Playpen

Welcome to the Playpen, our space for ferrety banter and whimsical snippets of things that aren't quite long enough for articles (although they might be) but that caught your eye anyway.

at 22:28 on 08-03-2012, Fin
i hope the next demon's souls sequel includes readable books like the elder scrolls series, but they contain paragraphs from war and peace. reading them all earns you an achievement.
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at 17:24 on 08-03-2012, Janne Kirjasniemi
On the SOIAF, I really liked the first three books in the fashion described by Arthur, at least for the first three books. They are blockbustery all right, in that things are happening all the time and while it doesn't do anything very groundbreaking, it was a popular deconstruction of some romantic high fantasy tropes, or perhaps assumed tropes. The depiction of the feudal society was interesting as well as the whole collapse into civil war in a decentralized realm. The tv series has picked up on this side quite nicely by focusing on the politics. Like Kyra pointed out some months back, the way Jaime's story evolved was an example of a very powerful and interesting plotline in its violence and how it developed the character. The general grimdarkness was more bearable, when things seemed to be developing the story and the violence had more grounding in the context.

But with the great upsets in the third book Martin seems to have written himself into a kind of a corner. Many things that had happened became just background for the real story and a bit shaggydoggish too, and after that the story itself has lost its momentum. I remember that the original intent(well, original at some point, wasnt' this supposed to be a trilogy?) was to do a time skip to let all the kids grow, but as Martin decided there were things he needed to resolve, it has all ground down to an exhausting cavalcade of pointless overtures and exploitative pointless violence.

I'm still interested in finding out what happens, but it is all just so frustrating. I guess there's a point in showing that Daenerys has to learn how to rule, but please, what did it actually accomplish? The last two books didn't seem to move forward at all. And do we really need to be convinced more at this point that the Boltons are not nice folks and that aristocracy is not a good foundation for a state? Or that the Starks were not so nice etc.?

If the winter was to be the point of the whole story, at this point you just want to as: "When do they get to the fireworks factory!?(ie. the ice zombie apocalypse)".

As it comes to Daenerys success as a conqueror, I always assumed that it was Targaryen charisma and magic and dragons combined with luck and good council. It would have been more believable if she was a few years older, like in the tv series.
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at 17:22 on 08-03-2012, James D
I'm pretty familiar with Planescape and it's definitely not a regurgitation of any of its planes, the whole 'city suspended over an abyss on chains' is pretty original as far as I know (it's in Calvino's Invisible Cities, but that's just a series of blurbs rather than fully fleshed-out ideas). There are some very slight steampunk elements (zeppelins) but it doesn't go too far into cliche in that direction, either. I think Deepgate is pretty well-constructed, for example I thought the idea that poor districts were built in precarious areas and prone to falling into the abyss was neat.

I mean, at least so far I'll agree that the setting isn't as vibrant as New Crobuzon (and the prose isn't as good as Mieville's, for that matter), but then the book isn't a brick and the plot beats the piss out of Perdido Street Station's meandering monster movie. I don't love Scar Night but it's pretty solid so far. I guess we'll have to talk more once I finish it and move on to the second and third, if you care enough. Seems like we're the only two people here who've heard of Alan Campbell.
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at 17:04 on 08-03-2012, valse de la lune
Well, Campbell's plots never get more striking than what's in the first book--which if I recall correctly has something to do with an evil god or possibly some man seeking revenge, or... whatever (and apparently there's some cop-out in the third book, which I didn't bother with). About the poor man's new weird, it's the general lack of imagination and the wholesale regurgitation of D&D somethingsomething (Planescape, perhaps?). Deepgate is no Ambergris or Paradys or New Crobuzon. It doesn't seem to have been constructed to breathe like a real city, or constructed by an author who's read more widely than tie-in novels.
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at 15:46 on 08-03-2012, Sister Magpie
I remember quite enjoying the Peace, but not being mad keen on the War. Which is
strange because n a videogame it'd be totally the other way round...


I think I'm the only person I've ever met who preferred the war parts.
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at 14:09 on 08-03-2012, James D
KJ Bishop is enormously superior, and she can write, too.

Oh, and thanks for the recommendation. I'll look into Bishop, haven't heard of her before.
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at 13:44 on 08-03-2012, James D
About Campbell: the first book I thought was fun if derivative and not particularly strong prose-wise (guy was a game writer; it shows). I kept wanting someone to punch Dill in the face and never stop, he's that kind of character. Then came book two, which was incoherent badly-paced crap. A poor man's new weird, with too much D&D. KJ Bishop is enormously superior, and she can write, too.

Yeah Dill is kind of annoying so far but I'm not that far in...I have the next two books and I hope you're wrong for my wallet's sake, haha. Considering the plot of the first book at least is already better than any Mieville I've read, I'll have to see about your 'poor man's New Weird" appraisal. I'm pretty underwhelmed by the New Weird in general.
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at 09:52 on 08-03-2012, Wardog
Awwww, the Stark kids singing the opening of a Game of Thrones is super adorable. Dan and I are about halfway through the series now that English people are finally permitted it without buying Sky or, err, downloading it on the internet, and the opening sequence remains my favourite part of the show.
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at 09:48 on 08-03-2012, Shimmin
I'm not sure I'd say "makes some perfectly reasonable points". I think I'd go with "is completely wrong about everything."
Disagreed, though on a general basis rather than having actually played Dark Souls. Trial-and-error gameplay that relies on losing and reloading (as opposed to thinking or non-lethal failure) is generally frustrating and just pads out play. Arbitrary elements like arbitrary resistances and vulnerabilities, or random spellcasting powers, or implausible monster placement, with no narrative basis in the game, are the kind of thing that annoy me as well, and shouting "Bruckheimer!" just excuses poor design. And you can indeed pick up vast amounts of in-game trivia or skill without them having any application in the real world (the Killingsworth response to that in particular was what irritated me).

They're rather disconnected complaints that do nothing to help his main argument, which is frankly rubbish on a fundamental level. They aren't exclusive to games either. There are reasonable rebuttals to at least some of them, which Killingsworth did not make. But the points themselves aren't nonsense, which was what I meant.
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at 09:16 on 08-03-2012, Wardog
I'm on Team Tolstoy - in the sense I've read War and Peace, I remember quite enjoying the Peace, but not being mad keen on the War. Which is strange because n a videogame it'd be totally the other way round...
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at 06:12 on 08-03-2012, valse de la lune
About Campbell: the first book I thought was fun if derivative and not particularly strong prose-wise (guy was a game writer; it shows). I kept wanting someone to punch Dill in the face and never stop, he's that kind of character. Then came book two, which was incoherent badly-paced crap. A poor man's new weird, with too much D&D. KJ Bishop is enormously superior, and she can write, too.
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at 02:44 on 08-03-2012, Sister Magpie
It's definitely the length. I remember when I was reading it on the subway and a guy next to me asked in a kind of hilarious way, "Excuse me, but...is that good?" Like the idea of it as an actual book never comes up.
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at 02:16 on 08-03-2012, Arthur B
Though honestly, I think people bring up W&P as some sort of achievement mostly because of its legendary length.

Agreed - and it's pretty silly since I'm fairly sure at this point both Twilight and Song of Ice and Fire beat it in terms of page count.
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at 01:58 on 08-03-2012, Alasdair Czyrnyj
Also, you know that person from XKCD who plays Half-Life 2 years after it first came out? That is me. And I've just met fast zombies for the first time. FML.

Pleasant dreams, Andy.
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at 01:57 on 08-03-2012, Michal
*Raises hand* I read War and Peace. Liked it quite a bit, too.

Do I get a cookie? I haven't played Dark Souls, so I can't claim the experience was significantly better.

Though honestly, I think people bring up W&P as some sort of achievement mostly because of its legendary length. I read it because I liked Tolstoy already, and it's pretty easy-going if you don't get hung up on the names. Of which there are many.
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at 01:06 on 08-03-2012, Andy G
Also, you know that person from XKCD who plays Half-Life 2 years after it first came out? That is me. And I've just met fast zombies for the first time. FML.
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at 00:53 on 08-03-2012, Andy G
I'm sure I read that Tolstoy wrote very strongly against divisive elitist conceptions of art, so it's rather unfortunate that it's his book that is being used to stand for High Art against the uncultured video-game-playing masses.
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at 22:29 on 07-03-2012, Dan H
I have read W&P but the only advantage to reading that over reading ASOIAF is that sometimes you have the ability to say "I've read W&P" and have it sound like you mean something significant.


Were I feeling glib, I might suggest that "being able to say you've read War and Peace" is the only advantage Thomsen seems to be interested in. His chief objection to long RPGs is that they have a poor ration of bragging rights to time invested.

The moment you rephrase his question as "is doing something you enjoy a valid use of your leisure time" you realise how asinine the whole article is.
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at 21:25 on 07-03-2012, James D
As I mentioned earlier, I haven't read that one yet. Maybe he makes it better later, I dunno. Still strikes me as really unrealistic that she was able to get that far.
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at 21:21 on 07-03-2012, Axiomatic
The fact that she's wildly successful at not only Kingdom Management, but Kingdom Acquisition as well.
Are we reading the same books? Pretty much every Dany chapter in A Dance With Dragons is DAENERYS SUCKS AT RULING. THE CITY SHE LIBERATED IS FALLING APART AROUND HER AND NOBODY IS ANY BETTER OFF.

In fact, GRRM spends so much time belabouring this point that that's pretty much all that happens for the entire novel. I'll grant you that she's pretty awesome at Kingdom Acquisition, but if there's one running theme in the whole series, it's that it's much, much easier to seize power than it is to keep it.
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at 20:45 on 07-03-2012, Sister Magpie
Either this is the best typo-mutated euphemism ever or you know some really
disturbing secrets about GRRM.


Whoa! You're right. That does sound better than "hands down the pants" doesn't it? Maybe I know something without realizing it...

Also, I am always leery of an annoyed by people who namedrop great works of
literature in such a way that they carefully avoid claiming to have actually
read them.


Probably because when you have read them you realize they're just another book that you might like or might not, really. I have read W&P but the only advantage to reading that over reading ASOIAF is that sometimes you have the ability to say "I've read W&P" and have it sound like you mean something significant.
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at 20:28 on 07-03-2012, Dan H
To be fair, both the Dark Souls articles seem a bit daft, like. Thomsen complains about all the game in his game, where there should be Deep Meaningful Art and personal betterment, but despite the puzzling misunderstanding of the whole point of games, he makes some perfectly reasonable points.


I'm not sure I'd say "makes some perfectly reasonable points". I think I'd go with "is completely wrong about everything." His entire article is based on the assumption that the value of a particular activity can be assessed by looking at the other things you could have done if you took all of the time you spent on that activity *altogether* and then rearranged it in a manner in which it was convenient for you to pursue some other activity, which it was then further assumed that you would pursue wholeheartedly and with perfect motivation.

As evidence that this is *complete horseshit*, I cite the fact that Thomsen presumably does not use the 2920 hours a year in which he is neither working nor sleeping to - say become fluent in multiple languages, master complex skills, read the great works of literature (in English, and in all of the other languages he has learned in the time he has saved by not playing video games) and so on.

Also, I am always leery of an annoyed by people who namedrop great works of literature in such a way that they carefully avoid claiming to have actually read them.

That said, the rebuttal is *also* pretentious and annoying.
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at 20:25 on 07-03-2012, James D
I'm not sure what the argument about Dany being 14 and not having a degree in Kingdom Management is meant to achieve. I mean, what are you arguing against?

The fact that she's wildly successful at not only Kingdom Management, but Kingdom Acquisition as well. Breaks my suspension of disbelief up into tiny pieces, especially since it's only through incredibly contrived-seeming circumstances that she does it. I mean seriously, when she buys that slave army and turns it on the slave cities - did they honestly never plan for something like that? They mass-produce highly-trained private armies of infantry that excel in siege warfare, and they never considered that such an army might one day be turned on them? You'd think they'd be well-prepared for lengthy sieges and have a policy of never selling an army larger than their own, at the very least.
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at 20:11 on 07-03-2012, Axiomatic
I'm not sure what the argument about Dany being 14 and not having a degree in Kingdom Management is meant to achieve. I mean, what are you arguing against?
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