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 11:08 on 09-03-2012, Wardog
Incidentally, I am non-functional with excitement because MEIII is out today.

SQUEEEEEEE.
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at 09:24 on 09-03-2012, Dan H

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.


It's funny you mention that, because Thomsen really does seem to view reading books as kind of like grinding for achies in a video game. You engage in a pointless activity for long enough, you get something you brag about, and the aim is to get the maximum amount of bragging rights for the minimum amount of time invested.

@Shim:

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.


I think that's a valid personal preference (and one I share) but I don't think it's an absolute statement about Good Game Design. Dark Souls is clearly labeled, advertised and sold as the kind of game where the challenge is to learn the game's mechanics by trial and error (like a much higher budget version of Dungeons of Dredmor), so complaining that the game is designed this way kind of misses the point. I'd be fine with somebody arguing that they don't like this kind of gameplay in general, particularly in the context of a different sort of game, but Thomsen's primary complaint isn't that this style of gameplay is inappropriate for Dark Souls, or even that this style of gameplay is annoying and overrated, it's that this style of gameplay doesn't give him *insights into the human condition*.

I agree that the rebuttal is stupid (learning to play a video game is nothing like learning a foreign language except as the loosest of metaphors) but I don't think it's unreasonable to point out that trial-and-error gameplay can teach you something about learning by trial and error (which is itself useful). If Thomsen doesn't understand why "being good at mastering arbitrary tasks quickly" might be an extremely helpful life skill he's never had a job or for that matter a hobby.
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at 07:46 on 09-03-2012, valse de la lune
James D: that'd be where our priorities differ, I think--I'm okay with PSS because New Crobuzon is amazing, Mieville's language can be evocative, and mostly the plot exists as an excuse for him to show us New Crobuzon. In that regard I never cared if the book was long because the things he's showing are interesting. In contrast Campbell offers a setting that's so-so, prose that's workmanlike, and a main character whose face I want to see pulped in with stiletto heels but who nevertheless takes up far too many pages and is treated, narratively, entirely too well (Rachel, darling, defenestrate him! No?).

I did like Carnival. I don't understand why she's not the protagonist instead of Dill--I also like Rachel, but again she spends most of her time helping out Dill. Why do fantasy writers so much prefer naive, dim, boring young boys over much more interesting people? Apart from "lots of fantasy writers fucking suck" I mean.
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at 07:02 on 09-03-2012, Arthur B
Daaaamn, someone call Thomsen an ambulance because he's going to the buuuuuuuurn ward.
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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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