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Tycho / 2 weeks ago

The only bad thing about Apex Legends is the name.  And it’s… You know.  It’s probably too late to change that.

Since we spoke last, I have played a lot of Apex Legends.  I’ve won twice, which for me is such a statistical aberration that it makes me want to look at the checksum for the last few days.  But I’m actually not bad at their shooters, for some reason.  Well, not some reason, a specific reason: even if there aren’t Titans, or the radical mobility pilots have even on foot, Respawn’s thesis of gunplay is the most predictable, most immediate example of the form, which means I’m able to model it effectively.  What I expect to happen happens with greater regularity.  Thus, because I am able to trust the system, I play closer to the edge of my capability.  Such as it is.

Battle Royale games generate stories especially well.  Apex Legends enhances the capability of this genre in a few key ways that allow for novel new arcs.

Dramatis Personae is, I think, the most annoying way to say it, so of course I’m drawn in - but yes, there are specific characters.  I loved this in Realm Royale and the notion has only simmered and thickened here, grown rich.  They’ve gone full-on hero shooter here, except the stakes are different: you form three person squads and we aren’t trying to secure anything as abstract as a point.  Even if their characterizations vary in tolerability, the mechanics that underlie each one make any voiceover sins irrelevant.  There’s characters I like to play, and there’s characters I want to play alongside.  Ults are designed to be used, not hoarded.  You’re clearly - and the timers convey this - supposed to be yourself, what you mean in the world, as much as possible.

“Death” exists in a range of experiences that offer deeply engaging narrative arcs.  You can be knocked down, before you get taken out fully.  That part is not weird.  What’s different here is that it’s actually quite difficult to kill a downed enemy.  They’re fast and they flop around.  In addition, there’s a class of item called a Knockdown Shield that exists in various power levels that lets you hold up a directional shield to give you even more staying power.  Let’s say that you get taken out completely, though - it’s not necessarily over.  Your banner can be claimed by any teammate, and once they’ve done that any teammate can then respawn you - or the rest of their team - at stations helpfully designated on the map.  These places also have crates by them, and this works two ways.  One, when you return you’re naked as a jaybird without any of your shit.  Might be nice to have some stuff, and crates are a great solution.  Two, it makes these Respawn things attractive to opponents also, especially if you see somebody drop into the map and you know for a fact they aren’t armed with anything but their hopes and dreams.

I’ve played the game on all the platforms it’s available for and I would gladly play again, on any of them.  This is a game that wants to be played, and makes it easy, from it’s incredibly robust Ping system that lets you communicate effectively even with a micless Ayn Rando to the fact that weapons and ammunition are color coded for easy looting.  It’ll even apply attachments you’ve picked up directly to a new weapon, or tell you what you have is already better.  It wants you to play and it’s not gonna sneer at you.  It’s not a test.  It’s a piece of entertainment software.  If you want to know what makes this one different from the others, it’s easy: it doesn’t take your time for granted.

(CW)TB out.   

Tycho / 2 weeks ago

It finally happened: after well over a year of playing Battle Royale style games, Kiko and I were finally able to win one.  We even had an audience .  Of course, like all victories, this one is a catastrophe for someone - ironically, it’s me.  We spent a profundity of corporate resources manufacturing a brand build entirely around failure.  We even have merchandise that celebrates that failure.  We could win forever, as long as we lost.  And now that’s gone.

What’s more, the unwelcome spike of joy brought on by an unlikely bloom of competence has exposed some hairline fractures in my worldview.  I don’t know what’s next, and it scares me, though Gabriel has suggested a course of action that might make up for some of that lost revenue.

It’s very difficult in the modern era to be surprised by anything, where every crow is a portent and every son is a Mordred.  “Surprise” tends to be doled out via official channels, via the Tactical Crumb, and when you can get in terrible trouble for leaking information it’s only reinforced.  I’ve been surprised a couple times recently - I’ll go into Mutant Year Zero later, but Apex Legends kicked its way out of a God’s skull and now you can download it for free everywhere. 

On the one hand, it seems very pragmatic as a creative target for Respawn: leveraging technology from an excellent game whose success was constrained by publisher support to build an entry in the darling genre of the moment.  In terms of feel, before Apex Legends I would have said that Blackout was the king.  Being the scion of a proven lineage, Blackout was somehow (this was never guaranteed) able to survive the state change into another genre in a way that only bolstered its virtues.  The reason we can’t discount Apex Legends - let’s call him Al - is because the people who invented the Call of Duty feel made it, they have ideas about where the genre should go, and they’ve enunciated them in a playable document.

You release a Battle Royale game now, a couple days after people are holding concerts in your competitors’ titles as though they’re operating not Games As A Service but a kind of Universal Metavenue Untethered From Crude Matter, you’re starting in Gehenna and working your way up.  Being good is insufficient under these circumstances.  So let’s hope they’re lucky, too.

(CW)TB out.

Tycho / 2 weeks ago

The only thing I actually know about Kingdom Hearts is… Well, I guess its density has drawn me in a few times, in a few different ways.  I can’t claim worthiness to enter the temple but I can enjoy the occasional minaret.

If someone were to ask me about it, what I thought, I would say that it is a game that has someone in it named “Xehanort.”  I don’t follow this stuff unless Gabe is playing it and I don’t really mess with it too much in general, but I have never for a second forgotten this Xehanort person.  Also, I’ve really liked what I’ve seen of some of the spinoff, not-quite-sequel titles.  There’s a ton of cool ideas in Chain of Memories, for example.

As for the story, I mean… I saw a really cool graveyard full of Keyblades a decade ago and I still remember it.  As for what’s going on exactly I feel confident that Donald Duck is connected in some way.  I hope I’m one day able to scale an isolated plinth and ask the wizened husk atop it what the fuck is going on.

The thing I find most fascinating about Kingdom Hearts us what a cultural moment it is, and what kind of trust it represents.  I have had the opportunity to work with all kinds of what is called “IP” and trying to do something creative via someone else’s prize property can be kind of a climb.  I think that’s the correct level of diplomacy.  I understand why their characters and setting are important, and I also understand that people want surprises that exist within a certain range of the familiar.  Right?  Theoretically, I’ve been hired to deliver the latter but where precisely the line is has historically been a richly philosophical matter.  What Square Enix did, was allowed to do, with some of the most valuable, iconic characters in human culture was to weave them together with their own dark, heady magic into a kind of evil bible you read one combat at a time.  I don’t even need to play it to appreciate that.  Gabe feels like he’s not where he needs to be to enjoy it, and that may be true, but who knows if its true forever.  That’s a long time to wait for something, especially if Kingdom Hearts II has remained his favorite game for the duration.  Who knows how to parse expectations like that, exactly.

Gabe and I are going to try - try - to play some Anthem Open Beta from 2-4pm PST on the stream, and I hope it works out, because I want his help finding the game he played last weekend.  If it no worky we are devious and clever and will no doubt find a way to misspend a couple hours.

(CW)TB out.

tossing, turning, lying awake

Tycho / 3 weeks ago

The “C” Team Returns, Plus Shadow Council Pin!

Hey!  So, at 4pm PST, Acquisitions Incorporated: The “C” Team makes its triumphant return to the Twitch Stage.  Coming in hot off the premiere at PAX South, we could not be more excited to get back in the groove of weekly shows.  Indeed, to celebrate this storied return, we offer a pin whose purpose to to fearfully and reverently honor the viewer - the Shadow Council pin:

It looks really fucking cool.  See you tonight!


Tycho / 3 weeks ago

I feel like Gabriel reaaally had fun drawing this strip.  I dunno!  It’s just the vibe I’m getting.  Of course, while he was drawing it on the stream, he said that he feels compelled to draw extra hard when he finds the script lacking.  But, you know, joke’s on him: it’s mostly his script.  What do I do here?  God only knows.  I effervesce, you know?  I refresh.

Another shot fired in the Epic/Valve store thing, this time via a one year period of exclusivity for Metro Exodus.  I installed the Epic store so I could play Hades so I’m not immune to this dark force. I’m not cool enough to like Metro games - I read Roadside Picnic, does that get me any points?  I never preordered or anything, or thought I’d be able to add it to my largely fallow Steam Library, so I’m looking at it a bit more dispassionately than some.

Fortnite enabled all of this really, and it’s impossible not to recognize the pluck of it, in the same way real is said to recognize real.  Of course, and only nineties kids will get this, but Valve itself utilized a prominent title - Half-Life 2 - to open its initial front in a different kind of war.  That war, I think we can argue somewhat successfully, was to keep the PC relevant to developers.  It’s almost impossible to imagine now, but you bought things at stores then - stores who didn’t really want to carry PC titles anyway because the single use codes made them inimical to a game shop’s actual business, which was selling the same game repeatedly via a trade-in economy they owned tip to tail.  At the stores I went to, a pre-order was functionally a requirement.  They didn’t give a shit, and why should they.  I was less than a neutral factor.  I was an active waste of their time.

Epic doesn’t really have any option but to pay for exclusives, if that’s how they think they’re gonna succeed.  If they want to be a market of record for games they didn’t make, it has to be done somehow.  Because whatever their royalty breakdown is, and it is more generous than the industry standard, it’s a larger percentage of a smaller thing.  That is what they admit when they cut these deals.  I tolerate it when CD Projekt sells me Thronebreaker exclusively on their own store, but the third party exclusives just… set my jaw.  I get it because I’m conscious and literate.  But I’m not obligated to like it and I would prefer it were a phase.

Here are the innovations on the Epic side, as I see them, where I think there’s a case to lean in.  They’re doing is what other newcomers to existing markets have done: create a moral impetus.  This is like buying a shoe but then they send a shoe somewhere else.  They are, in effect, trying to create something like an Organic label for entertainment software with their greater percentage.  I like this, frankly, and not just because I know a lot of people who make entertainment software.  The truth of that percentage is ambiguous, as I’ve already suggested, but still.  Before there was a Steam, when we talked about Digital Delivery - a term now almost obliterated by the ubiquity of the practice - the hope was that by excising unsightly physicality we’d see price drops that never materialized.  But here, at least with Metro, there’s a ten dollar price drop on the Epic Store.  In the US, anyway.  Charting a course between those two things, though - superior returns and lower prices - I would say is less competition and more revolution.  Right now I would say that the platform is very much in its misshapen, ungainly teenage years but I see potential in this kid.

A+, would tousle.

(CW)TB out.

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