The Avengers: Age of…ugh…

Spoilers, idiots.

I think it’s safe to say a solid fraction of the American Empire went and saw the Avengers: Age of Ultron last night. In retrospect, this might have been a bad idea in light of how crowded movie theaters tend to be, yet I don’t think this dampened or interfered with my experience overall. I can tune other people out just fine. What I couldn’t tune out was the movie, which by about halfway through, I honestly was trying to do. I’d say this movie has plainly exposed the cracks and fissures in the Marvel Universe and how it is likely to fall apart at the seams. Not only did I have to sit through three or four identical trailers for some other superhero movies that did not interest me whatsoever (yes, that includes Jurassic World), but I had to sit through a two-hour-long trailer for another five years of this shit. God.

No one will *ever* get tired of this.

Gee, I wonder if the Avengers will win.

If you had to ask me, I’d wager Joss Whedon probably got more a lot more creative freedom on this movie than he had on the first Avengers. Since the vomit-inducing disaster that was Dollhouse, I thought humanity had learned not to let Joss Whedon run amok in a studio unsupervised. I guess not. Whedon, much like his partner-in-crime J. J. Abrams, has some really great ideas and a unique style that can make a movie unforgettable if applied intelligently, but much like their mentor, George Lucas, they need adults to keep their darker impulses in line and remind them what a good movie actually looks like. That did not happen this time around. The result is a two-hour-long mess of endless, boring action scenes, half-hearted character development, an almost comical villain, disjointed themes, horrible philosophy, and an ending that makes you unsure if anything of substance really happened when all was said and done, triggering a neverending cycle of existential angst.

Let me address a complaint/apology I’ve already heard from people about AoU: “you had to follow Agents of SHIELD and the Winter Soldier to really get it.” Okay, 1) that’s a really shitty way of handling your franchise’s universe, and 2) no, you didn’t. I had enough knowledge on the EHMAZING plot twists and developments that I knew vaguely that Hydra was Shield (somehow) and that Hydra are the bad guys. That’s really all I needed to know. I didn’t feel like I was lacking too much on the backstory, to be honest. Sure, the movie opens in some stupidly-named fake city in Eastern Europe (as opposed to the many real cities in Eastern Europe with amazing scenery and rich histories they could have easily made use of) with the Avengers beating up some Hydra guys whom I’ve never seen before and couldn’t care less about. They also don’t speak Russian/Serbian/Ukrainian/Whatever despite being obviously Slavic and surrounded by Slavic people, but none of that mattered because I knew what Loki’s scepter was and how valuable it could be. Past that, any information about Hydra and whatever didn’t seem to be and didn’t turn out to be anything important. The movie’s plot was decently contained to its own scenes, so I don’t hold this against it. I have the whole rest of the movie to do that.

And it will be glorious.

And it will be glorious.

So, surprise, they get the scepter and clean out the Hydra base. Here the movie starts to break down, specifically the scene where Scarlet Witch messes with Stark’s mind. Not only was it very poorly done in terms of cinematography, but the movie had no sense of what kind of thematic continuity it wanted to achieve. After watching this scene, I assumed the movie would be a little more psychological and focus on the Avengers’ deepest fears and weaknesses. Buuuut nope. The movie had one scene in Stark’s head and that was it. There was no follow-up, i.e., no thematic bridge. This is not trivial; it was the crippling flaw of the whole film. It’s especially relevant afterward: while all the We-Can-Build-Ultron-We-Have-The-Technology scenes were happening, I had no idea that Scarlet Witch’s nightmares were influencing Stark. He just seemed totally normal, talking with Banner and making his cutesy-wootsy chit-chat with him. The movie didn’t reinforce or deliver on what it tried to set up, as if it had no idea what it wanted to set up in the first place. A simple way to do this would’ve been to have other flashbacks in Stark’s head while he’s analyzing the Scepter’s data or whatever and have him mutter to himself. Show him sweating or agitated, then maybe have Banner come in and have Stark lightheartedly brush him off or even shoo him away, etc. See what I mean? Instead, post facto I have to be told that his nightmare was what drove him to make a mistake, but even that theme of hubris falls apart immediately, because it’s very clear that Stark had nothing to do with Ultron’s emergence. He was at a fucking party when the whole thing was happening. So instead of feeling angry or betrayed by Stark as a viewer or sympathizing with his humanity, I have no investment in what’s happening period.

Then, since these movies can’t possibly sit still and let things percolate for five seconds, they have to jump to a whole number of subplots and stilted character developments that just seem to come out of nowhere. Let’s take Romanov and Banner’s little romance. Was there ever any sort of hint of attraction between the two characters before suddenly right now? I mean, we didn’t have any real time to get to know these characters in that way since the Avengers came out. My point is that it felt slapped on. Like, with freaking kindergarten glue. Maybe I’m missing something because I’m gay and I don’t find either Romanov or Banner physically attractive, but it just didn’t work for me at all. I was bored during these scenes. If you really want to make a film about character development, then make the film about character development. You cannot have your cake and eat it too. This movie tried and ended up puking on the floor. Another way it did this was during the party scenes: there were people here I had never seen and didn’t care about either. Who’s this guy joking about the tank and the general? Who’s the random Korean lady whose name they said, like, once? Why am I supposed to be laughing? In contrast, one of the best scenes in the film was the post-party scene with them all trying to pick up Thor’s Hammer. This fit well and was done well, not to mention it had a clear thematic connection to the idea of teamwork and camaraderie. Maybe I was being too hard on the movie initially. Maybe things will get better.

Things don't get better.

Things don’t get better.

Buuut Ultron shows up. Sigh, Ultron. What happened to you? Oooh, artificial intelligence is scary, I guess. Seriously, though, Ultron was the least-compelling villain I’ve ever seen in a Marvel film, hampered most by, again, not knowing what he wanted to be. Wasn’t he supposed to this massive machine intelligence that could protect the world on his own? Then why did he just seem like a random, wisecracking asshole without the imposing presence or intellect such a character would naturally have? Then we find out that he’s kinda like Stark for…some…reason, but he hates being compared to Stark for…some…reason. Then he hates humanity for…some…reason. Like, why? Why did he get that way? Why did Stark build a homicidal Hal? Why did anything of this shit happen the way it did? What was his motivation? What did humanity do to Ultron to piss him off so much? What did…geez. Oh, wait, we’re moving on. Ultron’s gotten away with the Scepter, because all these people are useless until they aren’t. Then the cracks start widening into fissures and my eyes gloss over to protect themselves.

What do I mean by that? I mean we have to sit through another ninety minutes of uncompelling action scenes. Who else was bored after the first five minutes of the Avengers tearing robots to shreds? Well, I was bored two minutes into it. Suck on that, nerds. I couldn’t take Ultron’s little minions seriously at any point during the film; they were about as effective as the Trade Federation’s droids. On that note, did anyone notice how all the major flaws in this movie are eerily parallel to that of the Star Wars Prequels? I can’t help but notice this: no thematic consistency, bland characters, a weird plot, a bad villain, an overemphasis on action scenes with cheap enemies that nobody cares about, a stilted, awkward romance, etc. The salt in the wound was how the cinematography was just…bad. Everything was so fast and wildly shot that I couldn’t even enjoy the action because my eyes were barely keeping up with it. It would’ve been nice if I’d had, oh, an extra second here or there to process that cool combo Thor and Captain America did. That would’ve made the movie a bit more fun, and fun was what the movie lacked most of all. What’s that sound? Oh, it’s a million rabid Joss Whedon fans wagging their tongues about how witty their self-styled idol is. A snarky jab here and there does not make a movie fun. I said the lack of thematic continuity was what sunk the film and I meant it: the movie was trying so hard to be “dark” that everything just felt depressing. Everything felt gloomy, morose, and suppressed. Some of that was just the lack of originality in the delivery too, considering they obviously took out a clipboard with “Things we have to have in a Marvel movie” and went right through it. One of the worst was Captain America’s very-not-inspiring speech that we’ve seen a thousand times before. Hey, I have a nice way to subvert that: after having a bunch of thoughtful, psychological character development scenes that end in some sort of painful yet meaningful triumph for the team’s cohesion, have Captain just kinda peter out and go like “Yeah, you know the drill.”

Then the maw of hell opens wide.

Then the maw of hell opens wide.

Nope. Instead, we go to Africa, where we meet the Maksimov twins and learn how not to pronounce Slavic names. It’s MahkSEEmuhf, not MACKsimahf, you ignorant morons. Anyway, Ultron finds a random group of beached container ships somewhere and misses a very obvious opportunity to use a slaveship metaphor. Did nobody else catch this? I mean, there’s a fucking greedy-ass white guy overseeing a bunch of African people working for nothing in a cramped ship with poor lighting. Maybe Ultron might’ve been more compelling had he explained his misanthropy a bit, particularly with such a low-hanging fruit hitting him in the face. Yawn. Ultron wants the McGuffinanium that will do something that we don’t understand but probably don’t need to regardless. As the movie demands, the Avengers show up and fight in this confusing, industrial environment with yet another set of really disjointed scenes that drag on for ten minutes. Then, finally, Scarlet Witch does her thing to all the Avengers and makes them go all crazy in their very pretty heads. This was the most interesting part of the movie and the one I was expecting and anticipating: psychological thriller roles! Yay! Then I was expecting the battle to peter out and the focus would shift over to all the Avenger’s nightmares. I may have been drunk at the time to expect something so natural to proceed from this, because what I got was twenty-ish minutes of typical disaster porn in which somehow nobody dies, which completely ruins the impact of the disaster porn. Another suggestion, Joss: how about you have Iron Man and Hawkeye running around the city trying to gather up the rampaging Avengers spliced in with inner scenes that show what’s tormenting them and driving them to such madness? Instead of wasting so much screentime on a boring fight between the Iron Man and the Hulk, one we know Stark is going to win, how about you cut to Banner waking up from his own nightmare and beholding the devastation he has just unwittingly inflicted upon New New Mombasa? That would make this half-hour, you know, exciting?

We have now reached the obligatory lowpoint of the film with the Avengers, again, running away with their tails between their legs after a defeat. Yawn. Our course this time takes us to…some random house in backwoods Americana, where we meet Hawkeye’s lovely wife and children that the movie took all of four seconds to set up or hint at. Was this ever mentioned in the Winter Soldier or another film I missed? I dunno, nor do I think anyone would’ve remembered anyway. This, again, is the perfect opportunity and environment for some rumination and psychological focus on the Avengers’ inner demons as it affects their teamwork, so of course it doesn’t happen. Thor eschews spending time with the team and building up his relationship with them, opting to go off to shoehorn into the movie a tie-in to the larger Marvel Universe that ended up proving totally unnecessary. Captain America sulks and whines at Stark about how he didn’t tell the team about something he didn’t even know was possible nor could they have possibly understood on a practical level even if he had, so this scene falls on its face. He also wonders why Stark doesn’t want to talk about what happened between them the night before, even though it was the most magical moment ever and Stark was so wonderful and blah blah, ha ha, gay jokes about Stark and Captain’s sexual tension or something. Romanov and Banner note about how their barely-established relationship is practically impossible, which is why no one cares about what they’re saying here. Then Romanov wastes her potential nightmare arc by talking about–not showing–that she was sterilized and thus can’t be a mom, because that’s what all women really want to be, right? Mommies.

Silly women.

Silly women, thinking and all.

This is another rabbit trail I want to talk about, namely the irritating misogyny in these films. Why do all the female characters in this franchise suck? Yon Black Widow doesn’t cut it anymore, particularly after we find out her BIG INNER REGRET is not being able to have children. Really? Not Budapest? Not any of the mental torture she was subjected to as a child? Not being forced to be an assassin that kills people with no normal life? Really. Okay. Also, can we have at least one other female Avenger? Scarlet Witch does not count. She was a B-character with nothing of substance beyond her relationship with her brother, whose death was so weirdly done and so pathetically telegraphed that I was chuckling when the dramatic music started playing. Considering almost no time was devoted to either Scarlet Witch or Quicksilver to begin with, I wouldn’t have cared had I known more about her anyway. We could’ve found out about their backstory in a more creative way than having Quicksilver talk about it in a totally-not-native Slavic accent. I should also note those two characters are idiots, being unable to suspect the towering, red-eyed machine monstrosity that’s talking about “extinction” and “evolution” in such foreboding terms. Eventually Scarlet Witch has to be shown a literal vision of an extinction level event to figure out that Ultron might be a bad guy. Does her English suck that bad? What did she think he wanted to do? Make cupcakes?

After wasting another twenty minutes of time not focusing on the inner troubles of a film that is clearly trying to spin itself around the theme of inner troubles, Mace Windu shows up literally out of nowhere (how did he get to the house? What mode of transportation did he use to get there? Was he waiting there in Hawkeye’s barn for weeks waiting for the Avengers to arrive?) and gives another speech about how the Avengers need to come together, an issue the previous Avengers film had already addressed and resolved. Now it feels tacked on and cliche, because the movie didn’t bother to provide us with the thematic experience it thinks it wants us to absorb. Then the movie just kinda totally forgets about this whole psychothriller aspect and whisks us all off to South Korea to go chase after Whats-her-face (you write such strong female characters, Joss). Ultron is there with the McGuffinanium to build a new body that he clearly doesn’t need but really wants for some reason. This is also ironic, since he babbles on about evolving and how “nothing but metal will be left alive” after his new iteration on Zechs Marquise’s Armageddon Remake–all while lusting after some bullshit mechano-organic hybrid body. The Avengers show up to stop this inexplicable dastardly plan, and the Smirnov twins realize they’ve been working for a monster who looks very much like a monster and has never hidden the fact that he’s a monster. The telegraphed allegiance shift out the way, away we go: time for a truck chase scene through Seoul in which amazing amounts of mayhem and destruction happen, yet nobody dies or even suffers a paper cut. Alas, all bad things must come to an end.

Like all good Stark Trek.

And good Star Trek. Sigh…

Back to the Halls of Justice, which Ultron doesn’t decide to attack even though he knows exactly where Avenger Tower is, has successfully attacked it before, and had a major hard-on for dat body that he immediately loses all interest in. To ensure Joss Whedon doesn’t have to write any more scenes involving women for a while, Black Widow is captured, locked up, then left alone and unmonitored to jury-rig a radio. Like, Ultron doesn’t even torture her or tackle her psychological issues, again missing another obvious opportunity to establish a theme. The Avengers disagree over whether or not to put Jarvis into the magical body of magic. For some reason. Jarvis has, after all, done nothing but serve the Avengers faithfully and even protect the Internet from Ultron without even knowing about it, but apparently everyone is mad at Stark for the thing that was clearly not his fault and doesn’t want to use the obvious weapon they need to give them a critical edge against Ultron, who is trying to make humanity extinct. Who is doing what? Why? Why does everyone hate AI so much? Stuff happens, glass shatters (shattered glass apparently does not cut human skin), and Thor shows up after his cold spa day to force this plot to move forward. Jarvis melds with the magical body and has a really awkward scene where he kinda-sorta-maybe explains who the fuck he is and what his motivations are. Then they mention the Mindstone, which is the dumbest and laziest name for a magical gem ever, rendering Thor’s spa day utterly pointless except for the fact that we got to see him without his shirt on. I dunno. Let’s get this ending sequence over with.

We return to Not-Moldova and find out that Ultron has been building an army of Iron Man suits based off the equipment the Avengers apparently did not bother to clean out or destroy after their successful raid, something which would’ve prevented this scenario from happening. We also find out that Ultron’s grand plan is to induce an extinction-level event by turning Not-Moldova into a comet, which begs the question as to what was the point of the whole rest of the movie. Why didn’t he just do this in the beginning? What purpose did the McGuffinanium serve? What is going on? So the movie cops out and doesn’t make rescuing Romanov a thing. Banner just kinda rescues her awkwardly and then…I dunno. They attack, and they fight the robots, and people scream, and the town lifts off, and Magic-Jarvis barely participates, and Mace Windu shows up with a helicarrier that nobody noticed at all or heard coming even though it’s propelled by giant-ass fans that crush all life on the surface below them, and Scarlet Witch blows things up, and they say witty things, and people kinda-sorta get paper cuts but don’t really die, and Quicksilver dies and nobody cares, and they save the day as expected. So. Fucking. Boring. I was laughing at the big scene where Ultron’s minions were fighting the Avengers while Ultron was just standing there doing, like, absolutely nothing, even though he could’ve just flown in during the confusion, hit the McGuffinthingie, dropped the comet, and won. The movie honestly thought two minutes of confusing action in which the Avengers totally dominate their foe without any struggle would be exciting. Maybe it was exciting for the five-year-olds in the audience, but I was about ready to pass out. Then everything is fine and dandy and that’s somehow supposed to mean something to me.

I'm lying to myself.

Everybody lies.

Finally, to twist the knife in the wound, we have to sit through a scene where the last one Iron Man Suit with Ultron in it talks with Magic-Jarvis so that Joss Whedon can have his chance to spin his quasi-pacifist, semi-misanthropic bullshit. I will pay someone money to go find a cardboard tube and shove it down Whedon’s throat every time he tries to write something that is not cutesy-witty. Joss Whedon, you are not the scion of Socrates. Make up your mind: either humans suck or they don’t. Either humans are worth it or they’re not. Don’t feed me this high-school rhetoric about how “there is grace in their failings” and all this nonsense. It is not convincing. This scene was so awkward and contradictory that I didn’t understand what happened. Nothing Ultron said made sense; nothing Magic-Jarvis said made sense either. So nobody was right or wrong, and I had no idea how to feel. Cut to the end scene where we are apparently exactly where we were at the end of the last Avengers movie, bringing the relentless cycle of existential dread to a close: Thor runs off for another spa-day even though we all know he’s gonna come back, Banner runs off to Fiji even though we all know he’s gonna come back, Stark talks about retiring even though we all know he’s going to come back, and Black Widow and Captain start training more Avengers. Yay. Was that all worth two hours of my time?

No.

No, it wasn’t.

But you know what is?

Video games. Sweet, sweet video games.

Retrocaustic: Code Geass – Episode 3

Code Geass is stupid. But how stupid? Let’s find out together.

Oh. A gun. I thought you'd never ask.

Oh. A gun. I thought you’d never ask.

Episode III – Lelouch Lamperouge’s Day Off

  • It’s this fucking recap again. As predicted.
    • In the face of the Knightmare Frame, Japan lost its marbles and forgot it could shoot bullets at the following established weak spots: the eyes, knees, foot propulsion units, arms, legs, and any other part resembling a human joint.
      • Remember last episode where we learned there have been six previous generations of Knightmare frames…somehow? No way this weapon was a surprise for the Japanese military. Therefore, I submit a formal request to Sunrise to stop lying to us and reveal themselves for the Lizard Overlords they really are.
  • The Knightmares randomly open up their cyclops thingamabobs and scan things or something. Why do they do that? What function does it serve? Do they have no knowledge of the battlefield until they use that? If so, that makes them blind at almost every point on the battlefield.
    • The real answer is that the animators thought it looked cool. Without even thinking about it.
      • This is not necessarily a bad thing:
        •  SILLY.ALL-THE-CROSS-EXPLOSIONS
  • Are we still on this recap we’ve seen twice already? How inattentive do they think their viewers are–oh wait, it’s over.
  • I know it’s a cool shot, but that part of the opening where Zero is standing on a 2-inch-wide pillar randomly located in the ocean isn’t something anyone but the most physically apt human being could do. Lelouch is the exact opposite of that.
  • “The False Classmate.” That’s a very good title, albeit confusing, because all these “high-school students” attend, maybe, two classes out of the year, still get full credit, and don’t miss out on any relevant information that would affect their careers or ability to function in society. So who is it referring to?
    • Fuck literacy. Fuck education. Fuck viable job paths. I CAN PILOT GIANT ROBOTS.
      • It worked out so well for Shinji.
  • Yeah, soldier. You’re smart. What did happen to that POISON GAS that started this whole massacre out of the blue anyway? Where did it go? These are important things to wonder, but life is confusing and disappointing, so don’t expect anything satisfying.
    • Where are the Japanese people? There are no Japanese people in this shot.
      • Real Japanese People:
      •  Japan's Economy Shrinks More Than Forecast After Record Quake
      • Not Japanese People:
      •  SILLY.NOT-JAPANESE-PEOPLE
    • THAT GUY NEXT TO KALLEN STADTFELD’S DERRIERE HAS FUCKING BLONDE HAIR.
      • And now there’s a random French Guy?
        • I’m very confused.
  • Hmm. Prince Clovis has been giving orders that are so out-of-character as to defy belief, and now you realize he’s the only one on the command floor. Hmmm. I have a theory: you need to be fired.
  • Why does Lelouch’s gun have a red lightbulb on it? What does that do? How does it add to the gun’s functionality? It still fires bullets, not lazers. What’s the point of the lightbulb?
  • Clovis tries really hard to pretend to be nice and compassionate after casually ordering the massacre of 40 million people twenty-ish minutes ago.
    • Great plan. I’m sure it’ll work.
  • Hey, um, Lelouch? Why aren’t you calling Clovis out on his rank moral travesty instead of thinking entirely about yourself and your “tragic” childhood that was better off than, oh, 90% of all humanity ever?
    • Our fearless leader, ladies and gentlemen.
      • These guys take forever to talk. By now, competent security forces would have stormed the place and taken Lelouch captive. Thankfully, no such things exist in the Holy Britannia(n) Empire. They have no need of them.
        • Except for, uh, right now.
  • Holy shit. These random terrorists storming the Royal Palace had such an advantageous position they were able to lay strafing fire through all the open windows of the palace? What was everyone else doing? Smoking weed?
    • And how the fuck did Nunnally survive? How did they hit everyone except the small, helpless child being held in her mother’s arms?
  • Clovis, again, it’s not so hard to believe you’d be complicit in the cold-blooded murder of someone. Go back three bullets (hee hee) and see for yourself.
    • One death is a tragedy, but a million is breakfast at Clovis’.
      • His favorite dish is blood crumpets.
  • Sigh. Here is why Lelouch sucks as a character and a messiah figure. Instead of chastising Clovis for ending his short career as Third Prince by trying to one-up Pol Pot, Lelouch makes everything about this massacre and all the events of the past two episodes all about him and his personal vendetta with the Empire. Then instead of thinking about it for five seconds and turning the Third Prince into a reliable source of information or influence within the internal workings of the Empire, Lelouch wastes his trump card a singularly personal question, as if Clovis would know anything about the murder of Lelouch’s mother. What is he basing this hunch on anyway?
    • Surprise, Clovis knows jack-shit. Too bad for that Geass.
      • And then he just straight-up murders the guy. Not that Clovis didn’t deserve it, but that’s the problem: Lelouch didn’t seem to give a shit that Clovis had done all those bad things. Why did he kill him? Just because he didn’t like him? Woo, go Lelouch. I believe in you now.
  • Ashford Academy, home of spoiled Britannimerican children who pay no attention to their royal history and have not already recognized Lelouch Lamperouge as Lelouch vi Britannia.
    • They must all be smoking weed and/or pixie dust.
  • Just to emphasize how fucking spoiled these kids are, we’ll have a creepy horseback riding club member strut his horse right outside the window. Most schools struggle to get a budget for a good music program. How much money does this school have?
    • MY RANDOM ENGRISH WORD WILL MOTIVATE YOU BITCHES.
  • Wow. So the leader of the Ashford Academy Student Council is a perverted whore. This place is nuts.
  • How big is this fucking school? It makes Versailles look like a run-down hostel.
  • In a world not run by sociopaths, the school would have been evacuated after a supposed incident involving POISON GAS. Fear not: Milly Ashford knows best and checks out girls years younger than her in the school locker room.
  • Gee, Lelouch. Why would the tyrannical World Empire cover up the fact that its Third Prince had been inexplicably murdered in its own backyard?
    • I have a suggestion, Lelouch: go back to your history class at your fancy-ass academy and learn how autocracies tend to operate. Then you won’t ask retarded questions.
  • Uh huh. Lelouch has already been shown to be a sociopathic crazy man. Why is he vomiting over killing Clovis?
  • Jeremiah somehow has the brains to recognize that the mysterious killer of the Third Prince won’t be found by a cursory, superficial investigation, but not the brains to fight inexperienced Japanese rebels using inferior technology.
  • Villetta spins some cockamamie idea of moving up in the world in the wake of Clovis’ untimely demise. Lelouch was 17th in line to the throne. That leaves at least 15 other people who could succeed the Emperor. How does this change the political situation of the Empire in any way that either of them could exploit?
    • In other words, Villetta is high as fuck.
      • I still want to know what country she’s from.
        • And what hair dye Jeremiah uses.
  • Kallen Stadtfeld’s Derriere shows up at Ashford Academy. Like magic. From pixies.
    • The girls gawking over her clearly imply she has been at the Academy for a while. How did Lelouch not recognize her?
  • Geez, that name must’ve been hard for Rivalz’s voice actor to pronounce.
  • Rivalz, you must be high too. Doesn’t anyone question how a frail girl who is never in school somehow remains at the top of the class? That isn’t how scholastic ability works, you know.
    • SUSPICIOUS SUSPICION IS MENTIONED ONCE AND SUMMARILY IGNORED.
      • Rivalz somehow knows all of Kallen Stadtfeld’s Derrier’s personal history, but teases Lelouch for having a crush on her. Lelouch does not tease him back for being an obvious creep.
  • “What’s a bee doing in here?” – Kallen Stadtfeld’s Derriere.
    • What…?
      • Huh?
        • Has Kallen Stadtfeld’s Derriere never been outside in its life?
          • You’re in a lush garden filled with trees and flowers.
            • Do you not know what bees do?
    • EVERYONE IS HIGH AS FUCK.
  • Kallen Stadtfeld’s Derriere has a violent outburst in the middle of an open courtyard which she karate-chops a bee out of thin air and rants about how she has to act like an invalid.
    • Everyone was freaking out at the bee two seconds ago. Did she think nobody would keep watching her? Or that her voice wouldn’t carry?
      • Oh wait, everyone is high. I forgot.
  • “Oh crap, he saw me!”
    • No shit, asshole.
  • Aaaand Lelouch not only wastes his trump card yet again, he uses it in a conspicuous setting in which any number of a hundred normal things could interrupt his mindrape of this girl.
    • Like, say, one of Kallen Stadtfeld’s Derriere’s terrified friends coming over to see if she was okay. That might throw a wrench in this scenario.
      • But of course it doesn’t happen, because no one in this universe knows what the fuck bees are.
  • Man, it’s a good thing nobody in this courtyard is listening to Lelouch talk about being in Shinjuku yesterday and piloting Knightmares.
  • Kallen Stadtfeld’s Derriere is half-Britannimerican, half-Japanese. Which definitely explains why she looks nothing like a Japanese person.
  • Oops, something went wrong. What a shock.
    • Luckily for Lelouch, Kallen Stadtfeld’s Derriere is as retarded as she has ever been, as she refuses to question why she doesn’t remember talking to this weird guy she’s never met or why he specifically mentions Shinjuku and reacts as guilty as humanly possible. Nor does she recognize his voice after listening to it over the radio for hours.
      • Duuuur, what’s a bee, Kallen? What’s a bee?
  • Lelouch is a retard. He already knew his magical powers had limitations through his encounter with Villetta. Why didn’t he test it out beforehand instead of risking everything offhand?
  • Holy crap, Nunnally’s maid actually resembles a Japanese person. There is some order to this galaxy after all!
    • But because this show sucks ass, they had to dumb it down for the audience (which is primarily Japanese) and show them making origami cranes. Because there are no other elements of Japanese culture these Japanese writers could think of.
      • This scene also establishes that Sayoko knows British.
  • Why does the top-secret not-POISON-GAS military research facility use crappy laptops instead of top-of-the-line mainframes and equipment? Is it to show we’re in the future?
    • Fuck you.
  • Wait. Wait wait wait wait wait wait. These people know exactly what Geass is and what it’s capable of. They have Geass-empowered subjects in containment literally right next to them. And later on, we see that mind-controlling powers are a dime-a-dozen among their research subjects. So explain to me how these people are running around with their heads up their asses without the slightest inkling as to what’s going on?
    • Seriously, why doesn’t General Bartley put two and two together and figure out that C.C. probably ended up giving someone a mind-control Geass? This is the obvious conclusion that they are obviously missing, and they have all the relevant information to come to this conclusion after two seconds of thought.
      • Bartley, you already know that the Emperor knows what you’re doing. Or should at least suspect it.
        • This show is so fucking bad.
  • There is no way Nunnally does not know what origami is after living in Japan for almost all her life. It was probably the first thing they showed her when they arrived in Japan eight-ish years ago. This is only done to setup the fact that Sayoko is their very Japanese maid and establish a shallow motif of compassion for Nunnally because the writers can’t think of competent ways to develop her character.
    • God in heaven.
  • What did her talking fast have to do with her soup dripping from her mouth? She wasn’t talking when she put it into her mouth.
    • This studio can’t keep track of basic continuity.
  • Why does she call Lelouch “onii-sama?” What normal Japanese person would call their brother that? And how would that even translate properly? Dude, these two characters aren’t Japanese. They’re British…ish. Their culture does not have equivalents for “ani” and “otouto,” nor do Western cultures call each other by their social positions so stiltedly. Nunnally would just call him “Lelouch.” So why doesn’t she?
    • Because these writers are racist idiots, in case it wasn’t obvious as the color of the sky.
      • By the way, it’s totally appropriate, grammatical, and natural among Japanese families to just call each other by given names. This goes beyond racism. It’s sheer laziness. The writers are following established tropes without thinking about anything whatsoever.
        • News flash, anime fans: Code Geass is commercial trash, not an anime masterpiece. It’s about as creative and intelligent as Grey’s Anatomy.
  • Blah blah blah, if you fold a thousand cranes, a wish comes true. The trope is fulfilled, the motif is established. Let’s move onto something else that doesn’t make me want to punch people.
  • Nunnally wishes for the world to be a gentle place. She is living in an elaborate mansion with a maid of a conquered people in a conquered land and never has to want for anything.
    • Nunnally is a shallow, spoiled, vapid child without an ounce of perspective.
  • Lelouch responds with a bland platitude that no insightful person would believe.
  • Let’s stop for a second here: there is nothing physically wrong with Nunnally’s eyes or body, right? It’s just the Emperor’s Geass affecting her, correct? So how does Lelouch not suspect something is really weird about all this, particularly after having just received magical mind-control powers?
    • “Psychologically-induced blindness” is bullshit, people. The human nervous system does not work that way. No, don’t try to use “psychosomatic response” as a euphemism for plot magic. There has to be some sort of damage to the brain, the nervous system, or the eye for one of the most fundamental and critical human senses to stop working. People cannot subconsciously will themselves to stop seeing or hearing, and thank God that is so.
      • So again, Lelouch should be a little disturbed by how his sister cannot see for no discernible reason.
        • How is she so well-adjusted anyway for having witnessed the wholesale murder of her mother? Put her in counseling, for God’s sake.
  • Wait, maybe they do all have brain damage.
    • Or I do.
      • Shit.
  • The Ashford family, which runs a palace-school in a conquered Britannimerican territory that is literally in sight of the capitol complex, is sheltering an exiled Prince of Britannia.
    • The Holy Britannia(n) Empire has no need for “intelligence.”
      • And why are they sheltering them anyway? Isn’t that risky? What are they getting in return? Are they doing it because they’re nice?
        • Oh, wait, no, they glossed over that and moved on. Okay.
  • I have to laugh, Lelouche. As if none of these bright, elite Britannimerican students haven’t figured out who you are.
    • After all, you look exactly like him, are still using your name, are still using your mother’s maiden name (really crafty there), and have your sister, Nunnally, right there with you.
      • I do hope none of them ever get the whimsy to type “Lelouch vi Britannia”–or even just “Lelouch”–into Not-Google, otherwise your whole scheme is totally fucked.
  • Oh, pity poor Lelouch. I’m pretty sure an oppressed Japanese child scrounging for dirt to eat would trade places with you and your terrible fate of living in comfortable mansions and being political tools/prey of others’ conspiracies.
    • You pretentious jackwaggit.
  • “I have to make a world where Nunnally can live happily.”
    • The perfectly comfortable life with her brother in a mansion where she is waited on hand and foot without fear or want doesn’t count, apparently.
      • Remember this, kids. It might have some relevance somewhere down the line.
  • Yeah, Japan. The Japanese invented the pinky promise. No other culture has something remotely similar to this.
    • Wikipedia seems to indicate the pinky promise has existed in America since 1860, if not earlier. Hmm. That’s weird.
      • It also seems to indicate the Japanese tradition of 指切り likely originated in China.
        • China. I wonder where that is.
          • Do you still like this series? I fucking hope not.
  • How did Sayoko communicate a Japanese poem to Nunnally without her having a deep knowledge of Japanese culture or language? It’s almost as if this whole scene was written by Japanese writers with only the most vague sense of how other cultures outside their own operate or might communicate things.
    • China. Never heard of it.
  • That’s the grossest pinky promise I’ve ever heard of. I love it.
    • Lelouch, I hope you do eat a thousand needles. It’s the least you deserve.
  • Don’t worry, Nunnally. I’m sure Lelouch will never lie to you.
    • Neeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeever.
  • Is this fucking scene over yet?
    • It is. Hooray.
  • “This the only weapon I have.”
    • Not your intellect. Not your connections. Not your scandalous knowledge of a potential cover-up of your mother’s murder. Nope. No other weapons.
  • So that’s interesting. The Britannia(n) capital was transferred to America after being defeated at Edinburgh. That sounds rather fascinating. Maybe the show should concentrate less on Lelouch’s idiotic plotting and more on this alternate history.
    • I know, I know. Bad joke.
  • Lelouch does some basic investigatory work. I’ll admit, this does put him ahead of L in the intellect department at least.
    • Though that’s not saying much.
  • HOW BIG IS THIS SCHOOL?
    • Kallen Stadtfeld’s Derriere is talking on a radio on an open balcony. Sound waves travel approximately two feet in this universe and go no further.
      • Nor is anyone intercepting this radio communication somehow.
  • Wait. This isn’t a radio communication. This is a cellphone communication.
    • Holy shit. They are sooooooooooooooooooooo fucked.
      • Like, completely, totally fucked.
        • Jesus Christ, you idiots. Don’t you remember who built the fucking cellphone network here after the war? You really think the Britannimericans won’t intercept this call?
  • KALLEN STADTFELD’S DERRIERE SUSPECTS LELOUCH, CONFIRMING THE EXISTENCE OF AT LEAST ONE FUNCTIONING NEURON IN HER BRAIN.
    • But she can’t recognize his voice. It’s probably just one neuron. Alas. I had such high hopes for her.
  • Why do they paint their Knightmares purple? That’s fucking stupid.
  • Wait, what just happened with Bartley and Jeremiah and all them? Why did he brazenly attack a funeral procession? How is something so sacrilegious going to advance his standing in the Empire? Why didn’t the show tell us what just happened?
  • So the student council has its own separate mansion for a club house. That’s it. I feel absolutely no pity for any of these people anymore. They can all burn in a fire.
  • What was Lelouch planning to do once he brought Kallen Stadtfeld’s Derriere here? He knows she can kick his ass. What was his plan?
    • Skipped over that too. Instead, let’s learn how spoiled these kids are some more.
  • Oh, so Milly’s dad asked her to let Kallen, a borderline truant, into the school’s student council. That makes no sense.
  • Why did Kallen Stadtfeld’s Derriere bow just like a Japanese person would? THESE PEOPLE ARE NOT JAPANESE.
  • Rivalz is the secretary. Pbbbbbth. No wonder this student council gets jackshit done.
  • Shirley, of course, lists no official role in the student council as part of her introduction. She does, however, mention she’s in the swim club. What relevant information that Kallen Stadtfeld’s Derriere would never be interested in.
    • Some forty-year-old Japanese guy would, though.
  • Nina doesn’t even tell her anything about herself at all. Fuck it.
  • Rivalz suggests underage drinking. Rivalz is da bomb.
  • Did nobody catch how Kallen Stadtfeld’s Derriere caught that cork like nothing? Why don’t these people ever suspect anything their nervous systems tell them?
  • That wasn’t remotely sexual in anyway.
    • Nor is this totally necessary shower scene.
  • Oh, poor Lelouch. He lives in a mansion with his sister. Here’s a single, solitary tear from the Native American people.
  • Kallen Stadtfeld’s Derriere doesn’t seem to consider how jumping to conclusions like this and giving away the truth about her physical condition might backfire.
    • She also a knife in her purse. For some reason.
  • Why does she say “yes” and “no” in that sentence? Does the Japanese language not have words for either?
  • What. What the fuck.
    • Why is there a random phone in this bathroom?
      • Why is it there?
        • Who would authorize the expense of installing a phone line into this bathroom?
          • What?
            • How?
              • Why?
  • No, Lelouch. There is no way you could have planned this out.
  • Kallen Stadtfeld’s Derriere has no concept of “operational security.”
    • This resistance is more doomed than the Noldor.
  • Ha ha ha. Lelouch spins it as a game on the Interwebs. Ha ha ha.
    • I hate these writers so much.
  • Oh yeah, KSD. Lelouch, whom you believe to be innocent, has no reason to suspect you for A) lying about how weak you are and B) for having a fucking knife in your purse and threatening him in the shower with it after C) getting a weird phone call from some guy that mentioned a “ceasefire.” Isn’t it kinda weird how cool and calm he’s taking all this?
    • Huuuur, what’s a bee, Kallen?
  • This school has automatic doors. It has fucking automatic doors and fancy phones in every bathroom.
    • I hate this school so much.
  • Again, there is no way Lelouch could have planned that.
  • Lelouch gives examples of how the student council just doesn’t require much work. You heard it, people: creating a school budget, planning major events and festivals, etc., do not take work. Lelouch has never worked a day in his life.
  • There’s a Cross-Dressing Party?
    • A Silence Masquerade?
      • A Swimsuit Day?
        • (I wonder what demographic this is for.)
  • Clovis is dead. The mass murderer is dead. Everyone is so, so sad.
  • Hey, Suzaku. Still think you can change the system from within?
  • Drown, you motherfuckers. Drown in your champagne with a bathroom telephone wrapped around your necks.

5 Things Game Developers Apparently Believe (Are Legitimate Excuses For Their Screwups)

(In response to this from Kotaku. The views expressed henceforth are my own.)

Before I joined the military, I worked at Starbucks as a barista. My formerly conservative views and upbringing gave me a pro-military leaning when it came to American men in uniform. Despite this, I didn’t spend all my time spewing vitriol at the big-budget Pentagon on how carelessly they were using our troops. I didn’t have to: they obviously were. Still, they offered a bunch of reasons why people just didn’t understand the realities of war. I didn’t care then or now. It turns out that, despite not knowing much about the real-life military, I still kind of expected them to follow all those inconvenient rules of engagement and Geneva Conventions and to get shit done in a reasonable time frame with as little loss of life and expenditure as possible despite all the unimaginable conditions they endured every day. Funny how that works.

Six or seven-ish years removed, I still expect that of the military, even though I know a little more about what it’s like in uniform as opposed to outside of it, probably because we are responsible for a vast amount of power that can (and has) ruined entire countries. I mean, I guess it’s probably hard for those guys manning our nukes in Montana somewhere to wake up at 0400 or whatever and deal with the most monotonous, horrible job that they hope to God never ever gets exciting, but I still kinda ruthlessly expect them to foster and maintain that sort of discipline each and every day while they’re handling devices that can bring about The End of All Things (complete with Howard Shore score) in the space of a few minutes. How unreasonable of me. The gall.

I say this stuff as a deliberately hyperbolic example, so let’s take it down a notch: I guess it’s pretty hard to build a building, e.g., an apartment complex, a type of facility in which billions of people live. To make matters worse for my spoiled ass, I happen to reside in a developed country with a decent standard of living and the inconvenient expectations that brings about, so I expect the facility to be safe, clean, protect me from the elements, and all the other sort of things I trade a little over one-fourth of my paycheck for. If, in the course of my residence, I spy a hole in the corner of my study, the roof starting to cave in, or simply a lot of bugs of the various types that shouldn’t be there (apart from spiders. I really don’t give a fuck about spiders and oh my god would you stop freaking out over them), I basically have grounds to complain about this, right?

Wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

1. Making games is a thousand times harder than you think (so it’s not our fault if we fail miserably)

I am an atrocious blogger. Check how often I post (and what I post about) if you don’t believe me, but jeez, I’ve gotten a little tired of the game industry coming up with all sorts of variations on this same comic mea culpa, which really just says “fuck you faggots it’s not our fault” in regards to stuff that clearly is. It’s hard to feel empathy for them when, oh, I don’t know, the developers for Assassin’s Creed go on record saying “it’s really hard to make female animation models, so fuck women. They’re not important!” then shit out a game that tried to coast on the same tired formula of their franchise’s last five games, hoping you wouldn’t notice how the rendered dolls behaved and appeared very much like the vanguard of Cthulhu.

Let’s say you want to make a game. The first thing you do is set goals. Over the past twenty-five years or so, one of them has tended to be to fix most of the critical bugs before shipping things. Then you can move onto things like story, gameplay, themes, etc. Done.

Nope.

Nope.

To make a game now, you need to focus on monetization. This is a fancy corporate term for squeezing money from your potential consumers who have stuck with you all these years, all due to a vicious cycle of spiraling costs and development times for much smaller profit margins, one we loudly lament on our Twitter feeds but refuse to do anything about, since the actual people above us tend to sign our paychecks. I can understand that you have families and can’t really be asked to be moral crusaders at the forefront of changing the industry you’re stuck in or wish to remain a part of, but then that probably means shouldn’t throw stones from your glass houses, as eventually some people might a mistake your attempts at catharsis as a legitimate opinion. Again, the gall.

Maybe I should have read the Necronomicon after all.

Maybe I should have read the Necronomicon after all.

And that’s just the most vocal people at the top, you know, the ones with some capital and wiggle room to freely express themselves in a public space once in a while. Since this is their livelihood and career, one that doesn’t tend to allow crossover into other sections of society, the unfortunate lower members of the studio have to shut up and deal with their studio heads’ questionable management methods and objectives and knock out the overwhelming pile of shit in the “To Do” pile on their desks. Granted, I haven’t worked in the game industry, but considering this is how it works in almost every company or organization worth a damn, I’m going to guess it applies to the oh-so-special cadre of persecuted game developers. Then you have to deal with the inherent uncertainty that comes with an industry with little solid ground and studio shutdowns and hoping Metacritic doesn’t tear the kitten you’ve labored on for five years into tiny pieces and, and, and…

I haven’t even mentioned design and code, because I’m giving up trying to follow the general literary format of the original article for no reason. Let’s skip straight to my point:

No one. Fucking. Cares.

This little “explanation” is something nearly everyone in the work force has to deal with. No one outside the military really understands us; as mentioned before, we’re still expected to do our jobs. Nobody outside the finance world understands it; it’s still kinda expected (but not really forced to, thanks to the power of Mammon that people still haven’t figured out is entirely imaginary) to do something productive for society. Nobody outside the video game industry really understands it; you’re still expected to meet a basic level of quality.

You’re not special snowflakes.

2. Games look like complete ass for 90% of their production (which is why we never explain anything)

You know what I love about Blizzard (that company that makes WoW and some other games whose names I can’t really remember right now…weird…)? Apart from their generally consistent output of solid iteration on established franchises, they’ve become masters at pretending to be really earnest people whose fans don’t empathize with, yet refusing all the while to elucidate and build a culture of transparency of how decisions are made in their meeting rooms. They’ll make long Blue Posts on their forums once in a while about how “we really try hard and care and blah blah blah” while making absurdly clueless decisions about problems in their own games, ones that their vigilant raiders were screaming at them for weeks to fix. Eventually, after a thousand and one mistakes, you stop believing they’re sincere. What’s baffling is that they (and almost all other game studios) insist on adhering to some unspoken Biblical Commandment that internal decisions and priorities are sworn to greater secrecy than CIA black ops, as if revealing their whole methodology–one uniquely tailored to their own institutional culture–will ruin everything. I don’t know why. To go back to my own experience, how the military works is not exactly mystifying. In fact, it’s one of the better understood ways of living in human civilization, since shitty stuff happening to you for inscrutable reasons beyond your control continues to remain literary gold. To be sure, the military doesn’t want you to know the precise details of what it’s up to right now unless you actually need to know, but that’s somewhat reasonable. Not for the video game industry, though. Imagine what would happen if they were transparent. They might get…embarrassed.

SILLY.KOTAKU-RANT-3

Exhibit A.

The above poorly generated meme refers to the brief scandal in World of Warcraft known as Candlegate, in which Ion Hazzikostas (a cool guy that I met very briefly while my face was painted and stuffing itself with a mistakenly large pizza) declared, to the best of his knowledge in that minute, that they wouldn’t be nerfing an in-game item (yon Candle) even though it was clearly overpowered and causing some serious issues. Twenty four hours later, a hotfix was implemented to nerf the Candle. Oops. Egg on face. Hazzikostas was working off the information on the top of his head, but it still reflected a telling sign of the left hand not knowing what the right was doing, if not more. Suffice it to say, attempts at transparency in a corporate structure at odds with the very idea tend not to go very well.

Obviously, it’s not hard to imagine why this aversion to transparency endures. Video game developers are people, and much of what happens in those studios undoubtedly arises less from holistic creative aspirations–or even EA-style shenanigans–and more from the gritwork that we love to watch Frank Underwood spin: politics, self-interest, and ruthless pragmatism. You don’t really want to admit even the possibility that Casey Hudson ruined the Mass Effect franchise for the sake of his own ego or whatever (an unverified and unverifiable rumor, but to quote Mordin Solus: “theory fits evidence”), so you keep your mouth shut. You don’t want to try to put your foot down against Activision’s goal to release another soulless Call of Duty clone to keep the money coming in, so you keep your mouth shut. In a close-knitted industry where much of your resume involves your reputation, burning bridges safely is an opportunity most members will never run into.

The problem is that this sort of mentality actively instills among your fans a very skeptical, hostile, and altogether unforgiving culture towards you. It’s not like your feeble PR antics actually fool any significant number of people. They just communicate that our concerns and desires ultimately have no say: you’re the corporation, we’re the consumer, and we should learn our place. So if corporations want to continue avoiding transparency like the Black Death, they need to accept some amount of unbridled and at times ridiculous levels of criticism from us in return. It’s not like our concerns mean much to you. Why should your concerns mean much to us?

3. When the devs use the word “excited”, they’re not blowing smoke up your ass (except when they are, so good luck trying to tell the difference)

Really? No, really? This is a point? “The devs have feelings too”? You know, I generally assumed someone involved in such a nascent thing as the video game industry would have some kind of passion for it. How else would you get anyone to even start the damn thing? I also assume they’re working under a number of constraints that force them to do stuff they would rather not do, like oversell a talking point that a manager wrote for them. It’s not as if every other human being has ever had to do this.

This is how demeaning this article gets, since apparently everyone who criticizes a game is a Metacritic trollwhore who just wants to shit on game developers’ hopes and dreams and see their families starve. It’s like the author, now a game developer himself, hasn’t considered that most gamers are reasonable, intelligent people who work just as hard as they do (or harder) and would like to see some consistent return for shelling out their hard earned cash on an entertainment medium they enjoy and have dedicated significant portions of their own limited mortal passion and attention to. Let’s be fair: there are some idiots on the Internet who haven’t really thought through the logistics and realities of making a video game, but let’s be fair: those are few and far between. Most of us hating on you for demanding that we pay $60 for The Order: 1886 have some legitimate grievances with a pattern from your industry, a pattern that is no longer explained away as a fluke or variance. It’s become a damnable habit, and you’re just catching on to how we’re catching on. Uh oh.

4. Game devs actually read a lot of critical writing on their work (but don’t actually have to care)

All right, I do believe this point a little more than the others, if only because I watched the Dragon Age team fall on their swords repeatedly to appease the idiots who thought Dragon Age 2 was the Beast and False Prophet all tied up into one baby-eating package. On the flip side, who gives a flying fuck? Consumer criticism, by definition, is ex post facto, i.e., after the transaction is completed. From the standpoint of the law, the video game consumer has very little wherewithal or standing with which to resolve their buyer’s remorse (those massive EULAs have consequences). Keep in mind: we’re not talking about buying some rip-off toy from a mall vendor because we fell for their cheap sales pitches. We’re talking about $50-60 purchases that you, the developers, spend literally years building hype for. You promise us a tremendous amount of shit in the hopes we’ll buy it, much of which borders on blatant deceit. To our credit and often folly, we tend to follow through, because we care about games and tend to have active interest in experiencing this pastime of ours. To claim you empathize with our anger after you have managed to get us to hand over our money that we cannot get back from you is a little rich. At best.

No, it’s as rich as escargot, assholes. There is an implicit contract between the game developer and the gamer: you give us good shit, we buy it from you. If you don’t give us good shit, we at least have a right to complain loudly, as that’s the only thing we can do. No amount of bitching, Reddit-level quality or otherwise, will get a court to listen to us and force you to fork over those greenbacks. You’ve won. The only thing you have to do, as far as we can tell, is move onto the next game. You’ll repeat the cycle. Again, I’m more than willing to entertain the idea that game developers don’t always (or often) have a choice in what they can accomplish during a game’s development cycle, but examples of developers truly listening to feedback and making serious changes–changes they often don’t even have the corporate leverage to effect–are few and far between. Again, Dragon Age is really the only example that comes to mind off the top of my head. Not all of what they changed was good anyway. In the end, those people who hated Dragon Age 2 lost out on their money and time, even though I disagreed with them and spewed vitriol at them myself. Sure, maybe some of their reactions might prove a bit immature in the grand of scheme of things, but yours has no weight whatsoever.

In other words, game developers score no brownie points by claiming “we have passion too.” In the context of the basic video game transaction, they have the upper hand. For them, passion is a luxury. We, as video game players, only buy video games we have passion and interest in to begin with. That is literally the only thing making us willing to fork over several hours’ wages for something like this. When a flagship franchise for a next-gen console barely has enough content to match the real-world number of hours the average worker might have slaved away to buy it, you lose all standing for pity with us.

5. If you think something sucks, that’s not really news to the dev team (so suck it up anyway)

Oh. This again. I get to be enlightened by how game developers have limited resources and have to establish priorities. Yawn. I already explained that we, as normal people, understand this. Going back to Item #2, however, due to the gaming industry’s crippling allergy to transparency, we never get to know why those choices were made. Why do game developers insist on belittling us with stories about how “we have to make hard decisions” while never explaining what the calculus of those decisions is? You think we care if we don’t have any substantive details? Answer: we don’t. Here Anthony Burch waxes rueful about how his team had to choose between the bulk content of Borderland’s 2 and the ending. I dunno, that seems like a pretty big strawman to me, to say nothing of how it speaks to how out of touch he seems to have become with the average gamer. Very few people bought Borderlands 2 for the quality of the story, an element it barely even had. The entire game is sold up on reckless mayhem combined with some silly antics and quality voice acting to provide a transparent excuse for carnage. We want the guns, the classes, and the mindless violence. Claptrap is not Fall-From-Grace. He’s a mascot that produces cheap laughs. Sacrificing the ending of a game that did not prioritize literary quality from the outset is not a sacrifice. It’s called structure. We don’t expect Call of Duty to have an amazing story either. Or Blizzard games post Frozen Throne. Even claiming to value story is a reputation that a gaming company tends to have to earn.

Let’s go back to my favorite dead horse: Mass Effect 3. Explain to me the priorities of that game. It was the end of the trilogy, the closer to two previous games that had constructed a memorable array of characters in a rich and inviting universe we all loved. I’d hazard to say the story of that game should have taken priority over everything else, assuming all that talk about passion wasn’t pure flatulation. Instead, it seems pretty clear said story was low on the priority list. Forget about the nightmare that was the ending for a moment: Mass Effect 3’s story was the weakest of the three games regardless. There was a very noticeable shift in the actions of the characters and how the stories were told in the first place. All the piles of hype about how the story would have branching endings and radical outcomes based on what you’d done before turned out to be ashen night. But what did seem to have the priority of the developers? Oh, the gameplay. I should note that Mass Effect 2 had solved that issue already. Despite the outrage over thermal clips, the gameplay was tight and crisp. What other major iteration was needed? Apparently lots, because the gameplay was the best in the franchise, revamped and sparkled up for all to revel in. Even significant amounts of development time were dedicated to building a feature into a singleplayer RPG that nobody had ever asked for: multiplayer. I bet the months and resources appropriated to that could have been spent on giving us a final boss, or, maybe, a credible concluding scenario that fit the overall tone and themes of the franchise. Oh, but I just remembered Item #4, so here’s a little clarity for you: nobody remembers Mass Effect 3’s multiplayer. Everyone does remember the ending. Those last three minutes ruined the entire Mass Effect franchise and permanently scarred and besmirched the Pixar-like reputation of Bioware as a studio. I certainly hope that the studio discussed priorities after that fiasco.

It never gets old.

It never gets old.

You see, there are priorities, and there are basics. Assassin’s Creed didn’t get that right. Watch Dogs didn’t get that right. More and more games seem to be following in those footsteps. But beyond all that, merely having a list of priorities does not mean those priorities are well-conceived. It’s perfectly possible to ruin a game with the wrong set of priorities. What we’re a little miffed about these days is that you keep making the same mistakes. You keep throwing out games that nobody could believe were ready for release, yet you adopt the corporate line the moment shit hits the fan. A few months later, you rant about how nobody understands you. But we do: you are a normal person, in a normal job, in a normal industry, and we still expect you to do that job. Just like the military, stress and logistics are no excuse for massacring a village. The complexity of building a plumbing system doesn’t make the consumer a whiny brat for suing you when that shoddily built system ruins their month. But in the video game industry, we don’t have any recourse. You take our money and that’s that, often by outright lying to us. So we get to bitch in return and call you names on this giant bathroom wall.

Until you put your money where your mouth is, we’ll keep opening ours. It’s the only option we have, after all. How’s that for constraints?

Warlords of Draenor – the DK Report

While I count down the last few agonizing hours that stand between me and Dragon Age: Inquisition, I’ve taken up the new World of Warcraft expansion. I had a great time at Blizzcon, and it really made me want to hang out with my guildmates more often. My schedule precludes me from raiding, probably forever, but I can at least be in the game and do stuff with them. So I dragged my good ol’ Death Knight out, dusted him off, and charged through Draenor to see what all the hullabaloo about PVP and Ashran was. My general impression so far:

SILLY.MCKAYLA

Times a billion.

Disclaimer: I know the expansion has been out for less than a week; I know the metagame has yet to stabilize; I know a lot of people are busy getting gear for PVE and such; I know most people haven’t gotten their PVP gear yet; I know 25% resilience is still in the game; I know damage will start outscaling healing as the seasons progress. All that being said, PVP in WoW is only slightly improved from when I left it two years ago and is still as infuriating as ever, especially as a Death Knight.

Let’s start off with the much-hyped Ashran. This zone is a fucking disappointment if there ever was one. I would likely be much angrier had I gone in with any expectations for it. Going in blind probably prevented me from frothing at the mouth with how angry I’d be at Blizzard right now for fucking PVP over yet again at the basic level. Ashran is a concept–in theory–for bringing back the feel of the old Alterac Valley. If Ashran is working as intended, then let me just say this right now: fuck the old Alterac Valley. Fuck all you silver-haired PVP veterans who have kept lusting after your retarded nostalgia fantasies for the past seven years without remembering all the crippling flaws they came with. I never experienced the old Alterac Valley, and now I’m glad I didn’t. It sounds like a chore. Surprise: Ashran is a chore. It presumes a large, balanced server population that’s interested in PVP. I can only imagine how small a minority of servers in WoW fit that description. Well, good job: you have a never-ending, pointless seesaw battle that gets you tiny amounts of honor and no artifacts because you have to take them off of other players’ bodies. For some reason, Holinka thought it would be a good idea to have you lose Artifacts if you die or release your spirit, which will happen very often in a mass PVP situation. Moreover, the only significant reward for your time in Ashran is earned by killing the enemy boss in the opposing faction’s base, which is nearly impossible, as all the NPCs can one- or two-shot you and the giant NPC you can summon to help you has the worst AI this side of the Twisting Nether. If Ashran is going to work, it needs some massive tweaking and rebalancing, starting with non-tagged looting for artifacts, significantly increased honor rewards so you get something out of it more reliably, and mechanics to compensate for faction imbalance. Otherwise, I’m only going to Ashran for dailies, idle time in between battleground queues, or to buy some gear. The zone needs serious attention to be anything but another repeat of Tol Barad.

Now, onto the PVP meta itself. The following picture describes how it feels to be a Death Knight in WoD:

SILLY.MOLASSES

Now with teleports added for everyone except you.

Holy-fuck-my-stars-God, Holinka. You fucked up so bad. Every other fucking class in the game has insane mobility except DKs. Trying to stay on your target or keep up with anyone is a never-ending nightmare. Druids have blink, Mages have blink, Monks have blink, Hunters have disengage and constant mobility, Warlocks have their portal, recall, and a fucking knockback, Shaman have Ghost Wolf and etc, Warriors still have a billion stuns and charges, on and on and on and on it goes. What do DKs have? Chains of Ice and the Death and Decay Glyph. Aaaand Death Grip on a 20 second CD. Oh, that’s totally enough, right? At one point, long long ago, I thought Desecration needed to be removed. Now I don’t. I never thought I’d see the day when I thought Descration needed to be returned, but explain why all nine other classes are bouncing around every BG I find while I’m spending half my resources just to keep them snared so I might be able to hit them with my sword once in a while. Meanwhile, my damage still sucks, and our Level 100 talents are horrible. They’re massive CC breakers that don’t do anything. Necrotic Plague is worthless in PVP; Breath of Sindragosa takes too much RP and too much setup; Defile is the least bad choice among them. Given the fact that DK DPS has gotten almost no significant changes in two expansions, I’m confident in saying the designers have given up on the class in PVP. The amount of effort spent on DK ability design is pitiful, and it shows. They don’t give a shit.

Neither do they care about DPS in general, apparently. I don’t know what the design goals for PVP in WoD were besides cutting CC down to size a bit, but it seems like they put all their effort budget into that one idea. Healing is out of control. Healers alone can still put people back to full in an instant with instant casts, but now Ret Paladins and other hybrid healers can do that too. Killing people is absurdly difficult; one healer can negate half a battleground’s worth of DPS, if that. I’m honestly thinking of just finishing gearing my DK up for PVP in blues and leveling my Priest so I can feel like I have more of an impact, though I’ll probably run into just as many annoyances and nightmares as I’ve found with my DK. Sigh.

If my guild weren’t filled with such wonderful people, I’d shelve this game forever and go back to LoL. No matter how frustrated I get in LoL, it’s nothing compared to the sheer rage WoW PVP inflicts upon the soul.

I leave you with Snape, smoldering.

SILLY.SNAPE

Classy smoldering.

Dragon Age II: A Study in Insanity

We have fifteen days (HOLY CRAP JUST FIFTEEN DAYS) before Dragon Age: Inquisition comes out and I lose all contact with the outside world. In order to hype myself up a bit more–to the point where I think I’m losing my mind with how obsessed I am with this universe–I’ve been replaying Dragon Age II. Before I get castrated by the shitzillion fucktards who always come out of the woodwork whenever Dragon Age II is mentioned, no, I didn’t hate the game. I’m near the 400-hour mark on Dragon Age II. I love this game so much, and sometimes I don’t know why. I’ve been of the entirely unorthodox opinion that Dragon Age: Origins was overhyped from the beginning, and while I enjoyed that game too, I didn’t get involved in it like I have DA2. To this day I still don’t understand why everyone likes DA:O so much. Sure, the game is polished like no other, but apart from the fascinating world it presents, the content within is pretty unremarkable. The graphics style always bothered me–it came across as both bland and unrealistic. By that I mean it just doesn’t feel real; it’s more like you’re watching a storybook unfold. Maybe that was the point, but it just doesn’t feel like something positive to me. The ways he characters move, look and behave feels so stilted, somehow lacking in emotion. Then you actually get into combat and you want to kill yourself: oh look, another twenty seconds of auto-attacking while your rogue takes ten of those seconds just to get across the battlefield to the enemy. Wait, why did I even bring a rogue? Oh, for traps. That’s it. Otherwise I’d just bring three mages and a tank and kill everything with one hand tied behind my back. Then I’ll go wade through the generic storyline with a cadre of characters I barely care about. I’ve concluded that DA:O is an object lesson in how execution and polish can cover a multitude of sins, while DA2 is an object lesson in how good fundamentals can’t necessarily do the same.

SILLY.DA2-THE-CRITICS

This dragon respawns every time someone says “DA2” on the internet.

At its core, DA2 was a better game than DA:O. Storyline, characterization, combat, thematic coherence, etc., everything was conceived much better from the ground up. More than anything else, Hawke’s adventures put the “role” back into “role-playing game.” It did this better than Mass Effect, I think, which is high praise indeed. The story excelled at putting you in Hawke’s shoes, at making you feel like this refugee building their way up from nothing and becoming important, with all the consequences that has. Act 1 has you poor and weak, running around Kirkwall doing menial tasks as befitting a noble whose house has fallen from grace. The characters you met along the way got swept up in that story and became crucial parts of the tapestry you were building. Aveline, Fenris, Varric, Isabela, Merrill, Bethany, Carver (who?), and even Anders (hiss) all felt like real people you had a deep connection with. Some of Bioware’s best characters and moments ever come from this game, particularly Aveline and Varric. Then combat in DA2 proved far more interactive and engaging, with each class becoming much better defined with strengths and weaknesses you could appreciate and build a party around. Something people also fail to appreciate is that Bioware took a risk with DA2. While EA might have thought otherwise, it’s clear DA2 was a conscious departure from its predecessor. Bioware wanted to try something different: they wanted to work with a narrative structure they hadn’t really done before. They could have just made a money-grabbing sequel-copy to DA:O and the fanboys would have bought it up so long as they polished it right and checked off all the boxes, but they didn’t. Anyway, all in all, DA2 was a good game. So why wasn’t it a great game?

Well, DA2 got rushed out the door, and it shows. We all know about the One True Cave. I’ll first remark that Skyrim had One True Cave too: it just took twenty million copies sold for people to realize it. That’s why I go back to the lesson in polish and execution: DA2 only had the One True Cave and crammed every second quest into it: combined with the constrained scope of Kirkwall and the world you were set in, you caught on pretty quickly, so unless were already taken in by the game’s events and other systems, like I was, you’d get frustrated and bored in no time. Contrarily, Skyrim had a larger world that maintained the illusion of novelty, so your mind didn’t really notice or care it was wandering through the exact same cavern a billion times on random side-quests. A few years removed, people suddenly realized that the Skyrim released at launch sucked and that all the hype surrounding it was dumb. Hey, too late now, idiots: Bethesda has all your money, and I’m pretty sure your critical credibility just flew out the window as well. You really don’t care if companies milk games; you only care if it’s a game you don’t like. People rag on EA for releasing Madden every year and milking the shit out of it, but there are some legitimate reasons for that, such as roster changes and the ever-changing world of American football that six billion people don’t understand. Meanwhile, Bethesda has released the exact same game three times in a row, and people worship them. Apart from graphical fidelity and some minor changes to stats and talents, Morrowind and Skyrim, two games released almost ten years apart from each other, are indistinguishable. Same bland talking heads all voiced by the same dozen people, same horrible melee combat, same unexpected messiah narrative structure, same sidequest system, same musical themes, even the same goddamn opening. If I have to sit through one more sequence where I’m a prisoner of the Empire being dragged off somewhere…

Wait, what was the original point of this post? Oh yeah, I’m playing through Dragon Age II again. It’s been a little while, but this sums up my reaction to everything that happens:

SILLY.CRAZY

Hawke has way better hair, though.

More particularly, I’m focusing on the Templars and how the Circle of Magi is utterly broken. Seriously, it’s so dumb how everything within this system operates. “We’re afraid of mages, so we’ll lock them up and have them watched over by drug-addicted zealots with no effective oversight or recourse, all while teaching them their charges are one step away from killing everyone. What could possibly go wrong?” An excellent question, my lovelies. In the first Act, the Grand Cleric, who possesses ultimate authority over the mages and the Templars alike, says to Hawke with a straight face: “It is not my role to form judgments on her [Knight-Commander Meredith’s] character.” Um, what did you just say? Because that’s wrong, you cow: that is exactly your role. You are supposed to be overseeing what the Templars are doing, otherwise this system cannot function. Don’t you realize the kind of people the Templars are? They’re brutal sociopaths at best. You need people smarter than them to make sure–oh, fuck it. You die in two more acts, Elthina, and it’s your own damn fault. Anyway, it seems like everything the Templars do is hilarious. Cullen says he’ll let a recruit, who was captured by crazy mages with some stupid plan to forcibly possess some Templars with demons, be promoted to full knighthood if he doesn’t show any signs of possession after ten years. Ten fucking years? Really? You’re going to condemn this poor guy to a life of poverty and menial labor just like that? Are you stupid? Let’s presume he is possessed, even though it’s clear Hawke arrived in time before the crazy mages managed to do anything to him. Hey, Cullen: spirits and demons don’t exactly have a concept of time, probably because they exist in a realm where there is no concept of time. If this recruit really has a demon om-nom-noming on his soul right now, all it’ll do is just wait until you no longer suspect his host. Boom: party time, baby. Do you not study the basic principles of magic and demons? If you don’t, why are you in charge of overseeing mages in the first place? Isn’t basic education on this stuff kind of important for you to ensure you’re doing your job correctly? Do you even care? No, of course not. Every second Templar is either an obvious rapist or a clueless fucktard that couldn’t care less about things.

This extends not only to DA2 itself, but all the books and such we see beyond it. In Dragon Age: Asunder, Lord Seeker Lambert is a hopeless douchebag who wants to kill every mage he sees, and this is the guy in charge of the organization that’s theoretically in place to step in when the Templars don’t do their jobs? How does that sound like a good idea? Why were the Seekers even brought in to begin with? Oh yeah, we haven’t even talked about Madame Psychopathy Herself, Knight-Commander Meredith, who gets the 9:37 Dragon Award for Leader of the Year. How this fucking moron managed to acquire such a position of authority is beyond me. She should have been removed the moment she started making mages Tranquil because reasons, which is the most flagrant violation of Chantry law ever. Mages who have passed their Harrowing cannot be made Tranquil. Oh, and she denies mages appearances at court, locks them up in their rooms, and immediately suspects anyone who runs away from her nightmarish prison-state a practitioner of blood magic. In Act 3, you hunt down some mages, two of them who do turn out to be blood mages, and you find out that they both resorted to blood magic because the fucking Templars treated them like shit. Meredith even suspects the third mage, some hopeless virgin who just wants to get laid, and casually decides if he’ll keep his life or not. Fuck you. Finally she just goes into batshit mode and orders the execution of every mage in the city after Anders blows up the Kirkwall Chantry, even though the terrorist responsible for it is right there in front of themof all and admits to acting entirely on his own with no help or support from the Circle whatsoever. Her justification? “The people of Kirkwall will want retribution for this.” Mmkay. I believe you, Knight-Commander, if “people of Kirkwall” means “me, Meredith Coocoopants.” Pretty sure the people of Kirkwall don’t even know what the fuck just happened, as you let all but three seconds pass between the explosion and your casual decision to commit mass murder. It’s almost as if you were just waiting for an excuse to kill all these mages anyway. The mages even offer her complete and unconditional surrender, but NOPE. She’s just gonna kill everyone. Hey, Cullen: you might want to stop her. Are you going to do something, man? Gonna, you know, point out how weird it is she’s lost her fucking mind? I dunno. Anything would work at this point.

SILLY.MUST-BLOOD-MAGIC

Or 4chan. Same difference.

What’s most annoying, though, is that everyone treats the problem of mages as some unsolvable dilemma of the ages, when it’s really just a simple matter of civil rights and secular oversight. As it is in Thedas, mages live within a system of slavery. They’re locked up in the Circles their whole lives and are only dragged out when the Chantry needs them to fry some Qunari or darkspawn. The social contract between them and the rest of civilization is completely one-sided, with society asking everything of them while giving them nothing in return except the nominal right to existence. Oh yeah, that’ll keep them happy. Sure. The first thing you could do is not have them watched over by religious zealots. Bioware has even glossed over the obvious sins of the Templar Order, much to my chagrin. I can’t imagine just how much rape and abuse has gone on within it for nearly a thousand years. We’re still dealing with the issue of widespread rape and sexual harassment within our militaries even in the twenty-first century. On the other hand, mages will always need some system of oversight over them. To me, this is the most fascinating element of the Dragon Age setting: the question of what to do with people who are naturally separate from the rest of society. The innate potential of mages far exceeds that of their fellow men. How do you balance the desire to use this potential for the betterment of mankind against the threat of them using it against everyone else? It’s a captivating question for me, and one that opens up some interesting paths to explore. I really hope Bioware doesn’t drop the ball with Inquisition. Everything seems like it’ll be great, but then again, so did Mass Effect 3, and we all remember how that turned out.

SILLY.ME3-ENDINGS

Choose the Instagram filter you’ll use to watch everyone you ever loved die horribly.

We’ll find out in fifteen days. In the meantime, I’ll go knife Anders and Meredith again. Unlike the One True Cave, that shit never gets old.

Sword Art Online II – 16

And so the Totally PlatSILLY.SWIGGITYonic Adventures of Kirito Sue the Magnificent continue, charging forth into Boredomheim. This plot is so dumb. Oh no, Thrym is gonna rape Freyja. Who is Freyja again? Why is she here? Why is she about as developed as the other five females next to Kirito? Why do we care about the travails of a random NPC? Nobody ever does. This is an MMO. Have any of the writers or animators ever played or raided in an MMO ever? If so, then why did we spend fifteen minutes on them clearing trash? You know, the thing that nobody likes? That was most of this episode. They spent a significant part of their animation budget on animating a trash mob fight. What part of this sounds exciting? Are you trying to kill us all with boredom-induced atherosclerosis? That’s not the best plan.

Also, Thrym is gonna rape Freyja. LOL. Uh, dude. Practical concerns here: you’re a giant. She’s…what…an elf or something? I think I care about the niceties of Norse mythology in this anime as much as its creators do. Anyway, Thrym: your dick is probably bigger than her entire body. You’re not gonna rape her. For this reason, I laughed my guts out at this scene. Somehow in two episodes this series has transformed from a semi-serious take on an MMO into a complete caricature of itself. It has no plot; it has no characters; it’s just a waste of time and money. A1 Studios might as well take the yen they have out of their business account and smoke some weed with it. It would probably end up being more edifying to humanity than this commercial diarrhea.

THRYM COMIN’ FOR THAT BOOTY, FREYJA. BETTER WATCH OUT.

No wait, maybe you should just kinda go along with it. It’s more action than Kirito will ever give you. Just ask Asuna. Ha. Ha. Ha.

(Sigh.)

Nerf Lucian

lucian

Nerf this fucker. Nerf him to hell.

I’m talking to you, Riot. I checked today: Lucian has almost a 40% pick rate. He is literally in almost every game. The second closest pick is Caitlyn with a 25% pick rate. It’s gotten old. It was old a year ago when Lucian got buffed and became the monstrosity he has been since. Stop tip-toeing around. The issue is simple: Lucian is still too safe for all his strengths, his one weakness now being his somewhat limited auto-attack range. Not that it matters in laning phase, as his Q still hits you from a mile away and gives you 0.2 seconds to react. The line between Lucian/Tristana and all other ADCs is inexcusable. I’m so goddamn tired of fighting Lucians and am almost as tired of supporting them. They’re prissy little queens who have no idea what the hell they’re doing and are so used to winning laning phase by drooling they have no clue what to do if they get outplayed.

No, changing his E to have some mana cost in the laning phase (what an idea!) is not going to fix the problem. You want to make him this lane bully with this almost unmatched trading potential? and an awesome mid-game? Fine. Make him fall off. Make his late game suck. Make him less relevant at some point in the game, as that would be more than never, as it is right now. This champion has been a walking disaster of design on so many levels. He’s dragging the whole game down. He’s everywhere in solo queue and everywhere in competitive play. Every other ADC is just getting sidelined by him. I only hope to God some of the Ezreal buffs and Tristana nerfs (hallelujah!) can spice things up a bit, but Lucian is still gonna be there after this slap on the wrist too. I welcome seeing Dravens and Caits and any other ADC besides this idiot running around. It’s a change of pace from the stale vomit fest that is bot lane nowadays.