Monday, 28 November 2011

A New, Shiny Thing: 'Gaia'

I don't know if any of you remember (or care) about when I was still pretending that I could do semi-regular update schedules and did those monthly webcomic reviews. One of those, aaaaaaaall the way back in June, was 'Sandra and Woo' written and illustrated by German author Oliver Knörzer and Indonesian artist, Powree.

Well, if you went and read that one (or even if you didn't), you might want to check out their new comic: Gaia

In Knörzer's own words, the comic 'takes place in the self-created world of Gaia where political tension between the two most powerful countries Cania and Midgard has grown in recent years. Similar to several of his classmates at the "Academy for Arcane Studies and Material Arts", the young warrior Ilias Oter is much more interested in the beautiful wizard Lilith Caillean than in politics. But soon he has to learn that Lilith is standing in the eye of a dark storm that is going to sweep across the whole world...'

In my opinion, the art is great, and although there's only 18 pages up at the moment, the characters are already coming across well and the story has purpose and a good pace. I'd say it's one to keep an eye on.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

An Awful Lot Of Metaphorical Running

Well my life exploded epically recently, and mostly not in a good way, but I think we're back now. Mostly. I mean, I'm still just sort of standing in the middle of my mind staring around at the slightly smoking wreckage and wondering what the hell happened. I'm wishing life actually just had a pause button, so I could just hit that and wander off and make myself a sandwich or something and not have to worry about anything for half an hour.

God, I miss video games.

I miss a lot of things actually. I miss being able to stay up messing about on the internet 'til 5am with no consequences. I miss being able to sleep in 'til stupid times of the day and not feel vaguely guilty about it. I miss buying a book every Saturday and having it finished by that evening. I miss talking about stupid things that didn't matter well into the night because hell, we didn't have anything better to do. I miss things being easy. I miss the worst drama being your friend being late meeting you at the cinema and nearly missing the start of the movie. I miss just being able to go and wander around and just do things without having to weigh up what I need to do that day and how important it is that I do it now, or if I can put off whatever it is until tomorrow, or...

You get the point.

So what I'm going to do is, when my essays are over and done with and gone and I have some breathing space to play around with my shifts at work, I am going to buy an Xbox, and I am going to play video games, and I am going to periodically run away and have adventures and just not care every now and then. I'm going to write fantastic stories that may or may not be rooted in real-life things depending on my mood and I'm going to buy sugar mice every other week and enjoy them thoroughly. Because I can. Because if I don't, I'm going to go mad.

Well, more mad.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

And Sometimes That's All It Takes

Today, I was waiting on a bus to get back to my flat, and as one pulled up, someone stopped me. He was a lecturer from the university, but, as he explained, he was heading for Glasgow. He then pressed a Plusbus ticket for Stirling into my hand and told me that he didn't need it anymore, so I should use it to get home.

This isn't important, I know, but today it was important for me.

We all come to terms with losing things. Losing people. Sometimes, this doesn't matter, and sometimes it matters more than anything. I'm bad at letting go myself. Whatever anyone might think of me, I get attached to people, and though I'm bad at showing it, I care about my friends more than anything. Although I know I'm situational at best, I'm easily forgotten and maybe no one will ever think of me first for anything, that's okay.

And I'm not fishing for sympathy. It really is okay.

Things have happened recently, and I've had to do a lot of thinking. When that man gave me his bus ticket today, I realised that sometimes it's okay to be miserable. Sometimes you have to be, and it's okay to run away to clear your head. Sometimes you lose friends that mean the world to you, and you have every right to be upset about that. But some good things still happen even before you can be happy again, even if it's something as simple as someone being nice enough to give you a free bus ride home.

At least, that's what I think.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Nervous Twitches and Justified Paranoia

So, it's that time of year again. That time of year when the weather has gotten slightly colder. That time of year when I start to live in a constant state of paranoia.

That time of year when bloody massive spiders start turning up inside the house

So yes, it may not surprise you to know that I am an arachnophobe. If a spider turns up in a room with me and I see it, people will know it is there. This is because if one turns up, I will make a small noise of alarm, freeze and stare fixedly at it. Unless it moves. If it moves then I become an incoherent tangle of limbs and choked noises of alarm moving very swiftly in the opposite direction.

I don't think this should be a surprise to anyone. I mean, have you seen those things? Look at them. They are fundamentally wrong. They have too many legs and they move too damn fast and they just turn up. Seriously, where do they come from? You're just sitting there, minding your own business and they just appear from nowhere. And then they disappear again. The damn things are ninjas on too many legs.

And of course, once one of them shows up, I can no longer relax. I go into permanent battle mode. Well, permanent ready-to-run-away-at-the-first-sign-of-even-the-tiniest-movement-mode. This is why I haven't got around to tidying my room. What if I moved something and there was one of those really effing big ones sitting there? And then what if it ran away and disappeared? I'd never be able to sleep in that room again. And this is my room is a complete mess. 

This would also be why I avoid being in the flat on my own as much as possible right now. Some people may call this cowardly and tell me I'm a wimp, but I beg to differ. To paraphrase Allie Brosh: I might be bigger than them, but I am also bigger than a grenade, and hell if I'm not gonna run away from one of those if a live one turns up in the same room as me.

Also, come on, spiders are freaking scary, okay?

You see?

Thursday, 22 September 2011

I Had A Fight With My Brain And I Don't Think She's Coming Home...

You know, for someone that gets writers' guilt as badly as I do, I sure am good at neglecting to update things.

Anyway, it's been a while. Again. Apparently holidays are really just no good for me to get any writing done; I need classes and deadlines and things that I can procrastinate around. But as it happens, I've been binging on cartoons recently, so here's a post on that.

When you look at cartoons today, it's pretty clear that we've moved on from the golden age of Cartoon Network. Shows like Johnny Bravo, Dexter's Laboratory, The Powerpuff Girls, they're gone. Unfortunately, the networks all seem to be moving onto saccharine live-action high school 'dramas,' to the point that Nickelodeon made a live action version of Fairly Odd Parents I don't even-


Anyway, despite the fact that the networks are apparently all veering in the direction of CG or live action shows, there is still some hope for the cartoon fans, even if it is coming in the form of reboots.

Yeah, I could totally talk about My Little Pony here, but everybody and their dog is talking about that, and while, yes, I love the show, I don't think anyone needs to hear any more about it from me. So I'm gonna talk about Scooby Doo instead.

Scooby Doo is one of the most recognisable franchises to come out of America. Since it was introduced in 1969 as Scooby Doo, Where Are You! it has enjoyed a long and successful career, if one filled with many revisions and reboots.

So far, Scooby Doo has managed to wring out around seventeen tv series, seven made-for-tv movies and sixteen direct-to-video/dvd movies, as well as the two major live-action ones. Of course, not all of these are good (some of them involved Scrappy. Enough said), but the characters are loved enough to keep people coming back.

And that brings me to the most recent incarnation of the show: Scooby Doo! Mystery Incorporated.

This particular show started its run in July 2010. Of all of the newer series, this one borrows the most heavily from the original source material, while also taking a much darker sense of humour and a slightly more modern spin.

The characters, while still entirely recognisable, have undergone slight reboots in personality. Shaggy, however, is still the same big-eating, heavily-implied-to-be-a-stoner coward that everyone knows and loves. Fred is still the leader, although in this 'verse, is completely obsessed with traps. Like, we're talking almost on a romantic level here. Daphne is slightly better at getting herself out of trouble, whereas Velma has developed an extremely dry sense of humour. She also happens to be dating Shaggy, which causes no end of both confusion and hilarity. Our title character also remains largely the same, but has picked up the same vicious sarcasm as Velma, which always causes me to blink in confusion for a couple of seconds whenever it surfaces.

Anyway, aside from the characters, the show itself is rather different from the many variations that the franchise has undergone. Other reboots, such as What's New Scooby Doo? tried to go for a much more colourful, modern approach to the show, updating the outfits and technology. Mystery Incorporated, on the other hand, returns to the traditional and recognisable outifits, and also takes on the darker background tones of the original series. Notably, technology such as laptops and mobile phones are present, but are purposefully dated and clunky looking, and an old eight-track even shows up at one point (not that the gang knows what it is, but it was a nice touch). Overall, the atmosphere is very much in keeping with the slightly creepier aesthetic of the original, even though the backgrounds and a lot of the transition scenes rely on CG animation instead of the more traditional forms.

Also commendable is the fact that this show actually manages to make the monsters reasonably scary, and features actual peril. The last episode I watched featured a propane tanker blowing up, and the gang actually being in real instead of fake monster related danger. There are also quite a few more instances of adult-humour in this adaptation, and overall, the show feels geared more towards teenagers and older viewers. It is also, I should mention, rather enjoyable once you get over the slightly different feel of the characters

So yep, that's me done rambling for today. Now I guess I should get back to reading those novels I have to finish for next week...

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

I'm Still Not Dead! Also Stuff About Books and E-Readers

Woo, it's been a while. Yeah, basically I've going up and down and up and down and drowning myself in video games for the last month and a bit. While the latter part of this was (and still is) awesome, the fact that I haven't updated this blog in that month and a bit, even for webcomic reviews, has left me with a bad case of writing guilt. I blame the fact that I have almost no sense of routine during the holidays, and no looming deadlines to give me procrastination inspiration.

Anyway, this is just gonna be a short one, because I don't have the time to do a proper chunky post right now. I'll probably get working on a review or something soon, and since I'm back on a cartoon watching phase, that'll probably come up at some point too.

Anyway, there's one discussion that I've had several times with different people since last Christmas. This being on whether the existence of the Amazon Kindle and all the various other e-readers is a good thing. Opinions are mixed on this one, and for pretty good reason.

My parents surprised me with a Kindle as a Christmas present. Prior to this, I had never really considered getting one, since a) they were expensive and b) I have three bookcases worth of books in my house and see no reason to stop there. Nevertheless, I was pleasantly surprised to receive one.

Now, bookshops are struggling a bit these days, what with books often being cheaper when bought online, and now even cheaper than that when bought on the Kindle. I get that, and I know I would be devastated if bookshops stopped being a thing. However, that's not to say that the Kindle and its ilk will be responsible for this.

Personally, I will always prefer books to the Kindle. There's just something about the physical presence of a book that trumps the nice slimline design of the technological version. On the other hand, I'm a student, and I live in a flat with very limited storage space, especially when you consider that I'm doing an English degree and therefore need a lot of books. Suddenly, the Kindle makes sense. I'm doing two English modules this coming semester, and I need a total of eleven books. That's a lot when you consider the space they take up, not to mention the cost of them. However, I managed to get seven on them on the Kindle for around £11 or so, which ain't too bad really.

Kindles are also handy when it comes to travelling. A lot of us like to take books on a long journey, but if you're flying, books can often be a pain when it comes to baggage allowances, and I know that I've often been forced to leave a book behind when I'm packing to get the train home. Books, however awesome, are often bulky and awkward to pack, especially if you're like me and my dad and are almost OCD about not creasing the pages or the spine. The Kindle, or indeed most e-readers, are much smaller and slimmer, and if you've got a half-decent cover on them, you've got less need to worry about damaging them. Not to mention that the Kindle can hold a lot of books, which can be organised however you want, bookmarked, annotated, whatever you need, all without damaging an actual book. It's surprisingly useful.

Again, I'm never going to say that the Kindle is better than having an actual book in your hands, but it is at least handy.

One other thing is the variety you can get with the Kindle store. I love reading, I love books. Unfortunately, the only book I've bought in months is the latest Dresden File, because unfortunately, the book industry has gone the same way as the video game industry. Or maybe that's the other way around. Anyway, the point is that publishers don't want to publish anything they don't know will sell, which is why the market has been flooded by a million different Twilight knock-offs, each as dire as the last. It's trash, but it's trash that sells.

One thing about the new e-book culture is that it is now incredibly easy to self-publish e-books. Sometimes, this isn't exactly a good thing, since many of these aren't edited, and so contain either a lot of mistakes, or are just plain bad. On the other hand, it has allowed a lot more original material to become available to readers through the likes of the Kindle store. I've found two novels that I actually got for free, written by new, unpublished authors, and you know, they were good. Free releases on the Kindle store is also a good way for them to advertise; the first of the two authors I read included a preview chapter for the second book they'd written, also on the Kindle store, but this time for a price. I haven't actually got around to buying that yet, but I'm considering it.

Again, this is now leading to an army of Twilight-clones flooding e-books as well, but if you take the time to sift through all of that, you can find some real gems. And if people read them on the Kindle, there's a much better chance of the author actually getting published later, since they can assure the publishers that 'hey, look; people are reading my stuff; it sells.'

In conclusion, I have no idea what the existence of Kindles and e-readers will do for bookshops. Maybe they will spell the end, in which case I'll be up in arms just as fast as anyone else. The Kindle and its kind do have their merits though; I don't see any reason why we should shun them entirely in favour of their paper-hearted older siblings.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Monthly Webcomic Review: Sandra and Woo

Today, I decided I would write a blog post. This is purely because I haven't written anything in the past week and a half, and my creative side was crying and begging me to let her do something, and it's been almost a month since I last blogged, so here we are.

The reasons I haven't been posting (in case anyone cares, and even if you don't I'm telling you anyway) are multiple and varied. You can basically boil it down to my life has been going every which way and I haven't been keeping up with it very well. That said, I think I've more or less got it under control now, so maybe I'll write a post about that next time in order to give myself some sort of closure. You may want to skip reading that next post *laugh*

Anyway, on with the webcomic stuff!

A webcomic about friendship, life and the art of (not) eating squirrels.
This is one I found a few weeks ago and fell in love with almost instantly. This may or may not be because it's a series starring a girl and her talking raccoon, and is so stuffed full of Final Fantasy and other geeky references that I fangirl squee about something on just about every other strip. It also deals with some deeper issues in a way that, while mostly light-hearted, still has enough impact to hit home.

The Setting

The title characters.
The comic takes place in a typical urban setting. The main human characters are high school students, and the animal characters are either pets, or live in nearby woodland. As a result, the story swings between the two settings, with Sandra (our main human protagonist) dealing with high school life, friend and boyfriend troubles and various other things, while Woo (her talking raccoon) often has his own story arcs outside of the town, with his two friends Shadow (a fox) and Sid (a squirrel they're both trying really hard not to eat).

While the setting is simplistic, it serves to highlight the more complex relationships between characters, and allows for flexibility in the storytelling.

The Characters

Sandra and Woo has a very varied cast. While you have the two main characters, you also have each of their circles of friends, and their parents (in the case of the human characters). Thankfully, these are balanced extremely well, with all of the characters being entertaining in their own way.

These are our three main human protagonists, Sandra and her two best friends Larisa and Cloud (yes, named after the Final Fantasy VII protagonist; his little sister is also named Yuna).

Sandra is presented as your basic everygirl character. She's clever, not entirely socially awkward, but suffers from insecurities about her appearance, especially when she and Larisa are in competition for Cloud's affections. However, she is also possessed of  sharp wit and dry sense of humour, but not so much that she doesn't suffer from the odd unreasonable outburst of temper, just like the rest of us. Also, her chosen method of dealing with her troubles is the same as mine, which, of course, made me like her even more (and this probably tells you more about me than you needed to know).

Larisa is Sandra's pyromaniac and quite possibly psychopathic Russian friend. Mostly, she is used as a foil and rival character to Sandra, although some strips do show that she cares a lot for her friend. While she hasn't had a great deal of focus put on her yet, Larisa shows signs of being one of the deeper characters from the comic, with some hints as to why she acts out as much as she does.

Cloud is the best friend/love interest character. Child of very geeky parents (although his mother has a very dark past that she apparently remedies with video game and fanfiction), Cloud is also skilled in martial arts and swordplay, is the heartthrob of the school, and... has no idea what he's actually doing when it comes to girls. Therefore, any scene focusing on him and Sandra is adorable, and their relationship is actually portrayed in a likeable and realistic way.

Woo, at first, seems to be an almost Garfield-esque figure; all thought bubbles and no speech. Until we find out he can actually talk (and Sandra was just as surprised about it as everyone else). After running away from his old owner (who is heavily implied to have been abusive), Woo and Sandra mutually adopt each other, and Woo swings between being the Hobbes of their relationship, or running off having his own adventures with his two friends from the local woodland, which mostly involve Sid talking them out of eating him, or trying to save the environment.

The other two have not been entirely developed. All we really do know is that Shadow has a wife and children who he loves dearly, and that Sid is a little ball of paranoia, who really wants to trust his best friends, but some days...

The Story

The other two people in this picture are Sandra's dad and Cloud's mum.
The comic basically runs on separate story arcs, with continuity shout-outs turning up throughout. Many of these arcs constitute aesops, while others simply deal with growing up and dealing with other people. Overall, the stories are generally light hearted, with any serious messages being alleviated with a more lighthearted moment afterwards. That's not to say that these devalue the more serious aspects, but they do stop the comic from being mired in serious life lessons.

For those interested, Sandra and Woo updates every Monday and Thursday.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

It probably sounded better in my head

I don't know how many writers actually read this thing, but the ones that do may understand why I haven't been updating this for a while. You ever start writing something, and the plot just sort of eats you and you can't do anything else? That's basically what happened.

Anyway, in between writing chapters for that story and plugging away at my new job and .hack//Infection, I was desperately trying to come up with a topic for a new post. Someone (and you know who you are) suggested I do something on cheese, except that I don't like cheese, so it would either be an extremely short post or I'd wax lyrical about how cheese is the worst thing ever and then I would just alienate everyone and... I'll just stop rambling about cheese now, shall I?

Anyway, yesterday, someone over on the Genesis Awards started a thread asking whether anyone actually listens to song lyrics, and when I started thinking about that, I somehow ended up drifting on to TV Tropes, and from there I somehow came up with the concept for this post (yes, the process was exactly as non-sequitur as it sounds).

There is a trope known as Alternative Character Interpretation, which I find to be great fun. Basically, this trope boils down to: Character A appears to be fooling everyone into thinking that he's actually really stupid while being secretly very clever and making them underestimate him, however it could also be interpreted that he is actually genuinely stupid and just has an amazing aptitude for accidentally ending up with the right answers by accidentally annoying them out of people. The outcomes of both situations are the same, it's just that the character is slightly different in each case.

Why am I telling you this? Because this morning I got a Bruno Mars song in my head and suddenly realised that if you take bits of some of his songs out of context, they can actually be interpreted completely differently. Take his song 'Just The Way You Are' for example.

'When I see your face
There's not a thing that I would change
Cause you're amazing
Just the way you are
And when you smile,
The whole world stops and stares for awhile
Cause girl you're amazing
Just the way you are'

In the song, this is actually Bruno telling his girlfriend that she's far prettier than she thinks she is. It's all wonderfully romantic. However, it could also be interpreted as a stalker with a crush idolising this girl from afar. Think about it; overly romanticised descriptions of her, obsessive repetitions of these, that one line where he says that he tells her these things every day. The girl is never stated to be his girlfriend, so you have the fun twist where he's actually just phoning this poor girl up and breathing heavily down the phone for a few minutes before creepily telling her how amazing she is. Every single day.

Now I know that the song is implying no such thing, but it's kind of funny to think it is. In a morbid, really not all that funny at all sort of way because stalking is in no way funny...

*ahem* Moving on.

The other song is 'Grenade'. This one's about how Bruno really loves this girl, but she treats him like dirt and is basically just a bitch. However, when I was thinking about the chorus, this little imaginary exchange  popped into my head:

Girl: Hey Bruno, could you do the dishes for me please?
Bruno: I'd catch a grenade for ya
Girl: Uh... that's... sweet, I guess? But I really just need-
Bruno: Throw my hand on a blade for ya
Girl: Umm... no, I just need you to wash them, not-
Bruno: I'd jump in front of a train for ya
Girl: Bruno, you really don't have to try this hard to get out of doing the dishes. I can just-
Bruno: You know I'd do anything for ya
Girl: But not the dishes?
Bruno: I would go through all of this pain, take a bullet straight through my brain
Girl: Bruno, you're just being silly now.
Bruno: Yes, I would die for you baby
Girl: I really don't want you to do that Bruno. Just the dishes would be fine, really.
Bruno: But you won't do the same
Girl: Well, no; I don't think either of us being dead is exactly conducive to this relationship continuing. Oh, you know what? I'll just do the damn dishes myself, okay? You just sit there, being all melodramatic, like usual.

No, I don't know what Bruno Mars ever did to me either, but I do seem to like making him kind of a jerk, don't I? No idea what that says about me.

Anyway, despite the fact that all of this interpretation was pointless and silly, it was still really quite fun. Try it sometime; if nothing else, it'll give you something other than the weather to babble nervously about when trying desperately to fill an awkward silence.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Monthly Webcomic Review: Awkward Zombie/Aikonia

Well, I'm currently camped out in the university atrium trying to publicise a Zombie Apocalypse. I would also be trying to write an essay that's due for Thursday, but it's very hard to rewrite a short story when said short story is not currently in the immediate vicinity. I blame this on the fact that I was up far too early this morning and didn't get any coffee before I left the flat, and a small green book is very forgettable in that situation. And then we had to push the apocalypse back a week because the weather this week is dismal.

So yeah, today is going well.

I have had coffee by now though, so it could be worse. Anyway, it's time for another webcomic review! Yaaaaaaay! I'm actually reviewing two comics today, drawn by the same artist, Katie Tiedrich.

I actually stumbled across Awkward Zombie before it was Awkward Zombie, back when Katie was best known as Hail-Neko-Yasha on deviantArt. Mostly, her comics consisted (and still consist) of stand-alone video-game comics, usually pointing out strange plot holes or featuring various things she did while playing.
She does bring up good points, such as how the hell is Boo meant to play football? He has no legs.
 Mostly, the comics are geared towards gamers, but she often does slice-of-life strips about her current adventures at college. While usually featuring Nintendo games such as Legend of Zelda, Super Smash Brothers and Pokemon, World of Warcraft comics also feature heavily, supplemented with a healthy dose of random games from almost any genre, ranging from Shadow of the Colossus to Excite Truck to Portal 2.

It's always worth checking out Awkward Zombie simply for the comedy value and the pleasantly quirky art-style. The sharp sense of humour and usually very accurate pointing out of plot holes make for entertaining reading, even if you aren't familiar with the game she's featuring. Also, the artist comments she makes on them are usually worth reading as well.

Since Awkard Zombie is a set of mostly stand along comics, there isn't really a whole lot to say about it. So I thought I would talk about the other comic that Katie is currently working on. She's only doing the art for this one though, as part of a four-person team.

Aikonia is actually promotional material and a precursor for an upcoming browser-based game of the same name by MADSOFT Games. It's a fairly standard fantasy premise, with some similarities with both Trudi Canavan's Black Magician Trilogy and Maria V. Snyder's Yelena Zaltana trilogy.

The Setting

Click to see full-size, or alternatively, go read the comic.
Aikonia is set in a world where magic is accessed through a veil which requires training in order to use correctly. The actual setting of the comic mostly takes place in a magicians' academy, where this training takes place.

The academy is overseen by a council of elders, except that something shady is going on in the upper echelons, and no one is sure who can trust who anymore. After a strange discovery is made while a low-ranking magician is out on assignment, the council is suddenly divided even further, and then one of the council members mysteriously dies...

The Characters

The cast of Aikonia is fairly large, and no particular focus has been put on one character over another yet. However, the developing character relationships and twists have been interesting so far, and I would safely assume that they will continue to develop like that.

As this is a relatively new webcomic, the story's really only gearing up just now. But the plot seems interesting and the premise is pretty solid. If the game that follows is anything like the comic at all, it should be pretty good.

Both of these update every Monday.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

The Easy Way to Annoy Fanfiction Writers

In my last post, I briefly mentioned my soft spot for the losing side of a love triangle. I also mentioned that this was not the case for Final Fantasy VII. Then I remembered an old post that I made on my Live Journal account back when I used the thing, and thought 'I could update that, and post it here! Who would know?'

And then I told you that, so now you all know I'm lazy, but I doubt that you're surprised.

Anyway, the post concerned the numerous 'shipping wars' that spring up in fandoms, particularly in the fanfiction aspect. An interesting minefield to navigate, I've been fortunate to only receive a few (poorly spelled) scathing reviews concerning my choices of pairing. Others... are not so lucky.

Shipping and the Snobbery, Snapping and Snarling Therein

I only really became familiar with the concept of shipping a couple of months after I started writing fanfiction. Even then, it was only after I joined the Genesis Awards that I learned exactly what it was. Now, thankfully GA is fairly neutral territory when it comes to shipping, but elsewhere, be prepared to be virtually mauled for even daring to suggest that X is in love with Y, or Y with Z, or even Z with X.

I. The 'You Don't Like It, You Suck' Problem
As I have mentioned, I'm secretly a bit of a squishy romantic type, and as a result, I do lean towards writing romances rather a lot. These days, they don't tend to be quite as mushy as they used to be (cos I can actually write emotions now), but still romances nevertheless. My favourite pairing to write has always been Tifa and Cloud from Final Fantasy VII. Maybe I'm just a sucker for the victorious childhood friend relationship, I don't know, I just really liked those two together. However, I was aware that not everyone might want to read that, so I politely put a note in the summary saying what the pairing was. Then, I received this review:

'it sucks!!
cloti sucks y cant people know that!

This was my first realisation that some fans, and in my experience, quite a lot VII fans, can be rather irrational about the pairings they support. The Cloud/Tifa/Aerith argument seems to me, at times, to be completely blown out of all proportion, and this attitude towards pairings seems to transcend into other fandoms also. Of course, I'm not saying the problem originated with VII; it's just the most prominent example I know of. In any case, I have my own reasons for supporting the Cloud/Tifa pairing, and I'm quite happy for someone to disagree with them as long as they're at least polite about it, unlike 'CLORITH' up there (yes, they named themselves after the portmaneu name of the rival couple, just to let me know how much they hated my pairing choice)

Another, much bigger example which I'm sure a lot of the older GA members would dearly love to forget is the lovely incident that led to us losing half of the admin staff back on our old board. Over a pairing row. About characters in a video game. Of course, it wasn't quite as simple as that, but a lot of it was caused by people who got so defensive over fictional characters and fictional relationships that they thought that it was perfectly acceptable to be extremely rude about it to everyone and anyone who so much as hinted at disagreeing with them. There's nothing wrong with a good debate, but I do not see the need to verbally abuse someone for not liking the same pairing as you do, and especially without any good justification for doing so.

There are numerous other examples of this problem, and I received a similar review to the one above for a Kingdom Hearts story I wrote, since apparently it was not acceptable for me to pair Sora with Kairi because 'she doesn't deserve him; she's always taking him away from Riku' This also leads us into the next problem.

II. The 'True Love' Problem
Now, going back to VII again, Cloud's feelings were initially left completely ambiguous and open to interpretation, unlike, say, Zidane and Garnet from IX or Tidus and Yuna from X. Square Enix only recently released material finally stating that Cloud and Tifa are the canon pairing of the VII compilation (along with Zack and Aerith). Of course, canon relationships mean nothing in fanfiction if you don't want them to, which isn't always a bad thing. However, this is one of the issues that just plain baffles me. Sometimes, pairings seem to come from nowhere, based on nothing, and yet they have an entire fanbase ready to defend it to the death, as it were, because it's totally true love and don't you dare say it isn't.

Now, for me, this includes many yaoi pairings, especially Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts based ones, and I'm not about to tell anyone that they shouldn't enjoy them, but they do not make the least bit of sense to me. From what I can identify, these seem to be the main causes for support of these pairings:

1. The Main Protagonist and the Main Antagonist (Cloud/Sephiroth etc.)
2. The Best Friends/The Bromantics (Roxas/Axel etc.)
3.The Hero and the Rival (Sora/Riku etc.)
4. TheTwo Hot Guys who Totally Looked At Each Other That One Time (any number of random pairings that make your head hurt)

There are probably others, but those are the ones I have seen the most often. And they don't just apply to yaoi either; heterosexual or yuri pairings often fall under these headings as well, with their own variations thrown in. Now, I'm not saying that there's anything wrong with supporting them, and I do know many yaoi fans who I get along with absolutely fine (you know who you are). In fact, this really all boils right back down to the whole 'you don't like it, you suck' thing. Some fans get snooty about it, and proceed to give you a swift tongue lashing about why you are wrong. This brings us on to...

III. The 'My Canon is Better than your Canon' Problem
This is the argument that nightmares are made of. I touched on it a couple of times already, but this is the big one and so it gets its own special section all to itself.

Anyway, this one comes up damn near everytime shipping gets mentioned. But of course it does; shipping is built on personal fanon. Where I see Cloud and Tifa as a canon pairing because a) I know that relationships based on friendships can work and b) Aerith is out of the running because she's a teensy bit dead (and I don't like her, but that's a whole other bag o' gerbils) and c) Square Enix have finally said so, other people think that they would be awful together, and Tifa doesn't deserve Cloud anyway, what were you thinking? (and other, much more reasonable arguments). In any case, pairings, and character interpretations by extension, are pretty much all subject to personal canon; 'fanon' in more casual terms. However, that's not where the problem really is.

The problem is that some people aren't content with fanon; they want their pairing proven, and will support it with whatever piece of evidence they can get from the subject matter, no matter how flimsy or insignificant. Now, the only real experience I have with this comes from FFVII, although I have seen it in Kingdom Hearts also. Anyway, since the FFVII Ultimania was published (and I have never read it by the way), it seems that there's even more of a scramble to grab what they can get. Cloud/Tifa fans jump on the 'Under the Highwind' scene and the cut 'Chocobo Stable' scene while Cloud/Aerith fans continually bring up the fact that Tifa 'lied to Cloud' and various other things (I'm not as familiar with this side of the argument). And then the yaoi fans jump in with the fact that Cloud is obviously just not interested in women. Or they just go another way altogether and say that the Ultimania/Compilation/whatever just doesn't count because it wasn't there to begin with shut up (again, there are more rational arguments).

I find it confusing, and all a bit silly. It's useful to have things you can interpret as support for a chosen pairing, yes. It's handy for fic writing if nothing else, but where is this idea that one must use all evidence possible to support one pairing and shoot down any opposing party? I can only really repeat my sentiment that they are fictional characters. There is no need to get so bloody worked up.

Monday, 25 April 2011

A Muse on Aesthetics and Character Archetypes

I think we all end up having a preferred 'type' when it comes to the opposite sex. Of course, it's not exactly a concrete thing; my mother admits that my dad is the complete opposite to her 'type'; but we do have our own preferences when it comes to looking for a relationship. I think it applies to friends as well. You're looking for specific things in people you become friends with. If you don't gel with them, the friendship ain't gonna work.

But this post isn't about that. As well as having preferences in people, I think a lot of writers have preferences in the characters that they write. In fanfiction especially, since you're not going to write a character you don't identify with or find appealing in some way. At least, I know I wouldn't.

Me? I'm fairly easy to please. And since I wanted to write a post today, but wasn't entirely sure on a subject, I decided to do a basic run-down of my favourite character types.

Sort of like a bait and switch personality type deal.
When I'm writing female characters, I don't want them straightforward. A normal, well-adjusted character is all well and good, but where's the fun in that? Besides, I'm not exactly normal or well-adjusted myself, what with all my weird tendencies. And you know what they say; write what you know, and I have some notable tsundere traits.

The tsundere is the girl (occasionally a boy, but not often) that runs hot and cold, usually on the boy she likes. Naturally, this means that I get to have way too much fun stringing out relationship developments. She'll spend the whole time swinging wildly between bitching him out and acting all cute and shy because he did a nice thing. But it's not because she likes him or anything, okay?!

My favourite tsundere character to write is an aged-up Blossom from the Powerpuff Girls. I write her as extremely uptight, and constantly checking herself to make sure she's doing the right thing. And of course, I'm writing her opposite her Rowdyruff Boy counterpart Brick, who is clearly not the type of boy a good girl like her would ever go for, and it drives her nuts. As a result, she finds herself trying to be as cold as possible, but letting it slip when she forgets who she's dealing with and actually lets herself have fun. Ridiculously great fun to write.

They annoy you, but you're sorry that their life sucks so much.
As much as I have great fun writing tsundere characters, I tend to drift back to these ones. Where the tsundere has a temper on them, but is still well suited to light-hearted pieces, these are better for darker stories. A woobie is meant to elicit sympathy, but the jerkass woobie is the one you want to punch in the face and then give a hug to. They try to be unlikeable, either because they don't like people because of whatever tragic backstory they have or because they're just broken in some way.

Again, the Powerpuff Girls is where I tend to write these. Buttercup is just this character all over, at least when I write her. Buttercup, for me, is a prickly, uncomfortable teenager, and as such, shoots her mouth off, swears like a sailor and is very prone to completely losing it, usually in a violent sort of way. She doesn't want sympathy, so she does everything she can to avoid getting it, but at the same time, I write her tragically broken. I'm awful to my favourite characters, I really am. I just abuse them mercilessly.

Self-loathing and unrequited love issues ahoy.
The broken ace is my favourite for male characters. They're strong characters, but they have some sort of crippling issue or set of issues that have messed them up badly. Oddly enough, I don't write these often myself, but they're some of my favourites to read or watch.

Illidan Stormrage up there from the Warcraft series is a wonderful example of one of these. Exceptionally gifted at magic and an almost unrivalled demon hunter, he's obsessed with becoming strong in order to win the heart of his childhood friend Tyrande Whisperwind. Except that she's in love with his twin brother, and she's really not into the whole 'almighty displays of destructive magical power in order to prove my love' sort of thing. He... really doesn't take it well, and despite the fact that he's... well, he's evil by the end-up, there's no way around that, he's still exactly the kind of character I find appealing. He's awesome, but tragic, and there's a love triangle in there too. Not that he ever really had a chance there, but he likes to think he did.

Maybe it's just my innate romantic tendencies coming out. I just have a soft-spot for losing characters in love triangles I suppose. Except when it's Final Fantasy VII, but that's a whole other bag of gerbils that we won't go into right now.

Of course, I write character types other than these, and I'm not even scratching the surface of the many different character archetypes there are, but I'm also lazy and this post has taken long enough as is.

I'm not a very good blogger am I? :P

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

When Can I Have Fun Again?

You know, a lot of people tell my parents that I'm a real credit to them. Just a couple of weeks ago we ran into my old headmaster (who now runs a restaurant; go figure) and he couldn't stop telling my mother how well I'd grown up and how well-spoken and intelligent and charming I am.

Yes, I know. Rather hard to believe, isn't it?

The thing is, for all that I seem to come across as being all clever and what-not (which still confuses me, quite frankly, because I say some bloody stupid things sometimes), you'd think I'd be managing university without 50% of my coursework thoroughly kicking my ass. I guess I'm just really not cut out for this journalism lark. Not even this trusty bottle of Neuro Sonic I have next to me is helping, it's just that bad.

Not that it's really doing anything other than keeping my caffeine levels at the normal 'far too high' setting, but you know, it's still claiming the whole 'mental performance in a bottle' thing. Might as well humour it.

Also, no, there's not really a point to this post, but I'm meant to be writing a feature article, and since the ability to do so is eluding me (and has been for the past week and a half) I am procrastinating, and you're just going to have to suffer for it, okay? I don't even like this any more than you do, but it's either this or I dissolve into a wibbly puddle of goo in the middle of the library, and no one wants that.

Anyway, going back to my initial vague tangent, I'm sure I'm not the only one who has the feeling that their parents think that they're a lot more intelligent than they feel they are. I mean, I think my mother is fairly sure that I'm some sort of genius, especially in the creative writing department. I'm... really not.

And that isn't just self-deprecation by the way. I mean, I can write, yeah, but I'm not the next Tolkein or Pratchett or anything, and that's just on a technical level. As for entertainment value, I guess I like what I write (mostly), but I don't expect that many other people to. I just like writing.

I suppose parents just like to put their children on a pedestal, to push them to be special in some way. It's not all that surprising I guess. I mean, I'm sure we all want to be recognised for something. I know I'd like to at least be good at something that didn't involve me sitting in front of a computer screen, but since that's not likely to happen anytime soon, I'm not all that fussed about it. I suppose it carries over to children eventually, if you have them. You wanted to be special, now you want them to be special. I guess I understand that.

At least I can still go save the world in video games. That counts, right?

Oh, I don't know. Here's a picture of a hedgehog in an egg cup:

I think his expression perfectly sums up the expected reaction to this post.

Monday, 4 April 2011

A New Thing

Hey guys. Posting's been... well, yeah, it's been basically non-existant for a while. Things have been happening and then deadlines crept up on me and there was a mad dash to the finishline for an essay. But now that I have a teeny bit of breathing space in between that essay and my next couple of assignments, I thought I'd actually write something worthwhile.

Well I say worthwhile. I'm actually going to review a webcomic, but that's worthwhile for a student, right? Anyway, in order to actually keep my blog semi-alive, I'm planning on making this a monthly occurrence, since I read so many webcomics that I've lost track, and therefore I'll have plenty of material.

So, for our first review: Gunnerkrigg Court. Warning you now, there will be spoilers.

And so, onward!

On the face of it, Gunnerkrigg is your typical urban fantasy/science fiction webcomic, set in a mysterious UK boarding school. And then you read it, and suddenly you are presented with a seamless blend of world mythologies, magic and science. Almost anything goes at this school, and it's amazing.

Also, do not be put off by the early art. The art evolution is astounding; best illustrated by these two pages: Chapter 2, Page 2 and the same scene in flashback in Chapter 18, Page 41.

The Setting

Gunnerkrigg Court, while a school, also seems to be a gigantic self-contained city/science lab/countryside/massive unexplained building thing. As well as regular school subjects, the students also have lessons featuring insane simulations involving aliens, there are robots running around the hallways, a minotaur in the library and a rookie ghost hanging around the spare classroom.

Across the gorge outside lie the Gillitie Woods, in direct opposition to the Court. Where the Court values science and technology, the inhabitants of the Woods live by nature and magic. Also living in the Woods is the trickster god Coyote, and much of the story revolves around relationships between the Woods and the Court's chosen medium. Or in the case, mediums in training.

The Characters

Antimony 'Annie' Carver is the main protagonist of the story. Presented as being equally as strange as the school she begins to attend in the beginning of the comic, Annie is almost constantly stoic, never surprised by anything and always very polite. As it turns out, this isn't because she's just a boring mary sue narrative character.

Annie begins attending the Court after her mother's death and her father's disappearance. While there, she makes many discoveries about both herself and her parents, not least about their time as pupils at the Court.

As Annie develops and matures over the course of the story, she makes friends with Katerina Donlan (see below), she accidentally enslaves a demon in her plush toy wolf, steadfastly holds by her belief that she has to do everything herself and gets in and out of more trouble in two years than most people see in a lifetime. Most importantly, she comes to realise her true potential as a medium for the Court, and as her mother's daughter.

Katerina 'Kat' Donlan is Annie's best friend at the Court, and the daughter of two of the science teachers. Coincidentally, or maybe not, Kat becomes friends with Annie in much the same way as her parents became friends with Annie's mother back in the day.

Kat is a steadfast believer in the power of science, and she's a scientific genius to boot. While Annie has her affinity for nature and magic, Kat has a natural talent for physics and especially robotics. Much more easy-going than Annie, Kat balances out the friendship by providing humour, video-game geekery and terribly cheesy lines, which she gets away with by being damn adorable about it.

The Story

While featuring easygoing humour and some lighthearted storylines, Gunnerkrigg is an intricate web of interwoven storylines, intrigue and overarching plotlines that disappear just long enough for you to think they've been forgotten, only to resurface in glorious fashion. It's clever, it's elegant, and it's also really enjoyable to read through again, if only to see all those little bits of foreshadowing you might have missed the first time round.

All in all, Gunnerkrigg is my favourite webcomic, and it's a solid, captivating read. Yes, the art is initially a bit... off, but as already stated (and shown) it gets much better, and is continuing to improve with every page that gets put up.

For those interested, Gunnerkrigg updates Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Tuesdays are starting to feel a lot like Mondays...

So, it looks as though our D&D games are on hiatus for the time being, since we've got a 4th year tearing her hair out over her dissertation, as happens, me with a small pile of work I really should have done by now, and various other hang-ups and obstacles and to be quite honest we can just get back to it later anyway.

Anyway, this is yet another post where I don't actually have anything non-nebulous to say. I might have an idea for a post in the near future, but I'm warning you; it may contain Warcraft. Or possibly webcomics.

But while I'm here and babbling on anyway, I thought I'd mention that I started a new blog for reasons pertaining to the fact that I am unemployed and skint, and since my writing is the only thing resembling talent that I've got, I'm desperate enough to whore it out for money. Yeah, I do commissions now and if you commissioned me for something I would love you forever I really would. For evidence that I can actually write, you can look me up on fanfiction, fictionpress or deviantart.

Yes, I am basically shameless. And desperate. And also slightly pathetic.

So yeah, have a great day you guys!

Thursday, 17 March 2011

A short blog about stuff

No D&D Stupidity this week, since we were down the player for our artificer, and given that the party hasn't actually met her properly yet, it didn't seem fair to continue. So yeah, that'll hopefully pick up again next week.

Anyway, I don't actually have  topic for this week, since I haven't really be doing very much except playing video games. Oh, and I did some coursework too, but we don't care about that. I also started up a new deviantArt account for my writing, since my old one was full of all my disastrous attempts to draw things.

I came to the conclusion this week that Dragon Age is not really for me. I like being able to have conversations with all the party members and stuff, but for some reason, the goals seemed too vague and everything was kind of grey and brown and no amount of Morrigan and Sten deadpan snarking at everything was making it better. So I went and played Final Fantasy XIII instead (don't mock me; I know which one is the better game, XIII is just prettier).

And today I played Warcraft. Again. That's pretty much what I do every day that I can't be bothered actually leaving the flat, and since I woke up today feeling like a train had run over my skull, Warcraft it was.

Anyway, self-imposed posting obligations are now dealt with, and I'm going to slope off.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

The Return of D&D Stupidity!

Yes, we are returning to these posts, as I have returned to playing D&D on Monday nights. This post would have been done yesterday, buuuuut Warcraft happened instead. Anyway, here we go again.

In our last installment, the party had just commenced storming an abandoned keep in order to try and stop a ritual to open a portal and let an underworld god through.

Unfortunately, the party's failure to stop the two goblins that were running to warn everyone else in the keep of their arrival was their downfall. One of the goblins accidentally ran into the ritual circle in his haste, and as a result, the thing blew up. The next thing the party knew, Damakos and Carric were screaming something incoherant and running away, while the rest of them were caught in a big flash of purple light...

We now cut to the realm of Eberron; a world of vast oceans, mountains, deserts, forests, swamps, tundra and various other geographic features spread across six continents. More specifically, we cut to the  city of Sharn, a great city of towers that lies on the south coast of the continent of Khorvaire.

Wandering through the shopping district of Sharn were two companions; a human and a halfling, artificer and rogue respectively. The two have been through their own harrowing adventures, and so were taking the time to have a relaxing wander around the shops. However, as they turned a corner, a pair of thieves ran out a jewellery shop, hurling threats and trailing jewels. A couple of elven archers also began firing into the crowd to thin them out and aid in the escape.

Before the two companions could react, there was a gigantic purple flash, which caused everyone in the immediate area to cover their eyes and prompted many a cry of 'holy shit!' When people finally got their vision back and thanked respective deities that they had retained use of their retinas, our beloved trio was found looking bewildered and bedraggled in the middle of the road.

Well, Illyria wasn't so much bewildered as severely pissed off, as Larrsinan found out when she pulled her dagger on him and started demanding to know what he'd done now. Bob, ever the practical thinker, simply wondered if there was any chance he could get some grilled chicken any time soon, since he had a craving. He also decided that if this was the sort of thing that was going to happen in the service of his chosen deity, then Bahamut could stuff it; he was still bloody handy with a weapon with or without paladin status.

In any case, the jewellery shop owner suddenly remembered that he had been robbed, and promptly started yelling for someone to catch the thieves, which prompted them to continue running away, while the archers resumed shooting. The party, shrugging and deciding that taking their confusion and irritation out on other people was probably better than taking it out on each other (this was highly grudged by Illyria), gave chase.

The rogue and the artificer, shooting glances at each other, took off up a side street after them, figuring that this could at least be interesting.

The party chased the thieves for a little ways, until the thieves actually noticed, at which point they pulled their pet drake out from a handy alleyway and hurled a dagger at Larrs. This missed horribly, so they settled on throwing a few insults instead. Not good ones, but they didn't look all that bright, so it was to be expected really.

Larrs, taking the lead, ordered Bob into an attacking position and then lunged for the theif in front of him, only to somehow trip over his own feet and miss, leading to more insults from the thieves. Again, not good ones, but when you're faced with a tiefling warlord and a dragonborn paladin both around the six foot area in height, you're obviously not really in your right mind anyway.

The two archers took advantage of the small window to fire at Larrs and Bob, but they both missed completely. Bob, now annoyed at Larrs for just shoving him into position without asking, took out his frustrations by crunching the nearest thief into a wall, causing him to see pretty lights and multiple Bobs.

Meanwhile, the rogue attempted to get a better vantage point, and made a very graceful leap up to the balcony of a nearby pub. Graceful that is, until she fell just a few inches short and dropped straight back to the ground. She then got herself up, dusted herself and tried again, more successfully this time, but less gracefully. The artificer, after watching her friend, decided that she'd just take the stairs like a normal person, in order to get into position to snipe the thieves with her crossbow.

The drake, pushing past its masters, lunged for Bob's leg, only to be met with a mouthful of plate armour that didn't move under its teeth. Bob was less than impressed. Illyria, getting bored, hurled a curse at the nearest thief, but her follow-up eldrtich blast missed, singing a wall instead.

Feeling emboldened by Larrs and Illyria's failures to hit them, and also by concussion on one part, the thugs moved to flank Bob. After doing this, they both completely failed to actually hit him, and one took a chunk out of a nearby wall instead.

Larrs, noticing the artificer and the rogue, asked the artificer nicely if she'd shift her position a little bit please. He then yanked Bob backwards to stand next to him, much to Bob's displeasure. Ignoring this, he proceeded to smack the concussed thug with his axe, adding bleeding to the list of his injuries.

The archers, now able to see the artificer more clearly, both took shots at her and both hit her fairly severely. Her friend is annoyed by this, and confused as to who is working with who, as Larrs was the one who told her to move, only to get her shot.

Bob, now even more annoyed, decided to forgo hitting things, and instead opted to breathe fire on everyone in front of him. The concussed thug was now singed on top of everything else. Meanwhile, the rogue began heading down a side-street and hid behind a fountain as she made her way towards the archers. Her friend hastily healed herself a little, and then tried to shoot one of the thugs, but missed.

The drake made another attempt to chew on Bob's leg, but was again foiled by the plate armour. Illyria placed another curse, and then managed to aim wide with another eldritch blast. Concussed thug tried to make a swing with his mace, but instead just sort of fell short and stared at the ground for a moment instead. His mate tried to throw a dagger at Illyria, only to manage to hit the sign on the pub and knock it crooked.

Larrs yelled an inspiring word to the artificer in order to pick her up a bit, despite the fact that he didn't know her name. However, she was still grateful, as she now felt a lot less almost dead. However, one of the archers immediately landed another arrow into her, while the other moved round to attack the rest of the group.

Bob landed a solid thwack on the drake's head to try and make it let go of his leg. It did, but relecutantly.

The rogue managed to sneak up behind the archer that had shot her friend, so stealthily that she could probably have pulled off a song and dance routine without him noticing. Instead of doing that, she just shanked him in the back. Repeatedly.

Then, in a stroke of vengeance, the artificer displayed her true talent by casting a thunder charm on the rogue's armour. The electric charge passed straight through into the archer, killing him instantly and blasting his body off the ledge he was standing on. The other archer did not seem happy about this, given the amount of obscene elven swearing that he came out with.

The drake made yet another attempt to eat Bob, only to smack into a wall as he side-stepped it. Naturally, this greatly amused Bob. Illyria, taking advantage of this, cursed the drake and then blasted it. Now seriously worried, the concussed thug staggered off to hide behind his pet, while the other ran up to Bob, only to fail to wound him. Concussed thug then reasoned that he should try to do something useful, and threw his knife at Illyria. The pub sign landed three feet away from her.

Larrs took a swing at the other thug, but missed, only to be stabbed by the remaining archer, who charged down a nearby set of stairs with a short sword. Bob, distracted by this, failed to hit the thug in front of him. With everyone confused and incredibly inaccurate, the rogue leapt off the ledge and made her way up behind concussed thug, who she finished off with a knife to the back.

The artificer made an attempt to repeat the thunder armour trick on Larrs, but was only able to produce a small spark. The drake, now seeing something edible looking that was not wrapped in unyielding plate mail, immediately made an attempt to eat the rogue, but she managed to dodge him. Illyria threw a blast into the remaining thug's chest, but unfortunately failed to budge him. For his part, the thug, in desperation, finally landed a hit on Bob, dazing him.

Larrs broke out the wolf pack tactics and smacked the archer in the teeth. However, this backfired when he immediately backed off, drew his bow and shot Larrs critically. He attempted to follow this up with another shot, which luckily only glanced off Larrs' armour.

Bob, still dazed, managed to connect with the thug's skull with his next strike, making him a lot worse off, and the rogue stabbed the drake for attempting to eat her. This didn't stop it trying again, but it walked into a wall for the second time, clearly suffering from the blow to the head Bob gave it earlier. Meanwhile, the artificer healed Larrs, as thanks for doing the same for her earlier.

Illyria, apparently distracted (possibly by that good looking waiter in the bar there...) failed to do anything productive, and the thug tried to hit Bob again, emboldened by his success last time. He did, however, fail, and so ran away like a little girl, yelling insults at Larrs to try and retain his masculinity.

Larrs healed himself while muttering encouraging things to himself because dammit his horns are not small, whatever that damn thug says. He then chased after the archer, but didn't notice that he'd stopped short, and was thus simply flailing ineffectually at him. The archer whipped his sword out again, but for all that he'd stabbed Larrs already, he didn't seem well-versed in edged weapons, as he completely failed to do any kind of damage to anyone.

So Bob smacked him around the head. Hard.

The rogue finished off the remaining thug, since someone had to do something productive. The artificer also managed to be useful, successfully putting another thunder charm on Larrs and electrocuting the elf, which leads to even more profuse elven swearing. Illyria took offense to this, for her own arbitrary reasons, and proceeded to kill him with an eldritch blast.

The drake, taking advantage of the situation, tried to eat the rogue again. She dodged it. Again. Larrs then charged at it, shifting the rogue into position for an attack and then didn't actually manage to hit it himself. So Bob hit it again. There was a bit of a crunching sound. The rogue the finally killed the damn thing off, and as everyone looked around each other, the general consensus was "pub?"

-next week: introductions, and probably some looting, and definitely more killing-

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Where Did February Go?

Well, it's March already, and I only wrote two posts in February. I am moderately ashamed of myself. So yeah, today, I'll talk about the happiest game about kidnapping and serial murders ever :D

Yes, it's time for the other Persona game! This one was released in early 2009, and while it takes place two years after Persona 3, we have an entirely new cast of characters and a new location.

The storyline in Persona 4 is much, much lighter than Persona 3, despite the aforementioned kidnapping and serial murder. We start off with our new protagonist (I called him Souji, after his manga incarnation) moving to the sleepy town of Inaba to live with his Uncle and cousin while his parents... are not around. I don't know. Persona just seems to have a thing against their teenage protagonists having parents. At least Souji's aren't dead like the last protagonist's.

I'm not going to be talking about the gameplay much here, partly because it's the story and the characters that absolutely make this game, and also because it plays much like Persona 3, only slightly more refined. There is a slightly different dungeon structure, and the boss battles are harder, but other than that, there's not a whole lot that's changed, although I should probably mention that the dungeons are locations such as  a castle, an underground lab, and a strip club.

Right, now that we have that out of the way, watch this:

That is a fairly accurate (if slightly simplified at points) rendition of the introductory section of the game. And yes, the dungeons are accessed by jumping into TVs, in case you were wondering. Interestingly, the murder victims were killed by being pushed into TVs as well.

I think they're trying to tell us TV is bad or something...

Anyway! After two people die and a third is kidnapped, the initial gang decides to do something about it. Then follows wacky adventures, whereupon we add lots of dysfunctional characters to the team, because this a Persona game, and we can't let the protagonist make friends with normal people.

See that blonde kid down the bottom left? Eldritch abomination.
Speaking of, social links are back, and it's much easier to max them all out on a single playthrough (not that I managed, but nearly). This time, there's no reward at the end of it, but it's also stupid amounts of fun. Of course, this is because Souji ultimately ended up being the biggest manwhore in the town on my playthrough, and even though two of his girlfriends had a fight in the middle of the street over him, everyone still likes him. Behold the power of the Persona Protagonist everyone; as long as you help a kid get over his dead sister and let Chie kick you for a while among other things, you can sleep with as many pretty girls as you want.

No, seriously. I'm not even kidding.

So, my whoring Souji out aside, this game is a lot of fun. The plot starts out much more light hearted than Persona 3 as mentioned (although how it manages to do this with two people being killed in the first hour or so is beyond me), and ultimately stays that way, despite what should be extremely dark plot development. It also has an entire section devoted to a class trip back to the area where Persona 3 was set, which made me ridiculously happy (and it also features the cast of 15/16 year olds getting smashed. On juice).

Overall, no, this storyline is nowhere near as good as the one in Persona 3, but it's still a bloody brilliant storyline in its own right. It also wins on the replay front, because it's quicker and easier to get through, even if it's harder to get the real ending. And it's downright hilarious in places.

For those interested, the video up there is a dub of Hiimdaisy's Persona 4 comic, which is both split-your-sides-laughing funny, and also fairly accurate to the game. Check it out sometime ;D

You heard the man.