The Apathy of Laziness

Huh, that sounds like a book title.

Anyway, I’m trying to think of something to write for these things (like really, I’m not interesting, why) and I got to thinking about my life. Which is entirely uninteresting. But, it does contain one fact: I’m lazy.

Sometimes, it’s due to me forgetting to take my Adderall. I don’t get that kick-start of motivation, or I don’t take the second dose and kind of wither away into nonfocused tiredness. I just sit and do mindless things – playing games on my phone, mostly – for hours. I know that I need to get up and go do something, but I look at the clock, mentally shrug, and think, “I’ve got time.”

Other times, it’s caused by procrastination. Even medicated, I look at a clock and think the same thing. I fully intend to do the thing, but time goes by and suddenly it’s too late to do the thing. That’s how laundry piles up, dishes sit, and cats go unfed. Though I make sure to take care of my cats! And, if I don’t, I have a wonderful other half to watch out for them. It does make me question how good of a human baby parent I’d be, though. Ack.

The rest of the time, it’s just because I simply do not want to do the thing. I don’t want to wash the dishes that have piled up and wouldn’t have been so bad if only I’d done it before. The cat litter boxes are so bad that I really don’t want to dig out the chunks – if I owned the property I lived in, I’d just dump them out back and start fresh. Logically, I know that I NEED to do the thing. I try to work up the motivation to do the thing. Most of the time, I fail because of the other part of the title of this article: apathy.

When I’m in the depths of my laziness, I’m simply too lazy to care. It could be exhaustion, or it could be childhood defenses come to rise (you can’t be hurt if you don’t allow yourself to feel!). Whatever the case, at my worse, I simply don’t care enough to do anything, even eat or drink. Did that cause my dehydration that made me go to the hospital? Or was is overwork that caused me to forget to eat and drink? Whatever the case, I’ll have to remind myself, “Hey, you haven’t eaten since nine this morning and it’s four in the afternoon. You might wanna get a nibble.”

I don’t know what the end goal here is. Maybe I’m just trying to sum up my own feelings so they make sense to me. I’m certainly not going to use this as an excuse – as my favorite fanfic author says, “There are reasons, but no excuses.” I don’t want this to excuse my laziness and let it continue. I want this to serve as a reminder so that maybe I can get a kick up the ass and actually do stuff.

Maybe I’ll go play tennis – well, hit the ball at said other half and watch it go out of bounds, or get the swing-and-a-miss treatment, and then wait for it to come back. Then I miss it, and the cycle continues. Lack of exercise can cause lethargy, right? Right?

Ah, who am I kidding.

Advertisements

Minecraft (PS3) Review

Before we get started, let me set the record straight: I like games with a plot. Sandbox games leave me with a sense of despair because I don’t know what to do or where to go. Games that direct me to objectives are nice because I feel like I’m moving forward.

With that out of the way, let me talk about Minecraft. It’s a game that’s available for pretty much every single platform you can get your hands on right now. Its parent company was recently bought by Microsoft, but that’s another story that I really don’t care about. What I care about is what Minecraft is.

To the uneducated eye, it looks like an eye-searing mass of low-resolution pixels crudely slapped onto blocky 3D models. When I saw screencaps and videos of the game, I couldn’t ever picture myself playing it. What is it, I asked. Why is this popular? Sure, I saw things that people built. Skyscrapers, cities, vessels, whole worlds existed in those blocks. I never thought I could build any of those things. The most I could do, I thought, is crudely map out the layout of the Descent (from Trust) so readers would have a frame of reference for the action.

When Minecraft was released for the PS3, I rented it from the redbox. I figured I’d give it an honest try so I could say for sure that I didn’t like it. It’s one thing to talk badly about something, but I wanted to be able to say that I tried Minecraft. The very next day, I returned it to the redbox. I marched right to my workplace (walmart) and bought a copy for myself.

With that backstory out of the way, let me explain why I, a gamer who hates having no guide, bought Minecraft.

The tutorial world was a nice touch. I played through it so I could get the hang of the game, but after a while I decided to create my own custom world in survival mode, I plopped down into the middle of a clearing with some trees nearby. I followed the basic steps: create a shelter, build a workbench and tools, survey the area for resources. At a loss for what to do after that, I decided to take the name of the game to heart. I mined.

It was that sense of discovery that hooked me. In Minecraft, each world that you create is randomly generated. Even the same “seed” (a word or number put into one of the boxes at world creation) yields very different results every time. When I used yaoi at my fiancee’s house, it at first created a very stacked world with a ton of mountains that looked like pyramids. The same word at my house yielded the environment I described above.

I started digging into a nearby hill and discovered a cavern. I followed that cavern down and mined… and mined… and mined. When I had enough stone in my inventory to make a mortal man pass out, I decided what I wanted to build. My first building leaves much to be desired and also doubled as an Enderman trap. Endermen, in short, are scary as heck because they teleport and don’t like being looked at. If you look at them, they attack you. I had a good jump scare when I went to continue building and saw an Enderman inside walls I thought were safe.

Another thing that kept me playing was the ease of the controls. On PS3, your various menus are mapped to the buttons. Your inventory pops up with one button, your crafting menu with another. The trigger buttons on the controller make your character mine or place blocks. Despite opening the inventory plenty of times when I was after the crafting table, I had no issue with making whatever it is I wished.

Why is it addictive? I can’t really say. In creative mode, my fiancee built a ship and started to build a house while I decided to put jack-o-lanterns in the ocean. It was a completely random decision that nonetheless kept me occupied. It could be any number of elements. The graphics leave much to be desired, but at the same time their simplicity has a charm of its own. It could be that it lets you create your own story. I decided  that I wanted to build a tunnel from one end of the world to the other. I decided to build a pyramid that really didn’t turn out as a pyramid as well.

I suppose this wasn’t so much a review as a narrative of how I played. However, this game is deeper than it appears from observation. I highly recommend getting your hands on it and trying it for yourself.

Observations In Gaming

I got a guy to like me yesterday. 

We were doing the usual things and I wanted him to really like me. I heard good stuff happens if you get people to like you. Getting his affection was happening too slow, so I did something I normally wouldn’t.

I drugged him.

After the drugging his affection for me increased exponentially. We even had a nice little chat. He didn’t seem to mind being drugged, which made my guilt even worse. 

This guy’s name is Jude Mathis. He’s a character in Tales of Xillia and its sequel. It was in the sequel that the drugging happened. I gave him friendship potions and it didn’t even seem to bother him. It bothered me a lot, though. I realized something about myself: I think about the most minor details of games far too much. I found myself thinking about this thing that sounds so simple, but in practice has horrifying consequences.

I focused my attention on Jude for a simple reason: He’s cute, and I wouldn’t mind seeing him and Xillia 2’s protagonist rolling around somewhere, preferably without clothing. Most people will get squicked out by that, I know, but we all like what we like. After drugging Jude, I couldn’t help but wonder: what if I’d used those friendship potions on female party member Leia? Or Milla? How would that have sounded, then? 

Games that have a mechanic that let you drug your party members into liking you seem innocent enough. In most cases, you do something genuinely nice for that character. Pokemon lets you massage your pokemon once per day, which is a nice thing to do. It provides a valid reason for your pokemon to gain affection for you. Star Wars: The Old Republic allowed you to buy your companions gifts to win their affection. 

Those are all okay. You’re doing something nice for that character, so it stands to reason that they’d like you more for it. 

It was different with Jude, though. As I used those potions, I imagined the ways in which Ludger was getting Jude to drink them. Perhaps it was mixed in with another drink. Maybe they’re actually pretty good drinks in their own right and Jude didn’t mind drinking them on his own.

What if Ludger was forcing those potions down Jude’s throat?

Affection from a potion, not from an act of kindness, has that sort of vibe. It feels all kinds of date-rapey and not very honest. I wish this system had been implemented in a way that didn’t drag out these sorts of impressions. After the sixth potion, Jude initiated a private skit with Ludger (aka me, the player) and told me how much he was growing to appreciate me. I wish I could take those potions back. That convo made me feel even worse.

Next playthrough, if my attention span holds out, I’m going drug-free. Those friendship potions are going into a salesperson’s inventory (might as well get some gald for that hefty debt the game throws at you, am I right?) I’ll win Jude’s affection the hard way, by agreeing with him, fighting at his side, and making sure monsters don’t mess up his pretty face.

Tales of Xillia

After fangirling about Loki for the past three weeks, the fires of his awesomeness have cooled. They have not faded, because Loki is awesome and he looked very cute as a catboy as well, but I can now move on to other things. Those other things are video games. I figure – I have a blog. Why not try my hand at reviewing?

So, Tales of Xillia was released yesterday (8/6/13) here in America. I posted a few impressions of it to my personal facebook page but I feel I should expand upon them now that I’ve played more. For disclaimer’s sake, I have played 11 hours (with perhaps three hours of that spent paused), recruited 5/6 party members, and did several sidequests. Additionally, I started with Jude.

The Tales name carries with it a set of expectations. My first Tales game was Symphonia back on the Gamecube and from there I have had an impression of this series. That impression boils down to three things: impressive real-time combat, gripping characters, and a fantastic story. Genis Sage, that bratty little half-elf mage, remains my favorite character to this day. Graces didn’t quite live up to those expectations (World map! Where are you?), so how does Xillia fare?

The combat is odd and takes some getting used to. I am admittedly a button masher and so I spend many fights alternating between mashing X and tapping O. With Xillia borrowing the CC system from Graces (now called AC), I find myself performing far longer combos than I am used to in the beginning stages of Tales games. The AC system in Xillia servers as a combo meter and dictates how many combat moves the character may use in a row. I can’t remember what I started at but I am now at 6 AC for Jude. I feel as if I am attacking for an insanely large amount of time before having to pause. The AC system also allows players to chain “artes” (special attacks) in with normal attacks. I attack, use Demon Fist, attack again, use Aqua Sweep, and can just go on like that until I run out of AC. In previous games it took special skills to be able to chain artes together and it feels a bit jarring. Graces managed to make chaining artes fluid, while in Xillia I find myself stalled.

Xillia’s combat trademark, however, is its link system. In battle you can choose another character to link to. Doing do yields bonuses, as some skills you equip are shared between the linked characters (Earth resistance, for example). In the midst of battle, when you approach an enemy, your linked party member will run around to flank the enemy. The only bonus to this is an increased chance for your party member to land a critical hit, though it does help when surrounded by enemies. Your partner will focus on the enemy you’re currently attacking until it’s dead or you switch targets. In some instances, your party member will attempt to defend you from an enemy that sneaks up on you, though I haven’t been able to pay enough attention to see how it works outside of the tutorial. Choosing your partner to link with is also important, since each party member has his or her own special skill.

As for characters, starting off with Jude was refreshing. He and Milla are co-protagonists and the player can choose which one to start as. He’s a medical student and hand-to-hand fighter, which makes him one of the very few non-swordsman Tales mains and the only male (to my knowledge) to start off with a healing skill. I was so used to not being able to heal at first that I forgot I could until after I joined with Milla in the game. I liked him immediately when I started, for his introductory scene has him barreling through a hallway of students. He’s in an obvious rush, but when he knocks over a student’s papers he stops to pick them up. He’s courteous and kind, but he doesn’t allow injustice to stand. It is this sense of justice that drags him into Milla’s path and into the plot.

Milla, on the other hand, is one of my favorite female characters to date. I tend to hate Tales females because I find them annoying (Looking at you, Cheria) but Milla immediately caught my heart. She’s a strong, no-nonsense character who (so far) hasn’t fallen back on any cliche female tropes. What made me like her the most was when she found out that, due to plot reasons, she could no longer use any of her high-level spells. Where most women in games would have pitched a fit (“How dare they?!”) or had an existential crisis (“How can I be of use without my powers?”), Milla accepted the situation calmly. She was like, “Okay, I can’t use my powers. Let’s change how we do things.” I only hope that as part of her “character development” she doesn’t lose this calmness and strength.

The story isn’t anything special, yet. Normal kid gets caught up in things, can’t go home, has to accompany girl instead. Sounds kind of familiar, right? There are hints of political intrigue but some of the tech speak is just kind of headscratching. What’s a mana lobe, again? Still, I’m at the point in the story where it seems like the over-reaching plot might finally be revealing itself so I shall be watching and waiting. It’s not a bad story, mind. It’s just not my favorite.

My last few notes are these. In a first for the Tales series, you cannot talk to everyone  you meet. Only the ones with little smiley face bubbles over their heads, or exclamation points, will allow you to interact with them. Another first is that once you’ve spoken to these people, the smiley bubble changes. This allows you to see who you have already spoken to and streamlines the process by which you explore towns.

The level design reminds me partly of Final Fantasy XII and an MMORPG, with a dash of the original .hack thrown in for flavor. The cities are packed and crowded like FFXII, but the feel of them reminds me a lot of .hack. The map levels would feel right at home in Eden Eternal or any other MMO. I do, however, like that the levels have a vertical component. Instead of just running around you must now climb ladders and ledges to get to every part of the area. In that respect it felt similar to Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword.

Also, I like that the opening theme wasn’t changed. Kudos to Namco-Bandai for figuring out that we didn’t mind the Japanese.

I’m not going to do a number rating or a “You must play this!” I’m enjoying my time with the game. If you want to buy it, it’s available online or in stores like Gamestop. Until next time, see everyone later!