticking.

Also, I will note: I did it on Hardcore Mode. Including all the downloadable content add-ons. And I did not cheat.

I am kinda proud of that.

Got endings I am happy with for six of my companions, and ones I am okay with for two.

Observing the effects of a Speech of 100: I think Moriarty was some kind of bastard descendant of Daniel Webster. Caesar and the Legate and House were not talked 'round. And the Fiends. Everyone else I can think of at the moment--and I mean everyone else, including Ulysses[2] which I never imagined was going to be possible--I managed pleasant and productive conversations with.

212 hours. Wow.
---
[1] No, I'm not that much of a geek. The game tracks when you first get through the introduction, and since I've only played with one character it's easy to tell.
[2] Technically possibly a spoiler. )Ulysses is a special kind of burnt-to-the-ideal fanatic. He says he doesn't hate you. I will grant that it doesn't always seem very important to him that he hates you.
green_dreams: (call. the. police)
Admittedly I'm feeeling exhausted and disoriented enough that not sure entirely why or how, but I aten't dead. But the piles of paper on my (clean this morning!) desk are moving!

ETA: Oh, they extended me. Work now ends next week, not this week.

Anyway, Fallout (and assorted iterations, DLC, and sequels) have been on my mind a bit lately.

For those of you who have played it--what's the most essential element of Fallout setting design?

For anyone--what's the most essential element for horror?
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