Incomplete thoughts

Things aren’t always going to end properly or be edited or be posted on the date they are timestamped. The github repo will have more accurate information about creation dates and such but not too much more since things publish when I push them.

Anyway, I start the files on the day and if I don’t finish the thought, oh well. That’s kind of the point I guess?

So I played a couple more hours of Hollow Knight, and I didn’t really log it. I was living risky. Having a notes file is a bit of a responsibility as well as a benefit. Without logging the block points it’s not

Sentences and paragraphs can end mid-thought I’ve decided. I promise not to abuse this, but frankly I just want out of whereever I was going.

I think being able to add ad hoc notes to a game, or to have games where note-taking is more of a feature, is an interesting point. I do like how part of Hollow Knight’s progression is point of interest markers but also… I’d just like to write stuff. But on a console would I really? Probably, yeah. It’d still be easier than using a notebook.

And in the case of Hollow Knight and many others, I think most metroidvanias probably and things like RPGs and open world adventure games and such, I don’t think that the depth of the experience would suffer really? I don’t know.

Note taking inside a game can’t be that innovative a thought and there has to be reasons not to do it, but like last time I played a Civ game (Civilization 6) I really wanted to add notes about what I wanted the different cities I was managing to do, things like that.

I can understand how managing that sort of thing is probably just a really shitty experience all around. My notes are not great, and I have complete control over basically everything about them. Medium, level of detail, you name it.

Some Other Things

I haven’t gone back into Baldur’s Gate 2 yet. I might, but it does seem likely that the specific urge to do so has faded for a fair bit of time.

Part of that is because on the evening of Friday last, which was the start of Thanksgiving weekend, I finally gave Hollow Knight a shot (on PS4, it was a PS Plus game a few months back) and it has sunk its hooks (or nails, I suppose) in deep.

I don’t play a lot of out-and-out metroidvanias. I like a lot of metroidvania conventions and Castlevania was a very important series for me but I haven’t gotten into them deeply in a really long time. I waited for Castlevania 3 for an extremely long time, I bought it brand new and reached Dracula before the end of the weekend. I drew the cover for a Grade 8 art project and still have it around somewhere. It was the best thing I’d done to that point according to my memories so there’s some attachment there.

But I also was deeply disappointed in how quickly I burned through it. I put it aside for a long time after reaching Dracula because I just didn’t want to have finished it that quickly. I don’t specifically recall actually finishing the game but I know I must have. I replayed all my games time and time again growing up and I must have done it with Castlevania as well, but from 30 years distant that aura of disappointment sticks and I think it eventually seeped into my impressions of the genre as a whole.

I was very excited for Metroid Prime, I still have the t-shirt I got when I preordered and it even gets in rotation semi-regularly. But I am pretty sure I didn’t ever get around to finishing it.

Somewhere along the way I’ve stopped enjoying consuming the same media multiple times over. There are books that I could literally read straight through and start right at the beginning again. Movies I would play over and over again, tv reruns were a foundational part of growing up for me. I still love listening to music over and over again of course, sometimes doing that thing where you listen to one track on loop for hours (I have a playlist filled with tracks specifically for this purpose) but even then there is a strong novelty factor required for me, most of the time.

Metroidvanias are about really knowing an environment. Treading the same space over and over again and experiencing it anew. Not entirely of course, quick travel options and the ability to open shortcuts to bypass areas is critical but there are hub areas and certain paths that get travelled over and over and over again. When I think of metroidvanias, I think of that experience.

Hollow Knight, to the point where I’m at (In the last hour or so that I played, I had the Dreamers added to my map but have not sought any out yet) definitely shares that trait. And I don’t entirely love it. But I am getting a lot of satisfaction out of it.

I played too much over Thanksgiving weekend. I’m somewhere around 25 hours I think, definitely over 20. I’ve had at least a couple of points of frustration where I’ve been going from exit to exit in the map, revisiting and trying to figure out where my next opportunities for advancement are, or throwing myself at a significant fight and at least once just grinding around for currency.

But the frustration has all been limited and predictable. I had to grind for currency but I could explore at the same time, revisit some old mini bosses and see how my skills had improved and if I’d been more concientious about recovering my loot after dying I wouldn’t have had to at all. There’s almost always been at least one other thing I can think of to do and ultimately, on Monday, I started a text file to keep track of goals, environs and other details.

There’s a very special place in my world for games that force me to take notes. I haven’t done so in earnest since I last tried to play Ultima 5 a few years back, and this blog is being updated specifically because I’d expected to do so for BG2 as well.

I haven’t played Hollow Knight since Monday (it’s Thursday as I write this) and that has been intentional. For one thing, this is a game that I like to be able to sink into for at least 30 minutes and ideally a few hours.

But more importantly I think, I am taking a break so that whenever I move on to my next task I get to learn some of the environments I traverse again. I have been so deeply enjoying revisiting and relearning some of the environments that when I reached the point where I had pushed too hard and was

so yesterday, So I finally checked it out too. I am intentionally giving myself a few days away from Hollow Knight so I can forget a bunch and explore a little anew which I think is really important for me with played it for the first time too. Harvey bought it on Steam a few days back. I lasted 24 seconds into the daily before dying to spikes, Harvey died to spikes somewhere on 1-3 and Jon didn’t recall the specifics of his death but it was

The Morning After

I realized that I really needed to read the manual, so I started and within a couple of pages was reminded of the auto-pause feature.

I haven’t started things up again but that will be a major hook. I’ll also likely roll up a new character and probably focus on making it easy to get through the game rather than try to aim for any specific role-playing experience.

The promise of character creation, that it will enable role play, I think is somewhat false. In this case, and I think in pretty much all modern computer RPGs, character creation modifies play style and difficulty. Smolder the Sorcerer will be relegated to the digital dust bin and I’ll min/max a little and take a fighter. A big burly tank type, though I think it’s a little inaccurate to think about it in the context of that archetype.

The tank, dps, heals, control archetypes have to have existed before I learned about them while playing World of Warcraft but I’m not sure how heavily integrated the notions of them were in Dungeons and Dragons, 4th Edition (which I think is the core rulesset for BG2 but I’ll have to confirm). Discussion of those playstyles wasn’t anything I remember from playing pen and paper RPGs in the 90s.

There was not a whole lot of meta discussion of that sort in my play group that I recall, a lot of it was more about specs and damage and not very much in the way of tactical discussions, how to work together etc and those factors make a massive difference in games like this.

I’m still interested in playing and will definitely have at least one more session but it seems unlikely to me that I am going to get stuck in the game all the way through to the end.

The First Session

So after fiddling around for a few hours, I was able to get a working configuration for the game. As I declared in some form of exasperation, moderately light but not really hiding the true frustration, it really was a 90s video game experience.

But! A cut scene reminding me of the salient plot points of the first game and a new game prompt await me. As I prepare to dip in I have about 15 minutes before I have to tend to reality for a time. We’ll see what comes.

Oh the character portraits are memories.

There’s an assumption that one has read the manual I think, and knows the classes and other options because I have to pick my character portrait before I choose my profession. The bearded robed mysterious and perhaps a bit mystic gentleman it is. Smolder he shall be known as.

The races I remember pretty well but goodness there are a lot of classes! I’m not certain right now that I ever played the expansion, perhaps there’s a whole lot here.

I like to think about character creation. Where’s the fun in this? It’s terribly fun for me, and it’s about the mix and combination of attributes and the personality. Describing the personality of a character and how it connects to the role. That is interesting.

I’ve been thinking about automated character generation a bit for a thing I’m going to be obtuse about because it’s likely not going to amount to anything (much like this blog, anyway). But for that thing, I’ve been thinking about using personality determination systems like astrology or Myers-Briggs but not that one specifically because it’s copyrighted. Astrology isn’t though! Tarot is always cool because of cards but this ain’t no Ultima universe.

I have about five minutes left before I wanted to address some outstanding household duties and I’m going to spend it and probably just a tiny bit more reading these. But uh, I’m kind of thinking this guy is a Bard.

There are Bard sub-classes!

I have to think on the sub classes. Honestly there are compelling bits to any of them. The blade is an arrogant front man, spinning and cavorting. The jester a skilled mc rap battler and the skald is a viking at a rave.

I have returned to my notes for a time. The person I see in this portrait isn’t any of these things the classes are though so I may need to return to the portrait or dig further into other classes. There’s some roguishness and mysticness to the person in the portrait.

Character creation is the promise that a set of properties established at the start will have an impact on how the game is played.

Perhaps this person is a Sorceror.

I’ve played now for a couple of hours total. This person is in fact a Sorceror, though I don’t have a solid understanding of spellcasting in this world. I really think I should read the manual as a starting point, but since my laptop battery is nearly dead that will have to come another time.

I don’t like the combat yet, but that’s because I don’t know what I’m doing and of course, we don’t have very good equipment. More will come in time I think, and I’m quite happy to read guides so I will probably do so. I’ll likely read more about character classes and the impact these choices are going to have on the game as a whole.

The promise of character creation is that I get to role play. The limitation of role playing games is that we can only play within the confines created for us. It’s impossible to know the “right” build but it’s less about whether or not I will be powerful but whether or not I understand the consequences of the choices I am making.

If I as the player don’t have that understanding, whatever it actually is that character creation promises to is, will never be what I hoped it could be.

There is a tutorial feature in the game. It may be worth exploring that a little bit also.

Maybe I'll Play a Game

It’s not like I need a justification, but a justification makes it more fun!

I downloaded Baldur’s Gate 2 and I’m going to play it. It’s one of my favourite games and it would be better if I played the first Baldur’s Gate first, but I don’t have a license so what the heck I’m just going to jump in.

I read the (Boss Fight Books Baldur’s Gate 2 book by Matt Bell)[] a few weeks back. I remember a few things as a result of that, but honestly most of the specifics are lost to me right now. I conflate it with Planescape: Torment quite a bit. For example Minsk, which one is he in? I’m pretty sure not this one.

This game is about becoming a god, or further adventures in godhood? The fact that I can pull this much is entirely because I read the book, though at the time I played it I was reasonably well versed in the Forgotten Realms. I never really played many campaigns there, my group was primarily Rifts but I read several of the early Drizzt books and lots of source books and many, many games.

Anyway, I’m going to write about it as I play every now and then. I like writing and I like video games and hey at least this gives me something to do and think about.

I fancy myself a game developer of sorts. Not really I guess, outside of a few partial projects here and there but I think about game design a lot. I’m a game designer like I’m a writer or a musician or a cyclist. Aspirationally. So I’m going to use this as an excuse to think with intention about games. Maybe. I mean either that or I just made another entry in the typical collection of intent-to-write posts.

One effort I’m going to be making in my writing is to be really lazy about it. By that I am trying to just write without second guessing myself too much. A long time ago, Joel Spolsky wrote about the weight of defending writing against an internet full of uncharitable interpretations and I’ve never had anything even resembling his platform and still feel that pressure keenly.

So, the standard disclaimer* on everything I write here is that not only am I not trying to talk anyone into agreeing with the things I say, I’m not even certain whether or not I do. I’m processing, and for some reason or another I process better when I put things into writing or say them out loud. I guess that’s probably not that unusual a thing, communicating ideas (well, attempting to I suppose) to others changes our relation to them.

Anyway, now it’s time for me to mark this published and start actually playing. I hope I’m inclined to write more about this, or really anything else, sometime later.

Edit, approximately 40 minutes later: I can’t get the fucking thing to work. I even followed random forum steps to update the version of the emulator and nope, that ain’t it. So I guess this isn’t what’s happening after all.

  • I’ve long thought “Standard Disclaimer” is a good name for a blog