The Dord of Darien

Musings from the Mayor of the Internet

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Xenosaga diary day 2: mass confusion

So I grabbed myself some whiskey and a sandwich, and prepared to dive right in to another ninety minutes of the babbly confusing cutscene game. Before I start the diary, though, I’d like to mention a few things. First, the movement of the characters. It’s really odd and disconcerting watching the characters move during any of the many many cutscenes in this game. They all move very stiffly and inelegantly, even by six-year-old Playstation 2 game standards. I mean, Castlevania: Lament of Innocence came out a few months after Xenosaga: Episode One, and I raved about the believability of the character animations, so I know for a fact that the PS2 could do a lot better than this in 2003.

The second thing I’d like to mention is that, in between making Xenosaga episodes, Monolith (no, not that Monolith) made the truly superior Baten Kaitos games. No real point; I just thought I’d bring them up, since, so far, pretty much everything Xenosaga’s gotten wrong, they got right.

Diary commences.

4:15 AM — Got my whiskey, got my sammich, time to watch some cutscenes! So I have to make my way to the bridge. Wherever that is.

4:16 AM — Oh, hey, look. The game just told me to go back to the level I just beat, since apparently there was something in that box besides the lame cutscene, only I couldn’t get it last time on account of said cutscene. That’s pretty awful right there, game.

4:23 AM — Oh what the fuck. I went back through the level again to get the reward, and you know what it was? Can you guess? It was a goddamn minigame. The game made me go replay an old level so I could get treasure, and the treasure was a minigame.

4:24 AM — Okay, I went back to confront the dumb bitch who told me to go waste seven minutes getting a minigame, and now she’s giving me pointers on what I should do differently next time I go "encephalon diving." I’m pretty sure I know what that actually means, but… I also know what it makes me think. You know what? I like my version better.

4:25 AM — Ah, I found the door. This process was not helped by the game’s refusal to let me rotate the camera manually. You know what was on the other side of the door? A cutscene.

4:26 AM — Oh, hey, I got some e-mail. That’s… a little wack. And, hey, wait, it’s goddamn spam. It’s just some press release from some made-up futuristic company. They put spam in the game. I kind of want the thing it’s advertising, though, since apparently it "makes it possible to use imaginary machines" and lets me "make practical use of the computing power you are looking for as long as it’s within the RIOS’ bandwidth." No word on what happens if I look for computing power outside the thingummy’s bandwidth.

4:28 AM — Oh, hey, there’s a "Galactic Federation Government." Apparently it’s the central ruling body of — get this — half a million planets. In my experience, it’s not possible to rule half a million planets effectively even if your government is run by the God-emperor of Mankind himself, but we’ll let that pass. How long do you suppose it would take to settle that many planets? I’m thinking, since it’s the year 20XX right now, and this game is set in the year 60XX, and there’s exactly one settled planet right now, that means we’ve been settling 125 planets per year starting basically tomorrow. That’s almost exactly one planet every three days. Oh, and that’s assuming that no colonisation attempts ever failed, and no planets were ever lost to the Chaos Gods or whatever. Maybe I’m just being picky, but half a million just seems like an unreasonably large number.

4:31 — So I just went through the next door, and, bam! — cutscene. This one’s interesting. There’s like some lounge-y jazz piano noodling going on in the background while these two mobs talk about nothing. Actually, I guess it’s more accurate to say the piano noodling is in the foreground, since it’s noticably louder than the dialogue, and it would be kind of hard to tell what they’re saying without the subtitles. On the other hand, it’s all crap anyhow. This scientist dude is an absolute bitch. He’s whining at the other scientists to stop picking on him because of his huge, embarassing crush on the main character? Grow a pair, Mr. Sciencey.

4:33 AM — I go through a door, I sit through a cutscene. Again. I’m noticing a pattern. Wh– holy shit, that dude has a big purple X painted on his face, like he’s some type of crazy man, and… he appears to be in charge down here? Whoa, he kicks ass. The game should have less of the whipped science bitch and more of X-face.

4:34 AM — Suddenly I’m in some kind of flashback cutscene. I’m sitting in my lab, dicking on the computer, and there’s rain dripping on the windows. That’s very atmospheric and all, but it’s a goddamn spaceship. It’s in, like, space. You know, where the rain… isn’t. And, hey, that guy’s name is Kevin. That blends. Everybody else has some kind of crazy Japanese moon-name, and then here’s Kevin. Classic.

4:37 AM — So now I’m staring at that big monolith thing Dr. Deadmeat dug up back in Kenya 40XX years ago, and — oh, hey, the colours just went all screwy. Now there’s a crucifix swinging across the camera, and, hey, it’s black and white. I’m in a graveyard, and some chick is talking to me, but ain’t no sound. Close-up zoom on her crucifix necklace in case I didn’t already make that connection. Laying on the freaky a bit too hard a bit too early on, since I don’t have enough connection to anything to care at this point. And now — whoa, hey, there’s X-face beating the shit out of some poor maintenence worker. I’m back! Whoa, did he just uppercut that dude up into the air like in Mortal Kombat? I do believe he did. That guy rocks harder than everything else in this game all put together.

4:40 AM — So I’m talking to this dude, and he’s explaining how they make sure the escape pods are maintained "just in case." So now we know the ship is going to blow up sooner or later. Or maybe it’ll get eaten by creatures. Space creatures.

4:44 AM — I just went through another door, and, astonishingly enough, there is no cutscene on the other side. I can hardly believe it.

4:45 AM — Well, for fuck’s sake. This time I just had to take three or four steps into the room to trigger the cutscene. Game gets -2 for tricking me into thinking I’d get away without one this time. Ooo, ghosts! Pretty scary. Oh, nice, partway through my conversation with Mr. Science Bitch, the camera just sort of cuts away at starts pointing at nothing in particular. It’s just like a section of the wall.

4:49 AM — So somehow while I was fumble-fingering that last note, I hit the magical key sequence that puts Notepad in "right-to-left reading order" mode. I didn’t even know goddamn Notepad had that mode, but I sure don’t want it.

4:51 AM — So now I’m basically wandering around the ship talking to mobs. This guy’s text renders in the wrong order, which is fun, so he thanks me first and then, after I do the thing, he asks me to do it. Oh, and this other guy says — verbatim — "It’s going to blow up all sorts of things… heeheehee." See? Ship’s going to explode.

4:54 AM — Hey, look. A manual bulkhead switch that shuts a whole bunch of huge doors seperating my room from the escape pods. I’m sure that won’t become an issue, since the ship sure isn’t going to blow up.

4:57 AM — So I just got another e-mail talking about some dude’s "magnificent plan" that involves lots of weapons. Definitely not going to blow up.

4:59 AM — Hey, cutscene. So we have… programmable dudes here? Oh no! "He’s rejecting the data!" Fuck! Fuck! Oh, wait, I jiggled my hand on the keyboard and now it’s all better. That was a close one! Thank god I was there. Oh, hey, a dude with scars all over his face, and creepy dialogue about how much he hates everybody, and ominous music in the background. I’m almost hoping he’s not a bad guy just, you know, to show me who’s boss. This is… kind of a long cutscene, and they’re going on and on about how he thinks these "Realians" (the programmable men) are just weapons and I think they’re people, and, hey, apparently the government has granted them civil rights, so I guess we’re required to program them with free will? Oh, I see, the government still has override codes to control them with, but they can only be used "in an emergency." So they have civil rights as long as it’s convenient for the government. Sounds familiar. Oh, hey, apparently A.G.W.S. isn’t just a random hodge-podge — it’s pronounced "eggs." I’m not seeing it, but that’s how they’re pronouncing it. Fortunately, they’re also handing me a whole load of new acronyms to cope with, so I don’t feel too out of place.

5:08 AM — "Ill weeds grow a mace?" Why no, Inspector, I don’t believe I’ve heard that proverb.

5:09 AM — Oh, hey, a change of pace! The cutscene started right before I went through the door this time.

5:12 AM — This drill dude is off his nut. Wait, there’s a drill council? That, like, grades drillers? I have an idea of what this is — yep, drill minigame. For fuck’s sake, it’s like the stupid crane game where you try to pick up the stuffed animal, only it won’t let you put the camera in a sensible place.

5:20 AM — Hey, remember my android I’m building? Yeah, neither do I. But apparently that chick who was in my party before is an android. Her name is KOS-MOS, which is (I swear I’m not making this up) a recursive acronym.

5:32 AM — Okay, the spam from the in-game company was one thing, but this time I just got a spam from Namco about some other PS2 game they want me to buy. You’d think I’d be immune to this sort of thing, after years of Nintendo plugging its other games in every game, but I think the fact that I actually got a spam e-mail in the game makes it that much worse.

5:34 AM — Wait, now there’s a tag minigame? I haven’t found the main game at all yet, and it won’t stop with the lame minigames.

5:39 AM — Hey, look, an "emergency bulkhead" that opens straight into space without an airlock or anything. And what’s to stop just any old random dude from opening it and killing us all? Well, they’ve stationed a guy next to the control panel to yell at you if you try. I’m serious. That’s the whole security system. It’s a big button that apparently anybody can just press and expose the entire contents of the ship to hard vacuum.

5:47 AM — I finally found the bridge! So now I get the bridge cutscene. Captain Father-figure and Commander Tight-ass are arguing and yelling and on and on, and, hey, then the Commander’s cell phone rings and he’s just all "I have to take this" and up and leaves. I don’t want to tell the captain his job, but if it were my ship, I’m not 100% sure I’d put up with subordinates just bailing while we’re having a high-powered meeting.

That’s all I can handle for one night. Tune in next time when, with any luck, I’ll have something to do instead of just wandering around the ship and making fun of the cutscenes.


February 7th, 2009 Posted by | Masochism | one comment

The zombie apocalypse begins

Courtesy of the best hackers ever, road signs around the country are warning people of the zombie invasion that’s clearly already in progress. I knew the midwest was under zombie attack, but the news that Texas was being infiltrated by Nazi zombies is new to me. As you probably already know, I have a history of taking a stand against Nazis, so I’m taking this latest revelation seriously.

How serious is the zombie epidemic becoming?

Pretty damn serious.


February 5th, 2009 Posted by | Bullshit | no comments

The strong arm of the law

So I guess the government has given up on harassing and intimidating Greg Anderson’s relatives and is just going to attempt to push its case against Barry Bonds without him. The problem is, of course, that without Anderson, it’s a matter of the government insisting that Bonds is a liar because, hey, look at all these other dudes who think he’s a liar. And still their strongest piece of evidence is a near-positive recorded statement of Anderson saying he injected Bonds with the Clear, which, as I’ve mentioned before, wasn’t illegal or classified as a steroid at the time Bonds said he wasn’t taking steroids.

This just gets better and better, folks.


February 5th, 2009 Posted by | Baseball | no comments

Woolsey talks translation

This is a couple of years old now, but I only just ran into it today: an interview with Ted Woolsey about translating video games. It’s really pretty interesting, and gives a lot of insight into what translators have to deal with, and why the interkids could not, in fact, do better translations themselves.

Woolsey and the interviewers never address what is, to my mind, the most interesting question regarding translation: is it more important to be as pedantically accurate to the original as possible, or to create a translated script that plays well in the new language? Especially given space constraints, it isn’t always (or even usually) feasible to have it both ways. I personally am always on the side of translations that work as well as possible in the new language, but the opinion of the internets appears to be against me.


February 4th, 2009 Posted by | Games | no comments

The Web 2.0

Well fine. I went and signed up for Facebook already. If you want to, you can "friend" me — as I believe the cool kids say — over here at my Facebook page. Unless you’re lame. If you’re lame, don’t bother.


February 3rd, 2009 Posted by | Bullshit | no comments

Masochism!

I don’t know if you’ve noticed this, but I’m kind of a moron. Sometimes I’ll read reviews of a game and I just know I’ll hate it. That’s good, yes, but then that game will be held up in front of my worldwide readership as an object of mockery and scorn for years and years afterward. And you know what happens? That makes me want to play the goddamn thing. It’s kind of like, hey, I need to find out for myself if this thing really is as terrible as I tell me it is.

What I’m getting at is that I threw four bucks at half.com a while ago and picked myself up a copy of Xenosaga: Episode One. You know, the stupid talky cutscene game I’ve been complaining about for as long as anybody can remember. Yeah, I’ve done the unthinkable: I’ve decided that I hate that game so much I’m actually going to play it.

Because I’m a moron. Like I said before.

But I’m not just going to regular-play it. I’m going to keep a diary of my experiences while I’m playing this game, so everybody else can suffer through it with me. I started playing the thing tonight, and I have to say, my first impression was a little bit negative. I mean, my disc was all scratched and shit. What kind of terrible game is this that it comes on a scratched disc? Fortunately — perhaps! — it ran anyhow, and my next impression was that it takes a long damn time to load. But maybe I’m just out of practice with waiting for PS2 games, so I’m not sure I can hold that one against it. Further comments timestamped:

3:00 AM — I’m starting the game. There’s a cutscene, shockingly. I’m apparently in Kenya, which is something of a surprise, and it’s the year 20XX? Hey, maybe I’ll run into Mega Man. There’s this archaeologist dude straight out of Raiders of the Lost Ark. He’s digging up a big… thing. No pulsating magic crystals yet, but I have my eye out for them. They won’t sneak past me.

3:04 AM — Hey, the game’s first song with vocals. I dunno, though; I’ve heard worse. Apparently the big thing the dude was digging up had a slot for this little thing he carried around with him. Then it made a bridge appear and killed a lot of his disposable native workers. So much for that.

3:05 AM — Title card: "4000 years later." That one almost made me spit wine out my nose. Ever spit red wine out your goddamn nose? It isn’t fun. They need to stop ambushing me with randomness like that.

3:07 AM — Now we’re on a spaceship, I think. There’s this thing out there that looks like the thing the dude dug up, and… somebody just stepped into it somehow. It’s not really making very much sense. Ooh! Red digital readout!

3:11 AM — The chief somebody-or-other is logging into the R&D mainframe. Her password is "ye shall be as gods." Never mind that it displays her password in readable plaintext as she’s typing it; that’s a really weak password anyhow. I’d expect that in 4000 years people would have learned something about password security and how to make sure evil villains don’t sneak into your important universe-destroying cyborg… thing. Or whatever that is.

3:12 AM — So now we’re talking to a robot in virtual reality. I think. The robot has just given its model number of "00-00-00-00-1," and you better believe it pronounced every single one of those zeroes. The subtitles tipped me off, so I was prepared this time and didn’t snork any wine. So now the android is the second voice actress I’ve met, and so far they’re both terrible, as appears to be the way of these things. Anybody have any insight as to why that is?

3:15 AM — Hey, the intro cinematic’s over already. That wasn’t so bad. Now it’s time to play the battle tutorial. Hey, I recognise this — turns out combat’s a lot like it was back in Xenogears, though without the main character actually being Goku like he was in Xenogears. The tutorial’s pretty good at explaining the weird system.

3:27 AM — Tutorial’s over, so I reckon it’s about time we got back to some cutscenes! The game doesn’t disappoint. This one’s pretty short, but it introduces the third terrible voice actress, and this one’s much worse than the first two.

3:30 AM — Hey, the game’s starting. I better pay attention. Let’s see… I’m wandering around, I can blow up boxes, I can go fight that mob! It’s… oh goddamn it all, it’s a spider. My two choices are a) go blow up crates or 2) go fight spiders. Maybe that’s just so I remember it’s a video game.

3:45 AM — I just went through the menus. Holy shit. This whole game’s a bunch of buttons. Every menu has menus underneath it, and there are like all kinds of different points I can spend to improve all sorts of shit in weird ways I don’t really get. It doesn’t help that the designers have some queer acronym fetish and half the buttons are labeled "A.W.G.V." or some damn thing.

3:49 AM — I just got back from the bathroom. Apparently in those three minutes I was able to forget everything about how to play this game, since I immediately charged into combat and pressed all the wrong buttons. This is a good sign, I think.

3:58 AM — Another cutscene, leading into another tutorial, and, hey! Giant robots! I was wondering when I’d get to play with the giant robots.

4:01 AM — Okay, back to the game. I save, and then I have to walk really slowly so the mobs don’t hear me, since now this is Tremors. Graboids! Get up on the roof!

4:13 AM — I tiptoed to the key, and then I found this red door with a star on it that just told me it was "#10" of something when I tried to open it, and then didn’t do anything. I hope I haven’t missed nine of these damn things already — game’s only had four screens! So I go in the big door to my mission objective which is, of course, a cutscene. So I watch that.

4:15 AM — Cutscene’s over, and now I fight a boss! Looks pretty scary to me. WTF? He’s just defending over and over again. And after he stops defending he… dies in one turn. What a shitty boss. At least I retrieved the sacred cutscene for the space police!

4:17 AM — I don’t get why they wanted this cutscene so badly. It’s not very good. There’s some Matrix-y shit, and then I almost get TRAPPED IN THE MATRIX because I overrode the security features. Fortunately, this other dude I guess can just reach his damn arm right into the Matrix and pull me out. I’m tempted to bulge out the vein in my head and shout "computers do not work that way!," but, actually, nothing works the way everything just worked in that scene, so I can’t really pick one thing. I guess reality is just different "4000 years later." In the year… 60XX.

4:20 AM — Oh, good. Some giant, phallic spaceships flying out of a wormhole. I was just thinking this game was a bit lacking in penis imagery.

4:22 AM — Hey, terrible voice actress #4! Join the fun!

4:23 AM — … And number five, also. They’re packing the TVAs in mighty thick in this game. I would like to call attention to the fact that we haven’t had a single non-terrible voice actress yet.

4:24 AM — I… wait, is that dude reading the breaks in the subtitles? Like you know when there’s no more room and so the subtitle has to get cleared away and they start drawing the next part? Yeah, he’s pausing in those spots and waiting for the subtitle to continue before he continues his lines. That’s… not so good.

4:25 AM —Finally! Captain Subtitle Breaks was close, but no cigar; we now officially have our first terrible voice actor of the game. It’s about time; the women were leaving you dudes in the dust.

4:29 AM — Aaaaand that long-ass cutscene wraps its ass up at last. I still don’t have any idea what’s going on, but I’m pretty sure I’ve met the villain; he has tall eyebrows and a deep voice, and he’s always saying ominous things.

Well, that’s all I can do for one night. So I spent almost exactly ninety minutes playing tonight, and I sat through thirty-five minutes of cutscenes. That’s less than a 2:1 game:cutscene ratio even if you count the time I spent ratting around in the menus. And my bathroom break. Without that time, it’s pretty close to 0:1. Which way will the numbers travel? Only time will tell!


February 1st, 2009 Posted by | Masochism | one comment