De romanicorum theoriarum XIII

SF and fantasy thoughts, lot of 'em relating to upcoming games.
  • Lot of interesting games coming up—some of 'em, like Project Awakening, don't appear to have names yet. I might have to figure out how to afford a PS4. (Or borrow my sister's.) Lot of dumb ones too, though, like Cyberpunk 2077. I mean on the one hand, cyberpunk was basically played out as a genre by five years after the World Wide Web went online, so it's really great to be making a game in that genre a year shy of a quarter-century later. I mean we all remember all those movies about the hippies and counterculture movement—as current things—that came out in 1994, right?

    On the other hand, even without that issue, it's dumb. For example, you probably saw that trailer, right, with the faux noir narration about how The City draws so many people by making all these promises that often turn out to be lies? I mean on the one hand faux noir is quintessentially cyberpunk (and the best reason to hate it), but on the other hand…people have to physically move to another physical location? In a cyberpunk future? This is a genre that pretends technology will let you do real-time telepresence on the other side of the planet, let alone another city in the same country.

    Just because talking about The City, and its insomnia or whatever, is noir, doesn't automatically make it also cyberpunk. Not when people don't actually have to come there. (Admittedly that never stopped the genre "classics", but they didn't have a real global computer network that almost does away with a need to physically relocate now.)
  • I read The Chronicles of the Black Company by Glen Cook (the first trilogy of what seems to have become a huge franchise). It's not terrible, but it's got two big things keeping it from being really good. (Spoilers ahead.)

    One is, in the first book, how Croaker just sort of tries to ignore his "brothers" raping the "amazon brigades" of the Rebel, and then mass-murdering them. Mercenary companies actually might not rape or massacre much at all—this season's enemies might be next season's clients, no use burning bridges. Certainly they'd be unlikely to in a culture that could romanticize sexuality the way theirs is explicitly described as doing. And even if they did, it would be more like "marriage by capture", as it often was for Caribbean pirates; they would be very, very reluctant to just kill these women when they could keep them around. (See, for example, Achilles in the Iliad—product of a far more misogynistic, casually murderous society than the one depicted in these books.)

    More importantly (you can handwave that first issue as not being totally unprecedented), in the last book: while the Lady doesn't quite get Megatron-in-Predacons Rising levels of cheap grace, it comes close. Especially considering that Raven has much more work to do getting back in Darling's good graces than the Lady does getting into Croaker's. (Also, seriously, "issues with commitment"? This Lifetime-movie shit is the best complication for Raven's character-arc you can come up with?) Frankly the attempt to ingratiate the Lady to us felt very rushed, and needed a lot more effort put in; she's a monster many times over. Just because Savathûn and Xivu Arath have been oppressed by Oryx and fought against him, and may not be quite as bad, doesn't mean they're not bad enough.

    Still, it's dark fantasy that's not utter puerile crap, so, it exceeded my admittedly pessimal expectations. Sure's hell won't be reading any of the further books, though.
  • Also read all the way to the end of Märchen Awakens Romance, and (skip to the next one to avoid more Black Company spoilers and possibly MÄR ones) it's interesting the similarities between the two stories, except that (arguably per usual) the shonen manga version is actually the more mature. Not only is the ultimate villain of MÄR, King, more than just "some guy who was really good at one kind of magic", but the secondary villain, Queen, doesn't get cheap grace.

    Also MÄR Omega has much less of a "setting down the milking stool by the cash-cow" feeling than the continued Chronicles, even though a shonen manga sequel almost certainly has an element of that. (At least, I don't hate Kai as much as I hate the idea of Lady taking up as Annalist after Croaker. That's not really a spoiler, the warning above notwithstanding; you open the fifth volume and it tells you that on the first page.)
  • While Anthem does indeed look like a less intelligent version of Destiny, and that's a pity because EA and BioWare are behemoths in the gaming economy and it's bad for all of us when they fumble, I still can't restrain my Schadenfreude that the BioWare fanboys are so angry about it. Though it is pretty funny they're complaining about a lack of "deep" story. A lobotomized dating sim wed to themes that were overplayed by Clinton's second term (or Reagan's, in Dragon Age's case) isn't "deep".

    I really don't know what to think of Anthem, other than that I already own Destiny and I don't hate Bungie; I do hate BioWare, for simultaneously making puerile "green-skinned space babe" games and then still getting up on their little identity-politics soapbox. And while Activision is obnoxious, EA's microtransaction shenanigans were a major factor in recent Congressional hearings. It takes talent to make the money-grubbers at Activision look blameless and innocent.
  • Similarly the recent "controversy" over the upcoming Dragon Age game, and the political tweets by some of its production team. Inquisition had all those issues, and you obediently trotted over and gobbled up whatever slop they plopped into the trough. You forfeited the right to complain. But do we have to swing back and forth between Susie Soapbox and Miles Edgelord (what first name do you think goes with that surname)?

    Although, a lot of the edgelord stuff in the earlier games was still coming from the same ideological place as the later preaching—moralizing mixed into exploitation is at least as old as slasher films ("premarital sex attracts the attention of supernatural evil/homicidal maniacs not named David Berkowitz") if not as old as fiction. But even if that weren't the case, both sides of the ping-pong table are middle school stuff. Grow up.
  • There's a Gizmodo article about the Sundance entries next year, that basically reads like (what it probably is) a reprinting of a bunch of press releases. One, Greener Grass, is yet another "suburbia is evil" movie—now, when the socio-economic character of suburbia is changing rapidly. Even if it weren't, this dead horse was beaten to stiff peaks decades ago, between Pleasantville, two Stepford Wives, Edward Scissorhands, The Burbs (which gets a partial pass for being a comedy), and too many crappy pretentious non-genre movies to count (notably American Beauty). Straw suburbia is also the setting of most of the early Spielberg movies, like E.T. the Extraterrestrial and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. They spent that nickel a long time ago—remember, it was something like 1945 when Lewis mentioned having started a poem that began "Who damned suburbia?/'I,' said Superbia." And he spoke of the poem as something he'd already been working on for years.
  • People have actually said that Warframe has a better story than Destiny. The only way I can imagine anyone could think that is if they actively dislike story, as such, and thus prefer Warframe for mostly not having one. Because what story it does have, is incredibly derivative, and not in a "makes it fresh again" way like Destiny is really good at, but in a "really tired and hackneyed" way.

    Admittedly I automatically flunk you if you suggest there might be a strange alien menace and even that turns out to really be of human origin, if you're not VanDread. But nothing else about Warframe's story is interesting either. When the only good thing I can say for your setting is one of its fictional scripts is very pretty (though one of the others could never really be used), you have a problem.

    (Upon reflection they may've just meant that more of the story is actually in the game, but I'll take something, that I have to look up on a wiki, over nothing, basically, that is actually given to me in a straightforward manner.)
  • Was thinking about how part of why medieval taxes could be ad-hoc and one time only, like our bond-issues, is that their government was run by landowners whose serfs owed them a certain amount of labor or produce. Now, obviously, you can't have government by landlords now, nor would you want to, but what about investment? Think that's how the zledo do it, with the nobles living (and funding a lot of their equipment) from investments, with only very low taxes going for regular necessities (you probably couldn't pay all military salaries just off the investments of its officers), and funding for major things like wars or equipment upgrades being passed by a vote, like a bond-issue.