Games

Dear Steve Jackson Games,


Whoever approved licensing Munchkin to the company that produced Munchkin Quacked Quest should be fired. Out of a cannon. Repeatedly.

It came out for the Switch this week, and based on the franchise, I was willing to overlook the fact that the gameplay trailer was light on details and voiced by someone who on a scale of RandomYoutuber to VoiceActor was around a 2.

Launching the game, the first warning sign was the prominent “Version 0.70”. This ain’t a Steam early-access game, kids; don’t just shove it out the door as soon as it stops crashing.

The second warning sign was that the spinning “loading” cursor was choppy as hell. Not just on the initial load, but loading the actual (tiny) dungeons, too.

The third seal was broken by the “DM” voice, which constantly repeated a small handful of lines that weren’t funny, with all the talent and wit of a third-string politician misreading a teleprompter.

Turning that off, however, simply highlighted the fact that the game isn’t any fun. And is to Munchkin the card game as the film Starship Troopers is to the novel it swiped a few paragraphs and character names from.

BotW: inverted challenges…


Legend of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild is a third-person open-world exploration/puzzle/combat game with some elements drawn from RPGs. There’s some variety in playstyles, but no real choices that would differentiate one person’s save-game from another’s. Once you’ve progressed past a certain point, you can do anything that anyone else has done in the game, simply by swapping in the appropriate gear.

Assuming you have the twitch reflexes and well-honed console skills to pull it off, of course. Personally, I suck at precisely-timed button/button/stick combos, so many of the “easy strats” you can find on gaming sites and Youtube are almost impossible for me to pull off reliably, while a straightforward sword/board/bow-focused slugfest worked just fine for getting me through the main story and the major side quests.

Since I went through the main quests methodically, I saw a generally sensible progression in difficulty. Puzzle and combat shrines started off easy, outdoor fights that were obviously too hard were avoidable and could be returned to later (much later…), and most problems had multiple solutions. Creative use of the special powers you pick up along the way makes it possible to cheese your way through situations where your gamepad skills aren’t up to par.

Usually. There are certain things, however, that I just can’t pull off reliably.

  1. Rapid headshots; there’s a significant benefit to hitting certain creatures in the head, and sometimes specifically in the eye. In certain situations you can slow down time long enough to line up a precise shot, but in real-time, I often miss, with messy results.

  2. Perfect blocks; get it right, and your enemy takes all the damage from the attack he just hit you with. Get it wrong, and he gets another free shot while you’re rolling on the ground recovering. Sometimes I feel like I’ve got the timing down against Guardians, but then I’ll suddenly miss 80% of them, lose half my health, and break three shields.

  3. Flurry of blows; this combines the precise timing of a perfect block with pressing the left stick in a specific direction. As a result, I think I’ve done it half a dozen times accidentally, and never when I needed it.

Mastering all of these skills makes combat much, much easier, leading to Typical Internet Responses for anyone foolish enough to ask questions about how to deal with situations those skills make trivial.

I went through a pretty standard progression, using a walkthrough just enough to expand my inventory and work around the weapon frailty system. That means I visited a lot of shrines to boost my health and stamina, wandered all over the map collecting things to craft food and upgrade my armor, defeated the four preliminary bosses, and then set the final boss battle aside while I acquired and upgraded the best gear in the game, until I was sure I could survive the fight long enough to win.

It was a cakewalk. Out in the world, I could still get my ass handed to me by carelessly engaging a group that turned out to have neighbors, overlooking a distant enemy that could stun or disarm me, taking on two guardians at once and suddenly having three leveled-up undead and two ninjas spawn, or, say, being spotted at long distance by a silver-maned lynel who has AoE arrows.

Main boss? I think he knocked me down once at the start of the fight because I was trying to take a picture of him. Then I just shot him with arrows until the fight moved outdoors, at which point I shot him with even better arrows (supplied by a special this-fight-only bow that can’t run out of ammo).

I checked the FAQs and walkthroughs, and there are all sorts of things that can happen in the big battle, but I never saw any of that; the only brief change was that right before he went down for the first time, he gained an energy shield, and kicking off Urbosa’s special took that down so I could shoot more arrows. I didn’t even use any specials in the outdoor fight; I just aimed where Zelda told me to.

I got into more trouble cleaning up outside the castle after it was over. I still have difficulty taking down lynel without suffering a ton of damage and/or breaking multiple weapons. But I could kill the Big Bad any time, just to show someone the ending scene, no problem.

I’ve got a bunch of shrine quests and DLC content to go through now, and now that I have some basic franchise knowledge and console skills, I may play through again on hard, but for that, I’ll stack the deck in my favor. Literally; I ordered a set of fake amiibo cards that shower you with loot once every 24 hours. (turns out I had just enough left over from that silly Paypal/Ebay gift card I got for Christmas a while back…)

Zelda: Break of the Weapon


In order to make Breath of the Wild less painful, after finishing the first two zones I followed a detailed FAQ to locate all of the currency (“korok seeds”) needed to upgrade the number of weapons/shields I can carry in my inventory, then followed another set of instructions to reach the place(s) where you turn them in. I can now carry 15 melee weapons, 10 bows, and 8 shields, which reduces the chance that I’ll have to fall back to torches, tree branches, and skeleton arms when everything else breaks. I immediately fast-traveled back to the place where I found a bunch of brand-new Traveler’s Claymores stuck in the ground and hoovered them all up.

I’m low on bows at the moment, though, from having to shoot parasitic eyes off of a dragon in flight at the top of a mountain in the freezing cold. As one does. Sadly, there are no weapon shops, so to restock, I need to go out and find things to kill that shoot at me, then loot their corpses. Also, the shops won’t restock arrows because I have “enough”, so it’s a good thing you can usually scrounge a half-dozen or so after you kill something that shoots at you.

I should also learn some decent recipes for healing and buffs, and take pictures of a variety of loot for my new scanner.

Eventually I’ll make it back to the upgrade place and get a few more slots (4/5 melee, 3 bow, 12(!) shield). By then I should also have at least 4x the health and stamina, making it easier to hunt for korok seeds. (I’ll need 4x health in order to survive acquiring the best weapon in the game; best meaning “unbreakable and gets its own inventory slot”)

Switch-ing


Been a bit distracted from my usual pursuits by the acquisition of a Nintendo Switch (2nd-gen model with increased battery life, not the Lite). Right now I’m mostly alternating between Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild and Cat Quest, with occasional excursions into a few other purchased and downloaded games.

My token JRPG is Tales of Vesperia, which was on sale on the Nintendo store; typical slooooooow start, sadly has save points so you can’t just save and exit to go do something else. Katamari Damacy REROLL was also on sale, which should be an amusing time-killer, and make use of the motion controls. Actual cartridge-based games besides BotW are Fire Emblem: Three Houses, Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate, and Senran Kagura Peach Ball (busty ninja catgirl pinball-service).

I’ve played through all the Cat Quest content before, but it’s been a while, and the sequel comes out in a few weeks, so it was worth trying again on a new platform. I’m already up to the last battle in the main quest, and since it doesn’t look like they have achievements on the Switch, I should have all the interesting stuff wrapped up in time for the new one.

Having skipped all previous generations of Nintendo gaming (I used the DS Lite primarily as a Japanese study tool, and the Wii held my attention for about a week), I had no prior exposure to the Zelda franchise, so Breath Of The Wild has been an entirely new experience, marred by their decision to make all the weapons out of balsa and tinfoil. Combining a tiny inventory with weapons that shatter after maybe two encounters is jarring, and apparently new to the series. You can eventually expand your melee/bow/shield inventories to a reasonable size, and eventually find weapons that break slightly less often, but for the first N hours, it’s just annoying.

Seriously:

  1. woo-hoo, found a bow/sword that does more damage.

  2. no, wait, it broke in the middle of a fight and I have to use a crappy one again.

  3. …which just broke, leaving me scrambling to pick up whatever the last mob I killed dropped.

  4. that broke too? Time to run away while looking over my shoulder and dropping bombs. Which are free and unlimited and do good damage and are also better for mining, tree-cutting, apple-picking, crate-smashing, etc.

Adding insult to injury, some non-weapons take up slots in your melee inventory, forcing you to abandon really good weapons that you know you’ll need 15 minutes from now when the current ones break, just so you can light a fire, steer a boat, or apply kinetic energy to deserving boulders.

Probably will buy

  • Rabi-Ribi; cheesecake bunny-girl side-scrolling platformer. “Retro” resolution for gameplay, full-res for cutscenes and dialogue. (technically I already bought this one, but can’t play it until Thursday)

  • Cat Quest 2; really enjoyed the first one. (ditto, but can’t play until next Thursday)

  • Munchkin Quacked Quest; 1-4 player roguelike set in the well-known SJG franchise. Release date unknown.

Might buy

  • Gun Gun Pixies; tiny alien girls invade a women’s dorm to “study” them. And shoot them. For their own good.

Won’t buy

  • Skyrim; I’ve sunk hundreds of hours into this one on the PC, and doing it all again without mods doesn’t sound like any kind of fun.

  • Diablo III; loved the first one, thought the second was kind of meh, never touched the third one due to the cash-grab bullshit. Sounds like they’ve cleaned up their act a bit over the years and made it more game, less real-money auction house, but never matched the core gameplay that made the original so awesome (even with quirks like deleting your save file when DST started or when you changed your hostname).

  • Witcher 3; own it for PC based on claims of an open world, never really got far enough into it to get off the rails.

  • Civilization VI; III was best, IV was decent, I’m not sure I even own V, and VI was boring on the PC.

  • Pillars Of Eternity II; never finished the first one.

  • anything in the Mario franchise; they just don’t grab me.

  • any sports, Disney, racing, “exercise”, media-tie-in, Pokemon, dance, etc.

  • Jumanji; special will-not-buy for this movie tie-in game, because they made Ruby Roundhouse ugly in the trailer.

The G is for ‘game’


Spoofing that stupid “rpg consent form” helped me decide what I most dislike about it: it’s adversarial. It’s the exact opposite of friends and strangers coming together for a shared narrative fantasy experience, replacing it with an attempt to control the experience for others.

You don’t sit down with a group of friends and say, “you can’t say or do anything that bothers me, including but not limited to everything I’ve marked on this form”.

You don’t sign up for a 1920s Call Of Cthulhu game at a con and say, “you can’t discuss blood, gore, torture, police, claustrophobia, racism, sexism, kissing, hurting animals, forest fires, or thirst”.

About the only scenario where the overly-specific contents of this form could be useful is if you were a teenager who just moved to a new town and wanted to join an open game at the local hobby shop without getting eaten alive by a group of total assholes. Who would just use your answers as ammunition to make you run off in tears, so maybe not there, either.

So I inverted it.

Oh, Sweet Meteor Of Death,


Why Hast Thou Forsaken Us?

Anyone who thinks this is a good idea, please write on the board a thousand times:

Therapeutic Role-Play Is Not Gaming.

UPDATE!

Someone has responded with the treatment it deserves:

This is a DM-less narrative RPG. Before play commences, players need to have read and filled (anonymously) the RPG CONSENT FORM. If any items where ticked, then do not, I repeat DO NOT, play the RPG CONSENT FORM: THE FREEFORM RPG.

The object of the RPG CONSENT FORM: THE RPG is to create a romantic scene that tried to break from the normal tropes and cliches. Here is how to do this.

more...

Baby’s First Character Sheet


Just for fun, here’s the one-page PostScript character sheet I made for GURPS (3rd edition) back in the Eighties. This is good old-fashioned stone-knives-and-bearskins hand-written PostScript, because that’s just how we rolled in OSU-CIS.

PDF version (5.3KB), if you don’t feel like cutting and pasting.

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(Shamelessly swiped from an original that's \(C\)1988 Steve Jackson Games Inc.)
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%%Trailer

Um, Hestia?


I don’t think he’s ready for that discussion just yet…

(via the DanMemo mobile game)