On multiplayer in Bloodborne, and why no one cares about your whining.

Okay, one more post about Bloodborne, for now.

Multiplayer in the Souls series has always been kind of an odd duck. It’s there, and it works, but it’s not the thing that attracts most people to the experience. The idea is certainly novel, in theory; your “world” is open to anyone from another world, be they hostile or helpful, and while you can choose to summon in helpful people whenever you wish, hostile invaders can enter whenever they wish and make your life hell. This has always been an evolving process, of course; in Demon’s Souls invaders could only invade you when you were “whole,” and killing you meant they could become whole, thus putting them at risk in turn, while in Dark Souls, invasion was simply a matter of being in human form, but there were also a whole lot of covenant options available to players who wanted to customize their invasions or even act as spirits of vengeance. Dark Souls 2 took this concept even further, creating covenants and entire zones where invasion was basically a thing that was always going to happen, though it also implemented a concept called “Soul Memory” which retained your total accumulated souls, thus limiting invasion options, which hasn’t been very popular with online players.

Bloodborne takes this a step further, by not only prompting the player at launch of the game if they even want to be online in the first place, but also by limiting the availability of invasions to specific set zones in the game (two “nightmare” zones and some Chalice dungeons), unless you’re summoning help (or invasions) in which case bets are off, which has players up in arms on various posting boards. The general argument seems to b, on the pro side, that the online in Bloodborne is not very good, due to the extensive limitations placed on it because of the “whining” of the “casuals”* and how it’s a huge cop-out and so on, and on the con side, that they’re fine with this, but would prefer alternate options. For the most part, this argument isn’t generally compelling to me, for various reasons, but I wasn’t really sure why I wasn’t really on-board for either side. The fact that I don’t particularly like the online component in Souls games makes sense as to why I didn’t care about the pro online side, but the anti-online side isn’t especially compelling either, frankly, because… well honestly, they don’t really understand the situation, I don’t think.

Let’s start with the pro online side, which can be summed up by the following completely real quote I extracted from GameFAQs that sums up a lot of the arguments in favor of the invasion system in one easily digested sentence:

“I want to be able to invade your game and halt your progress whether you wanted me there or not.”

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On ranking the Souls games, or, which one is YOUR favorite?

I spent a decent amount of time banging out a piece on why Bloodborne isn’t a perfect game over at Diehard GameFAN, during which I made the observation that yes, Bloodborne is probably the third best game in the Souls series*, without really offering any context for that observation. Since I don’t really know how I’d turn that into a full DHGF column, I thought I’d just explain the point here, for those who are interested in this thing. The basic concept isn’t hard to understand, obviously: taking Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls, Dark Souls 2**, and Bloodborne, order them from worst to best, and explain why they rank in those spots. It’s the why of that explanation that’s a bit more complicated, if only because people are going to rank their lists different ways for different reasons, which is the fun part (relative to your definition of fun). So, since I wrote three thousand plus words on why Bloodborne is essentially the third best game in the series, let’s take some time to explain how the other games stack up, and why.

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Random aside on Bayonetta

While I was looking into information for yesterday’s post, I kept coming across posts about Bayonetta, because that’s what happens when you search for stuff about female game characters, basically. The one thing that struck me as interesting was that, while a lot of people point out, possibly correctly, that Bayonetta as a character was designed for making boners, not everyone feels that way, and some women actually quite like her as a character. It’s a really interesting debate if you have the time to sit down and sift through it.

What caught my eye, though, was the insistence by a lot of people, including the folks at Platinum Games, that Bayonetta was originally designed by a woman. That intrigued me, mostly because no one was actually naming her or anything, so I was curious as to exactly who the designer was, and what might have informed her decisions on designing the character.

Well, it didn’t take too long to figure it out: she was designed by Mari Shimazaki.

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Why Redesigning Female Characters is Getting Old and Shitty

So a couple of weeks ago, the newest well-received redesign article popped up in the world, this time from a website called Svampriket, which looks like a Swedish Kotaku. The article, dubbed “Makeover Friday!” which I’ve helpfully linked in translated form, has been linked in a few places as a positive piece, with authors linking the piece and proclaiming the redesigns as a good thing, because of course they are. Interestingly, though, I discovered this thing not through the normal gaming rounds, but through a link that took me to “The Spideygirl Blog,” specifically a post discussing (among other things) this makeover, a recent character addition to Overwatch that came about due to fan objections to female designs, and some general discussions on why the writer thinks the recent discussions in general are kind of shitty. This sort of argument, as well as this one here which talks about why character agency is a stupid argument*, is nothing new, but what interested me was that the source was, by admission, a lesbian female, and the argument itself was less the typical “I LIKE BOOBS RAWR” we expect and more “People want to drag down sexy, large breasted women,” which is an… interesting approach to take, I’ll say that much**. The one thing I read within the post that I did like quite a bit, though, was this:

“This is my problem with the so called criticisms about female portrayals in video games. The people who love to complain about it seem to be inherently sex negative and puritanical. It isn’t so much that there are women who AREN’T busty and sexualized, it’s that there are women who are portrayed as such. And no matter what, apparently, those kinds of characters shouldn’t exist.”

I rather like that argument, actually, because it kind of undercuts a problem with the current discussions that are going on right now: even as someone who supports and fully believes in the idea that we need more equality in gaming, we’re going to solve that by motivating developers to make good characters, not by shaming them into putting pants on Lara Croft.

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Considerations on “We Are the World”: Then, Slightly Less Then, and Now-ish.

When it became apparent that “We Are the World” had turned thirty the other day, I did what I always do in these sorts of situations: I lost myself in a clickhole of Wikipedia research on the subject. What interested me most, though, was originally attempting to figure out if anyone had participated as a vocalist in both songs (apparently not), but rapidly became trying to figure out if the judgments of critics against the WATW25 song were valid. Some people were especially upset about the added rap segment to the end of the song, which seems kind of unfair, while others seemed annoyed about specific artists participating in the project, which seemed slightly more fair, but also like a thing that probably happened the first time around.

The most interesting point that came up more than a few times, though, was that the original song had a much more robust volume of stars than the remake, or rather, that the remake had a lot of one-hit wonder, flash-in-the-pan stars involved in it. I was curious about how valid that actual point was, comparatively speaking, between the versions, so I opted to sit down with the lists of people who appeared in both songs and see, between the two, which had an overall higher caliber of “big name stars” versus mid-ground players or flashes in the pan. During this review, I also noted that a whole bunch of obvious names you’d expect to see in one of the two songs simply never performed in either piece, so I also wanted to close out the article with a potential list of people to pick up, from both missing names and current modern singers, in the event that we decide to do another “We Are the World” for… some reason.

For reference, we’re only really discussing people ranked as “soloists” for both songs, and we’re using the lists as documented on Wikipedia of who performed in which songs, in order of appearance. Both lists seem to be more or less accurate, though if there are any inaccuracies, I’m sure someone will point them out sooner or later.


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On The Subject Of… Shitting in Your Support Base.

So here’s the exact moment where I realized that Cracked has basically become fucking Tumblr:

In case you’re not interested in watching the video (or can’t see Youtube right now), it’s basically a video made for Cracked that takes shots at Macklemore’s “One Love” song (at least a year too late), pointing out that a handful of the lyrics aren’t especially sympathetic to homosexuals (when taken entirely out of context), and that Macklemore is apparently a hack who rips off other people, I guess. The skit was written by Cody Johnston, the worst writer on Cracked not named Felix Clay*, and while I’m absolutely not at all a fan of this piece, it kind of exemplifies two important issues I have, one with Cracked, and one with social and civil progress dialogue. The issue with Cracked isn’t really a big one, and can be summed up as, “Cracked spends entirely too much time talking about social issues considering it’s a comedy site staffed with people who probably aren’t qualified to be having that discussion,”** but the progress dialogue is the more interesting discussion (relatively), so that’s the one we’ll focus on for a bit.

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On why you don’t really want Miles Morales, even if you think you do.

So the fairly notable news in Marvel comic movies that came up recently is that Sony and Marvel/Disney did indeed come to terms on allowing Spider-Man to show up in the Marvel universe films, which means Spider-Man could potentially show up as early as Avengers 2 in a post-credits scene, and is assumed to be popping up in Captain America: Civil War at the very least. What this means in the long-term will depend on how well the character is handled, but what we do know is that, with this deal having happened, Andrew Garfield is most likely done with being Spider-Man, and Marvel will probably recast the role. While that’s almost certainly a stupid idea*, Marvel on the whole is basically nothing but stupid ideas a lot of the time so that’s hardly anything new. We’re almost certainly headed for another fucking origin story whether we want one or not, though interestingly, fan sentiment has begun turning toward the idea of Miles Morales being the Spider-Man in the movie universe instead of Peter Parker. This, too, is nothing new; fans have been clamoring for new blood in the Spider-Man universe for a little while now, and the film plans Sony had on the table up until Amazing Spider-Man 2 tanked out seemed to imply that at least two fan wishes, a Venom film and an unnamed female project (either Spider-Woman or Spider-Gwen) were on the table. With the potential for a reboot on the horizon, then, the possibility for Miles to step in and be a player is high, and even when people understand why Peter will probably be the go-to guy, they still want Miles.

I’ve seen this conversation pop up a few times amongst friends, so this discussion is nothing new. I just recently had the discussion of “Miles or Peter,” with a friend of mine, and before that, a few friends talked up the decision to cast Johnny Storm as a black guy as an interesting choice. One friend of mine even mentioned that, given the choice, he’d sooner have seen John Stewart (this guy, not the host of The Daily Show, though now I want THAT movie) in the Green Lantern film than Hal Jordan. As a person who has a high opinion of social progress in general, especially in popular culture, I love the hell out of those ideas, and they make sense. As someone who actually pays attention to how super hero movies have gone over the past couple decades, though, the concept is actually kind of horrifying, and while I’m hopeful that Black Panther will be a good movie, I’m pretty sure a Miles Morales Spider-Man film would be a disaster of epic proportions.

Here’s why. Continue reading