Red vs Blue Season 15 – What the Hell is Payoff (SPOILERS)

I’m going to start with a disclaimer that I love Red vs Blue and I’m about to be really mean about it and it’s brand new writer and I feel really terrible. BUT I also feel obligated as an armchair narrative critic to call out its shit so it can be better next time. This post was constructed over a few hours with no editing, in classic narrative word vomit style.

In any narrative, for things to feel really good when it all comes full circle, you have to earn it. As a writer this can be easy to screw up because there’s a lot you need to juggle, especially with a large cast. Things have to be seeded, called back, developed and wrapped. There’s a lot of work involved in good character development.

In Red vs Blue Season 15 there is a lot of this happening. In fact, I would say, too much. Actually what I mean is that it was a goddamn disaster. Things were built, developed, and paid off with a fart sound (Grif and Simmons). Some things came up as payoff completely out of nowhere (Locus). Characters were developed who have already been developed, didn’t need development, and the development they got was shit that had already happened to them (Tucker and Sarge). There was some interesting stuff in Season 15 and some really good jokes, but in the end it feels like it was a waste of time and accomplished nothing.

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Webcomp: the not-Webcomic

Webcomics have evolved beyond being what we formally understand to be comics. We use the word “comics” for them because, while they sometimes don’t look like comics or sound like comics, readers don’t have language to call them anything different. We say “webcomics” because they’re often image-heavy stories we read online. I believe that this simplification can be harmful to people who are creating narratives outside the box, because it’s difficult to find our market. How will people know what to look for when what they want isn’t anything like a webcomic?

This is what I want to call a Webcomp: a Composite Web Narrative. A webcomp is a story where the medium is the web, and it utilizes any and all of the features available to it in that format. There is no operating terminology for this form of storytelling that encapsulates what it is. Most often, readers will refer to it as a “webcomic”, in spite of everything that it isn’t, because it’s the best word we have to describe it.

Let’s get into this in some more detail.

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The State of Those Without Shadows

Hey everyone! Here’s what’s up lately.

We’ve been working on the next game segment for EVER, I know. It’s almost done, but considering how inexperienced I am in programming, I can’t say for sure when that will be. The good news is that it means the next one will not be nearly so difficult. I’ve learned so much, so I won’t be starting from zero again.

While I’ve been working on that, I’ve also been working on some supplemental materials, like the Tiberias body pillow and Sating Southwise Saanvi.

I’ve also started writing the upcoming TWS chapters all at once. After this we’ll be going into what I’m calling the “Ganymede arc”. I don’t really want to tell you much about what it means because most of it is discussed at the end of chapter 6. Out of world, it means that I’m writing what will probably be two or three chapters at once, and cutting up the format afterward based on how it functions best.

I’ve made this offer before and I am going to make it again. When the game segment goes up, I will upload the full remaining pages of chapter 6 at once if my Patreon gets up to $50 per month in patrons. I hope this incentive doesn’t seem unfair. I thought it would make a good and small goal, and if we don’t make it, it’ll just be business as usual. Chapter 6 is 9 pages long, and the game is on page 6, so it’s three weeks of buffer to burn.

Anyway, I’ll let everyone know when we’re in the final stages of game playtesting and hopefully from there, it’ll be a matter of a week or two. Thanks for your patience!

DATE THAT DAD! – Dream Daddy

I’ve played a lot of visual novels, and a good half of them or so have been dating sims of some kind. My experience with dating sims in North America has been rather disappointing, compared to some of the treasured stories I’ve read that come from Japan or South Korea, so when I saw Dream Daddy release with fanfare, I had very low expectations.

And I was pleasantly surprised!

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Red vs Blue Fanfic Recommendation Masterpost

So I tried to post something like this before with the understanding that I might make different editions, but I decided I’d rather make one huge post that has everything I love and just come back to update it now and then. Again: I’m sticking to my one-sentence-summary rule, but please mind the author-marked tags. For now, here is The Good Shit.

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The Wrath of the Wronged – The House in Fata Morgana REVIEW

You’re lost. You’re tired. You’re hungry and you’re sick. You’re stumbling through a forest knowing that if you stop walking, someone will find you. Your life is in danger, be it from a misfortune, a mistake, or a vendetta. You call out to any god or spirit that might be listening to please have mercy and provide you refuge. That’s when you see it: a huge mansion in the woods. The House in Fata Morgana.

The House in Fata Morgana — or as I will call it from here on: Fata Morgana — is the visual novel debut by the group Novectacle, localized into English by Manga Gamer. It guides you by the hand with the help of The Maid as you learn the misfortunes of the people who lived in the mansion over a thousand years. There’s much more to it than that, but to say more would ruin the story for you. This VN is very hard to summarize and review without ruining things.

Fata Morgana, although written by a Japanese team, is a gothic story at it’s core about sin and forgiveness. It handles many themes of Christianity with thoughtfulness, tact, and a bit of the Japanese worldview mixed in. Fata Morgana stands on its own, without falling back on tropes and benchmarks like you often find in visual novels. Fata Morgana is like reading a book more than any visual novel I’ve read before.

If you’re interested, here’s a list of bullet point things that Fata Morgana does well, out of context to sell you on it without providing specific spoilers:

  • Lack of communication ruining relationships.
  • How not to cope with being a psychopath.
  • Toxic masculinity destroying everything.
  • Mistrust due to personal baggage.
  • Recovering from trauma.
  • Being a trans person in a shitty, shitty time.
  • People making stupid fucking mistakes intrinsic to their character flaws that ruin other peoples’ lives.
  • Acceptance.

I was waiting for things to fuss about over this story, but it is very well done. The narrative is tight. The localization is smooth as hell. The art is good. The music is good. Every character is a fully realized human. Some of the jokes were really dumb? So I guess there was that.

Fata Morgana had a perfect score on Steam by recommendation, and I believe it was well deserved.

Continue on for a summary just a little less careful about spoilers:

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Persona 5 is the JRPG we’ve been waiting for

Persona 5 has disgusting portrayals of gay men, and gross camera shots of female characters for fanservice. These aspects (especially the former) I won’t forgive. However, they weren’t enough for me to give up on Persona 5. The work it does in reestablishing what JRPGs can do is, to me, moving. The graphics, the gameplay, and everything that is included in the game justifies the release date delays. It was all worth it. It’s beautiful, it plays well, and most importantly to me: it establishes itself as a part of the larger Persona/SMT canon.

The troubles surrounding the translation is undeniable, and has been talked about at length in game journalism, so I don’t think there’s more I can offer to the conversation. For the sake of sparing spoilers to anyone, here’s a quick rundown:

Bad:

  • Localisation
  • Homophobia
  • Fanservice exploiting the female characters
  • Endless material made to pander to every (straight male) gamer’s fetish

Good:

  • Dungeons each have a unique design to enhance the narrative
  • UI is beautiful, battles are fun and slick
  • Enhances features that characterized the past two Persona games (school days timeline, stat generation)
  • The narrative design and plot arc structure is very good
  • Futaba’s mental illness is dealt with sympathetically and that is incredible

Persona 5 has a finely fabricated mystery. Character’s arcs, plot developments, and major reveals are telegraphed well enough that you can see them coming, but they build suspense. It isn’t perfect, which I believe are caused by how many storylines they juggle at once and the different ways the player might handle them. I don’t feel like I can fault the dev team for that. Writing games is hard.

Persona 5 makes me excited to see where the future of JRPGs is going to go. Anyone who loves RPGs or games should play it, even if you haven’t seen the series before. I feel like it understand what was created here would be an asset in a developer’s arsenal for the future.

As said above, the most I got out of the game was seeing it tie into the lore of it’s predecessors, specifically into the concepts of Persona 2. Although the allusions were vague, I believe the relation was deliberate. I hope to write a post on that in a year, when I don’t have to worry about spoiling anyone.

Persona 5 has been in development for years, but the themes of rebellion and breaking the shackles of society’s expectations appears to be globally relevant. Older SMT fans might be able to turn to Persona 5 to understand the feelings of today’s youth, while millennials like myself may be touched by the sense of worldwide solidarity, like I was. In the end, all we can do is inherit the earth, make it ours, and make it right.

NieR:Automata – Games, Novels, and Divine Evolution

In recent years, Yoko Taro has grown from a small Japanese developer, to an auteur who I believe will be making waves alongside Hideo Kojima and Suda51 before long. NieR: Automata is his biggest hit to date, and rather emblematic of what Taro-san does when it comes to game and narrative design. NieR games pull in elements from many genres in order to create a game that says things about all games. In this post I’m going to talk a little about this gameplay mosiac and how it works, and the story themes about evolution to godhood in a story about AI.

 

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The Mental Illness Story We Deserve – Night in the Woods

Oh my goodness Night in the Woods was really something.

Night in the Woods is a simple story game and almost-platformer about Mae Borovski when she comes home after quitting college. She returns to her childhood home of Possum Springs, to the place and the people she’d left behind. Why did she quit school? Why is everyone so hostile toward her? Why does she have dreams of giant animals in the woods?

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I liked Oxenfree too much to have anything to say on it.

Usually when I have a lot to write about a game or whatever I’m reviewing, it’s because some aspect of it either blew my mind or disappointed me. People are interested in what I have to say after I played Oxenfree, but it’s hard because Oxenfree is a very solid, respectable game. I recommend it to people looking for a small, good story, but that’s about all I’ve got.

I loved the characters. I love their interactions. I loved the effects of the dialogue on events. Oxenfree was a linear story with relationships that changed. All of the characters were frustrating teenage brats. It was wonderful.

I feel a little strange writing a review of a game without having a pedestal and a pointing stick to outline every little thing in it that blew my mind, or I hated. Oxenfree effectively used established expectations in games to create something good. It’s a solid story that used its mechanics in an interesting way. It’s a good way to show simply how these things can all be harnessed and used well.

However, it didn’t do anything that I believed was revolutionary. And while that may sound like an insult, I don’t mean it as one. Not every single game needs to revolutionize anything. I will play and enjoy every single Telltale Game, regardless of whether or not it gives me something new. Oxenfree is a good game, and that’s just fine. Give me more of this sort of ghost story. Give me more light interaction games. Give me more.

Play Oxenfree for a good ghost story with meaty characters. Enjoy it for that. And please, Night School, give me more.

4/5, highly recommended to people who like things that are good.

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