The Supreme Court rules 5-4 in favour of marriage equality. Scalia calls it a "judicial Putsch" and claims it threatens democracy because: "They are willing to say that any citizen who does not agree with that, who adheres to what was, until 15 years ago, the unanimous judgment of all generations and all societies, stands against the Constitution..."|
Please, explain to me how that argument doesn't also work for literally anything else. At some point, if something is wrong, there must be a point where people recognise that it is wrong.
As far as I can tell, not one argumeent Scalia has wouldn't also apply to a dissent in Loving vs Virginia, in which the Supreme Court unanimously ruled in favour of inter-racial marriage.
Meanwhile: I've been playing Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel.
I'd just like to note that this is a modern shoot-em-up video game in which:
- The main protagonist is female, and modestly dressed.
- The surrounding narrative is framed as a discussion primarily between two women, to which male characters make only occasional contributions.
- There are four base playable characters, and two additional available as DLC. Of the four base, two are female, one male but with a disability, and one a robot; the two DLC are one male, one female. The robot, inasmuch as a box on a wheel is gendered, is gendered male, but that still makes a fifty-fifty split. One of the DLC characters has medium-brown skin, but I'm not sure how she counts from a diversity perspective, since she's the sister of an existing NPC.
- It had previously been established that that particular NPC appears to draw his romantic partners exclusively from the pool of other ruggedly manly men. (Sir Hammerlock is extremely rugged and manly, despite his refined, English-accented elocution.) This information was available if you did side missions which included him mentioning, in passing, his ex-boyfriend, and suchlike comments.
- Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel ups the ante with some gentle flirtation between Athena, the primary protagonist, and Janey Springs, the "black marketeer with a heart of gold" who, it is mentioned, is "not into dudes". It is confirmed, later in the story, that subsequent to the events that the story actually follows, Springs and Athena totally got together, and were even living together.
- Extra bonus: Mister Torgue!
So, Mister Torgue is... an odd chap. He's the super-muscular head of the Torgue Corporation, which specialises in guns that do bonus explosive damage. He's a huuuge fan of explosions. He talks in a non-stop scream that gets captioned in allcaps.
A side-mission has you collecting parts for building lasers on behalf of Janey Springs. Mister Torgue, however, wants you to destroy it, because he's very sad about laser guns.
When Janey asks you to bring the component back, Torgue suggests: "OR, YOU COULD DESTROY IT FOR ME AND GET A COOL TORGUE GUN. WHY? BECAUSE I RESENT LASERS AND I'M SUPER GOOD AT HOLDING GRUDGES. IT'S A SERIOUS PERSONALITY PROBLEM."
Springs observes that she "kinda feel[s] sorry for the big bag of muscles" and assures you that if you do as he asks, she'll still like you - it's up to you.
If you choose to return it to Springs nonetheless, Torgue sobs: "AW, EVERYONE'S ENJOYING THEIR LASER WEAPONS AND I'M JUST SITTING AROUND MAKING THINGS EXPLODE. MY LIFE SUCKS!"
Because she's kind of awesome, Springs comforts him, assuring him that people still like explosions, including her, and he's great.
Torgue: REALLY? I LIKE YOU NOW! DO YOU WANT TO GO OUT?
Springs: Sorry. I'm not into guys.
However, this whole thing is framed as Athena recounting the events at a later date, so at this point, Mister Torgue cuts in again: "HEY, IS ATHENA TELLING THE STORY ABOUT THE LIGHT REACTOR THINGY? I'D LIKE TO JUST POINT OUT THAT I WAS IN A DARK PLACE BACK THEN, AND I KNOW THAT "FRIENDZONING" IS AN IMAGINARY MISOGYNISTIC WAY OF LOOKING AT RELATIONSHIPS!"
Just discovered: My horse does not accept apologies or surrender.|
"Enough! I submit!" pleads the Forsworn Ravager.
"Nay!" says my horse. (Approximately.) And keeps kicking.
HEY GUYS GUESS WHAT|
So the topic of old video games just came up and I mentioned how the Sega Master System II came with one of my favouritest games ever, Alex Kidd in Miracle World. (Really came with it - it was built into the console, so if you turned it on without a cartridge in there at all, it loaded Alex Kidd.)
velithya suggested I could probably source it on the Internet. So I googled for it, and there were rom sites, which I've never really worked out anyway, and don't trust that much, etc - and then I saw, a few entries down...
As of all of LAST MONTH - released on the 22nd of May - Alex Kidd in Miracle World is available from the PlayStation Store. I HAVE BOUGHT IT IT IS DOWNLOADING WAIT NO IT JUST FINISHED IT IS DOWNLOADED.
They also have Wonder Boy in Monster Land, aka my other favouritest game ever. I mean, neither of them is objectively as good as, say, Portal - but I spent a lot more time playing them. (Yes, being under ten helped with that, I'm sure, but still.) So much love.
So, I've been playing Dark Souls a lot for the last week and a half, a period that also could be described as "since it came out" - I had it pre-ordered, because oh hell yes. (For an entertaining thematic breakdown of the game, you could just check out its TVTropes summary.)|
I'm enjoying it a lot, but one thing seriously stands out from all other games I've ever played, for its inclusion of a feature I've yearned for in a number of games.
In Dark Souls, there are ledges and places to fall. Sometimes, you want to jump. Other times, jumping is death.
Dark Souls, first of all games I've ever played, gives you the ability to drop a damn pebble off the ledge to get an idea of how far down it is.
You can't scrabble around in the dirt for any random pebble - which is fine, by the way, that's a feature that would *not* be worth the coding effort for the programmers. What you can do is, very cheaply, buy a stack of an item called a Prism Stone. Prism Stones can then be dropped off ledges, and will make a loud noise if it's too far to survive. You can *also* use them as path markers, because where they land, they stay, and they glow in sparkly, pretty colours. (One of seven or eight colours, although which colour you get is random.)
This makes maze-like areas way, way less annoying. In some sections that I found mildly confusing before I really learned my way around, I would drop prism stones in certain spots, and then, when I got turned around, I'd know it, because oh hey, that sparkly blue glow at the base of that ladder means that's the one I came down to get here, because that's where I dropped a blue stone.
It's not the first game to include a way to do something like that, but a lot of games that should, don't.
It's a small thing, but it can do an amazing amount to reduce the frustration level of the game.
I'm about to head out to pick up my copy of Dark Souls, so obviously this is a good time to make a post about its predecessor.|
Demon's Souls is a game that is renowned for being really really hard, and which a number of people have trouble really coming to enjoy at all.
Part of why has been crystallising for me since I read a comment by Yahtzee Croshaw, in an Extra Punctuation piece where he alleged that Demon's Souls wastes the player's time with the difficulty factor.
The basic setup is this: The currency of the game is souls. You get souls by killing monsters. If you die - and you will die, and die often - you lose the souls you'd collected. You have one chance to retrieve them: a short distance before the point at which you died will be your bloodstain. If you can touch that before you die again, you get your souls back. If you die first, they're gone forever - and since, when you die, all the monsters respawn, this is no small risk.
There are no save points. You can open up shortcuts through a level that make subsequent attempts easier, but that's it.
Souls are used to buy equipment, pay for upgrades, and also to buy levels, which give you stat upgrades. Souls are important.
So, it seems, a lot of people seem to feel like losing souls is losing their XP, is losing their game progress.
And maybe in some games that would be true, but in Demon's Souls progression isn't about your powerups - progression is what you have when you learn to play better.
You see, the difficulty is high, but it is meticulously fair. If you die, it is because you messed up. You moved wrong, or you failed to move. You tried to attack when you should have blocked, or you tried to block when you should have dodged, or you weren't paying attention and walked off a ledge - one way or another, you died because you made a mistake. Unlike a lot of games, Demon's Souls doesn't cheat.
So you learn from your mistakes, and you learn to watch and step with care, and you learn to fight with skill. That is progression. And as a side-effect of that, you start coming back with souls, and you buy your stat upgrades, and they let you do trickier things, perhaps, but you still need to play with just as much care or you're going to keep dying.
Even gamers who say they want a more challenging experience, I think, sometimes don't realise just how much they're used to games coddling them. Including the expectation that if they kill monsters, then they'll get Experience, and they'll get stronger - so that even if they're dying all the time, they'll at least be grinding through levels and eventually they'll win by overpowering the enemy.
Whereas Demon's Souls isn't letting you get away with that any more than it's going to stop you walking off a cliff. The monsters want you dead. The game world, however, doesn't care. It's not going to protect you, not even from yourself, and you don't get stronger unless you get better.
I was playing it this morning, and I was playing a starting character, more-or-less, and I went and accomplished things easily that I struggled with, once upon a time, when much higher level than I am now. The difference is that I'm now good at Demon's Souls, where once I wasn't. I know where every enemy is, and I know how to fight them. (Dark Souls is going to be an interesting new challenge.)
The other thing, of course, is that many people seem not to understand that things work differently in a truly challenging game with the whole stat thing. I've seen an amazing number of people talking about levelling up Vitality and Strength. Vitality gives you hit points, it's true, but in Demon's Souls Vitality is a hard-core PvP stat - if you're getting hit, you're doing it wrong, because a lot of enemies are guaranteed death if you let it get to that point in the first place.
And Strength is a prereq stat for wielding certain weapons, but once you qualify for those, it's a waste. Even if you want to use heavy armour - which I wouldn't, because it seriously impedes your ability to manoeuvre and especially to dodge - the required stat for that is Endurance.
Me? I tend to get Strength 22, for the Large Purple Flame Shield and the Composite Longbow, and Endurance 40, for max stamina, and then load the hell out of Dex (and magic). I win because they can't touch me, and then I kill them with sword and bow.
Also: People often try to upgrade and use the Uchigatana, the best katana available in the game. This is a mistake. While in many Western games, katanas are the best swords, Demon's Souls is a Japanese-made, Western-themed game, and in it, katanas suck. Depending on personal preference, the best swords are European straight swords, or Middle Eastern curved swords.
Personally, I go for the curved swords, although I pull out a rapier for certain fights, as you can use it without lowering your sword. The kilij is, for my money, the best sword in the game - usually a Crescent Kilij +5 is going to be my top damage output - and you can't do better, in most circumstances, than to pair it with a Large Purple Flame Shield +10. (Because it has the best guard break reduction. In the remaining circumstances, you want the Dark Silver Shield, because it has 100% magic block.)
I just finished Portal 2.|
Impressions: Really well-written. The puzzles were sufficiently well-designed that I'd come up with a solution, have a moment of: "Man, I'm awesome!" and then realise that I'd just got to where I was supposed to go, which means it was totally what the developers intended, and then be annoyed that I was conforming to their expectations with my creativity.
That comes out as "Heh, cool."
There was a brief period where it felt like a section was dragging a bit, but that may just have been because I was really tired yesterday. When I picked it up again I was really enjoying it.
Last night I went to the Officeworks down the road to buy writing paper, because I owe my great-aunt a letter several months ago, ditto my cousin, and I wanted proper letter-writing paper to write on, since "printer paper" just doesn't scream "I value you and our communication" to me.
When I was younger, I wrote a lot more letters than I do these days. It's not just the advent of everyone-has-email-now - it was also that my grandmother was still alive, and I wrote to her (not enough, but I did). Nowadays I'm in contact with new elderly relatives, but I'm still terrible at correspondence, so it was allowed to happen that I didn't have any decent paper.
I remember pads of airmail paper. Maybe they still have them at the post office, though I don't remember seeing them last time I was at one, but certainly not at Officeworks. Instead I have "parchment"-style tinted paper that is all heavy, relatively speaking - I just don't mind so much because I'm planning to send other stuff along as well.
I started playing a flight/combat simulator called Wings of Prey. It's a World War Two game. My impressions so far:
- The controls are complicated, but as I'm gradually getting used to them, I'm finding they work. You're never going to be entirely uncomplicated when you have to control flaps, ailerons, and rudder just for steering, as well as needing weapon controls, throttle controls, and controls for issuing wing commands... among other things. In a tutorial mission I got some praise for a landing from the instructor that felt quite undeserved, because yes, I touched down flawlessly, but on the other hand, I couldn't find the wheel brake and coasted at high speed across the runway, into the neighbouring field, then flipped my Spitfire over a hedge and blew up.
- It's very, very pretty. So far I've mainly flown around only over Dover and Hardinge, but they've laid out the towns and the harbour below rather delightfully.
- But some of the voice acting is remarkably, spectacularly terrible. While some is quite good. I am not sure how they managed that, since I can't help but think that they could have found a better voice actor for Owen Wright (I think his name is) if they'd opened the door to their offices and grabbed the first dude to come past, tied him to a chair, and had him read the lines without even telling him what they were for.
For most of the last week, my previous obsession with Pokemon Black has given way to obsessively playing Final Fantasy: Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift instead. Kupo.
Concetta Fieravanti-Wells is an unpleasant-seeming person. I have a strong feeling that I couldn't have an extended conversation with her without wanting to tell her to shut the hell up.
People are talking positively about former NSW Premier Kristina Keneally in the wake of the NSW Labor Party's electoral decimation, and it's pretty clear that NSW Labor was basically toxic and has been for some years. There's a certain rot that seems to set into parties who've held power for too long, and NSW Labor seems to have been rotted through quite thoroughly.
However, I can't help but think that if I lived in New South Wales, I would have been uncomfortable with having her as my Premier not just because she wasn't elected Premier, but also because she's American. She was born, raised, and educated in America. She only moved to Australia in the late 90s and became an Australian citizen in 2000.
I don't think of myself as at all xenophobic, and I don't, in principle or in practice, have a problem with first-generation immigrants running for political office. Hell, I am a first-generation immigrant. Prime Minister Julia Gillard, our current head of government, was not born in Australia, and I don't have a problem with that.
But Keneally entered Parliament in 2003. She had then been living in Australia not more than about five years. That's just not long enough. And the approximately ten years she'd been living in Australia when she became State Premier of New South Wales is really truly not enough - especially since she apparently joined the Labor Party in 2000, too, which means she's basically been a political hack the entire time. It's like she came to Australia and immediately set out to take over.
I think there should be a sort of legal minimum residency period before you get to run actual Australian governments. Let's say eighteen years - your Australian-ness needs to be old enough to be a legal adult before you get to run any part of our country.
Because otherwise it's just weird.
I'm just currently running at the limits of my personal resources. I'm doing an outpatient-but-full-time group therapy... thing.|
Yesterday was particularly bad because I got caught by a sneak meditation exercise, which more-or-less shattered me outright. It's complicated to explain, just... meditation is not for me. It hurts.
Anyway, because my brain can't handle anything else, I come home and play Gran Turismo. I'm level 17 A and level 11 B.
Right now I'm watching my second-best B-spec driver take my Lamborghini Gallardo around the Daytona oval. My best driver just did this self-same race in the exact same car, and came an easy first. Where L. Abendroth cruised to victory, R. Yoshioka is struggling to hold 8th. Apparently driver class DOES make a difference - but hey, it gets him more of the experience he needs to be a better driver.
My Gallardo needed an oil change after 400 miles of driving (and could use an engine overhaul at some point, too). 400 miles! That's what you get for thrashing an engine - race driving isn't exactly kind.
You know, in video games, we all do things that in real life we wouldn't, for one reason or another.
Gran Turismo definitely is on that list, because in real life, you know what I wouldn't do?
Power-slide a small French sports car* past the Roman Colisseum.
* - No, I'm not somehow convinced a Lamborghini is French instead of Italian. The car I powerslid past the Colisseum was my Hommel Berlinette. (The Gallardo, despite its "baby Lambo" image in the past, is also not what I'd call small. Apart from anything else, you don't get to be "small" when you can clear 200mph.)
Direct quote: "Mental trauma can be just as debilitating as physical injury."|
This would be from Fallout: New Vegas.
( Potentially triggery explanation. )
This is a thing of beauty.|
So Machine of Death is an anthology of short stories, by a range of people, based on the concept of a machine that will tell you, cryptically but accurately, how you will die.
It's based off a Dinosaur Comic.
And because it was rejected by published and so was entirely an indie project, their big marketing gambit was to try and get people to buy it on the 26th of October from Amazon, so that, just for a day, it would be Amazon's #1 bestseller.
It worked. For that alone I am proud that I am one of the people who ordered it that day - in fact, I ordered two, but the second one is housemate.Dave's. (Why order separately when you live in the same house, etc.)
But the best part?
Glenn Beck is really bitter.
Because, as it turns out, his latest book was released on Tuesday, and apparently his books always debut at #1, except this time, it came THIRD. Behind Keith Richards's autobiography and Machine of Death.
This ABC news piece notes that while the book had dropped places, it was still ahead of the Grisham that debuted that day.
Truly. The world is not bereft of joy.
Meanwhile, in video games: Fallout: New Vegas is lots of fun and Super Scribblenauts is causing me to receive e-mails that say only CARNIVOROUS ROBOT ZOMBIE HAMSTER, which is maintaining the awesomeness of, well, everything.
Oct. 21st, 2010 @ 04:10 am
I picked up playing Nier a bit tonight. Haven't played it in aaaages, but I was in the mood for Square Enix without all that "hope" and "optimism" and "love" crap in FF13. Nier is about as emo as a game about smashing stuff up with magic and huge swords can be.|
Even the cover picture has Nier's hair falling across his face in a totally emo way. The only person who doesn't look tragic on the cover is Kainé - which is sort of appropriate, since she covers her angst with rage, as a rule. (Anger management is not her strong suit. The game's opening splash screen has a voiceover from Kainé that starts: "Weiss! Weiss, you dumbass!" and gets angrier from there.)
Some of the review-type stuff of Nier annoys me because of Kainé, though. Many reviews I've seen that discuss the characters claim that the source of her angst and self-loathing is her penis. Totally not true. The source of her angst and self-loathing is demonic possession and her - well, spoilers, but let's just say it's a bit of a "my beloved peasant village" thing.
Video games serve to distract me from feelings of abandonment today.
So, I got a new game yesterday: Gran Turismo 5: Prologue.|
My very first impression of the game is currently being borne out further as I let it idle to write this post. To wit: This game is really really pretty.
As it's idling, I'm now getting a slideshow of shots of cars in different cities where there are tracks - slow pans around Bonn, right now, just being very pretty.
It is also, however, a lot of fun.
I like racing games. In the real world I think car racing is ecologically unsupportable and generally dangerous and pointless; I don't think car races are, as a rule, particularly enjoyable to watch.
But they're a lot of fun to do - and if I do it on a video game, I don't have to deal with the repercussions of my inevitable crashes.
Because I do crash, and also, my racing style is slightly influenced by childhood games of MarioKart. If you're trying to overtake an opponent near a tricky corner, it's a totally viable strategy in MarioKart and many racing games to take the corner at a slightly unsafe speed, and keep yourself from going too wide by essentially making a bank shot off your opponent, hitting them broadside, using that to give yourself some lateral force, and thereby screw up their corner while improving your own.
In the real world that leaves a mark.
Anyway, Gran Turismo specifically is awesome because it's all about modelling real-world driving physics. It adds a whole new level of fascinating challenge to the game. For a change, in a racing game the brake button doesn't exist in a world of "Brakes? SIF!" Take a corner too fast and you're going to lose, and lose badly - once your car spins out into the sand wash outside the corner, that's it, you're done.
Brake in the corner when you start to lose it? Oh hell no, son, that's death on locked wheels. Drive like it's reality - you brake before you hit the corner, and accelerate out of the corner.
For the first time, I'm playing a racing game where coming fourth sometimes feels like an awesome achievement. Because negotiating the track is a challenge in itself, and finding the moments to overtake the opposition can be a strategic challenge.
Meanwhile, I noticed, with approving delight, something very cool.
Certain in-game information is presented while youre racing that you need to process quickly and without taking time away from paying attention to your driving. For example, there's an optional driving line that shows you the optimal line to be taking along the track - which turns red at the corners if you're going too fast to hold the line at all. And at checkpoints, you get your time split vs the leader, if you're not in first, or second place if you are. If you're behind, that comes up red. The colour-marking is important because it's very easy to miss the +/- if you're just catching that with your peripheral vision.
If you're driving right, or coming first, you might expect - as is traditional - that it will all come up in green.
Not in GT5.
The information is presented to you in blue.
I have come to notice these things due to having a close friend who's red/green colourblind. Periodically, there are things where he has trouble parsing information presented with a red/green spectrum split. To the extent that once, he had to ask me to come and read a graphical breakdown of some data for him, because he couldn't see the differences, at all.
(Sadly, I think most people don't really think about disabilities until they've had some kind of reasonably close experience with them. I know I never thought about red/green colour-marking until I spent so much time around my colourblind friend.)
Accordingly, I think that it's just very cool to have a game that presents this stuff, signals information you want to be processing without thinking about it, by marking it with a vivid red and a clear, cool blue.
Sure it won't work for someone who's completely colourblind, but a) that's very very rare and b) at that point, no colour distinctions will, so... not a lot you can do, really.
If you are easily depressed by events in video games, kind of thing, you might want to avoid Square Enix's Very Not Final Fantasy game, Nier.|
It's kind of tragic, and only avoids being hideously bleak by a lot of good dialogue.
When even Grimoire Weiss is sighing and saying, "Not quite the happy ending I was hoping for..." things are getting tragic.
So, this morning I was supposed to start a new daily course of therapy stuff.|
Instead, I woke up at 6am with agonising abdominal pain, and ended up spending the morning at the Emergency Department, where the conclusion is that I have crazy cyst action blowing up my ovaries.
Fun Times also messing up my attempts to get my life in order.
WTF moment of the day: Discovering that the registration clerk had entered my name as Tami, so all the paperwork (including my prescription) were written out for Tami, when she was taking my name and address details off my driver's licence, which says, in clear, Western Australian Government-approved font, that my name is Sami.
She read the rest just fine, but... no. Tami. They're not even near each other on the keyboard.
Meanwhile, I've been playing Nier lately. I got it late Friday (Chas picked it up for me in town), and have been playing it a lot ever since. I really like it, actually.
I was looking for some commentary on it to link to, specifically the unusual element that it's a video game with a character who is not exactly cisgendered, but so far everything I've found is from people who haven't played the game and are making an awful lot of suppositions that I wouldn't say are particularly supported by the game. (Including that she has no clear gender identify preference; I think she's pretty firmly presenting as female, to start with, and then you have the part where Grimoire Weiss makes many, many comments about her being a horrible hussy and all sorts of other comments that are dependent on her femininity, and Kainé has no trouble whatsoever voicing her displeasure when Weiss pisses her off, so I think she'd probably say something. Especially at the point when she still totally hates him.)
I'd warn for spoilers, but, seriously, when you load the game, before you start playing, before the intro movie even rolls, you get a splash screen with audio playing over it that is Kainé yelling at Weiss. In which she calls him names, mocks him for being a little bitch (in so many words), and then yells at him some more. It totally doesn't count as spoilers to tell you that Kainé and Weiss have some personality conflict happening.