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Re: The Writer's Circle

Posted: Sun Nov 12, 2017 6:37 pm
by Kriken
Her Mind: Chapter 4
He used to wake up with a cloud of anxiety in his head. Negative thoughts that he had tried to suppress the day before, emerging from dreams and lingering on in reality. But when Nick woke up nowadays he entered a previously rare state. His mind was clear as a bell. There were no aches and pains.

And more importantly, he didn't have those anxious urges to do something. In fact, he didn't want to do anything. And so, beyond what the facility asked him to do, he relaxed into doing as close to nothing as possible. I don't have to do anything. I don't need to do anything. My life has probably lost most of its meaning now...

There was knock on his door. A quick but not exactly loud rap. Nick almost let out a groan. He had only just woken up and had decided on a nice long - day-long, in fact - lie-in. But even he realised he was being a bit ridiculous. He would just open the door, make the exchange as brief as possible, and then head back to lying down ASAP.

Nick swept aside the bedsheet and swung his legs over. He stretched a leg out so it cracked, and then walked over to the door, which had been silent right after the series of knocks.

"Oh, Nick," said Tessa. She looked almost surprised to see him. Why was that? He wouldn't be rude enough to not answer the door. However, this was a first. Her coming to him like this. Perhaps she assumed - perhaps not unreasonably - that he'd still be asleep.

Nick raised his eyebrows regardless. Why knock on his door anyway?

"Hello?" he said.

She just looked at him for a moment. A searching and familiar look. One that made him wonder if he had said something stupid, or had a scruffy collar or something on his face. To his immediate annoyance, he looked away abashed.

But in the corner of his eye, he noticed that she had looked away too. Looked downwards, in fact.

"I wanted to talk with you."

They looked back to each other. "About what?"

She bit her lip. Looked up and down the hallway. "Can I come in?"

This gave him some pause. "Alright." He stood aside. After an awkward moment, he gestured for her to come in.

"I broke the chair, so I threw it away," he said. "You can sit on my bed. If you want."

She laughed. "I remember that."

There was another awkward pause.

"I guess I should be more chairful," Nick said dryly. What else was there to say about that? He couldn't help but fill such awkward or pointless moments with some corny joke. Just to show he didn't care. But in spite of himself, he found himself smiling at her and waiting for her reaction.

She looked to the side with a static smile. As if a sigh was on her lips. Nick was satisfied. This was the correct reaction. You couldn't trust the ones who laughed nervously, trying to look as if they found the joke funny. Trying to curry favour.

"Alright, I'll sit on the bed then."

She went over and sat, brushing down her denim overalls. Nick joined her on the bed but tried not to sit too close.

"My score is 6.8 now," she said. "It's getting ridiculous."

"Mine is 3.6. It's not getting anywhere near ridiculous."

He gave her a wry smile. He hadn't expected her to open up like this. It was surprising, frankly. And by her manner, it looked as if she was similarly surprised.

"I don't get how you can be so casual about it. Do you not wonder about my rocketing score? About how it's much higher than anyone else's? I thought I was pretty normal before...all of this."

"You are normal."

"Evidently not. I have to admit, I'm not even trying at this point."

"Yeah right."

"Okay. Not really trying anyway. I'll still do my best each session...but I don't try to push myself beyond my limits. I don't do exercises outside the tests."

Nick grinned.

"What?" She laughed. "I'm serious."

"I believe you," Nick said. "I just don't really care about any of this. Yes, it's peculiar that your score is so high. Especially when 'Tasha tries so hard. But that's just life, isn't it? Some people are just more talented at some things. Or more talented at a lot of things. Perhaps they're just smarter overall. And they can seem completely normal, just like everyone else."

"So... You really think I'm normal?"

"Probably. Besides your talent. Sure. Why are you so bothered?"

Tessa looked down, frowning. Her long lashes shielding her eyes. She interlocked her fingers, released them, and then repeated this pattern.

"I used to feel completely normal. I never had the desire to feel special. But now I am. Special. Now I have myself wondering what I am." She paused. "Now I have people like Natasha who envy me. Hate me for it. I don't like it."


A silence descended on them, and he used it to think for a moment.

"I don't get it, honestly. Why you would feel that way. You seem...nice. As for Natasha, f.uck what she thinks."

She lifted her head and her gaze met Nick's once more. Big, strikingly blue eyes. They bordered on watering, but perhaps that's just the way they were like normally. He hadn't looked into her eyes like this before. He didn't tend to look into people's eyes. It made him feel strange. Warmth tickled his neck. What was this feeling again? It seemed familiar.

"Thanks," she said. "Really, thank you."

"Uh, it's fine. I am kinda wondering why you would tell me this though. And not, you know, Rita."

She looked over, somewhat surprised.

"I have told her. I tell her everything. It's just that, she doesn't always give me the answer I want. I know, that sounds weird. Selfish of me, even. But more and more, she's telling me that I'm wrong, or that I should stand up to Natasha."

"Maybe you should." The words tumbled out of Nick's mouth. Like boulders on a cliffside after someone yells a bit too loudly. Too late to cover up his mouth in either case. "She has no power here. You're the one with the top score. And besides, pretty much everyone here likes you more than her. And you're taller. She should be looking up to you."

"I guess." Tessa fidgeted.

"Just my opinion. I mean, doing nothing is fine too. I mean it. If the motivation isn't there, then why force it. Right?"

"Right. I suppose that's the approach you take." She grinned at him. "Only joking. I'm sure you just don't care for these tests."

"I just don't care for anything at all."

The words just tumbled out again. Nick wasn't used to talking like this. The frankness of this conversation opened him up. But it wasn't just the conversation - it was hard to describe. He felt a certain aura from Tessa, a power. Or perhaps it was something else.

"That's sad," she said.

The tone wasn't mocking. It wasn't pitying either. It was just a statement.


"I um, I enjoyed talking to you," Tessa said. "You're a good listener. You seemed that way to me, which is why I came to talk to you now. I'm going to go now, but it would be nice to talk again."

"Yeah, that would be cool," Nick said. "Anytime."

"See ya, Nick. I hope you find something to care about."

But Nick already had. He decided he had to get his score up.

Re: Game Review #5

Posted: Tue Jan 02, 2018 11:17 pm
by Kriken
Game Review #5: Yu-Gi-Oh: Nightmare Troubadour
I can't make this sound anything but dweeby, but Yu-Gi-Oh has interested me for a long time. I have never been a fan of it really, but as a kid I enjoyed snatches of the anime I managed to catch on TV and I had fun with PS1 game Forbidden Memories despite not being able to play it properly and despite all of its faults. I could tell the card game itself had a lot of depth, and I was attracted by the show's classy design and intrigue. I would later watch some of the series as an adult and find that it is complete hot garbage (as opposed to Pokémon, which is still somewhat enjoyable), and that apparently there has not ever been a great yugioh game.

I wanted to find out what went wrong, so I decided to pick up one of the games with a proper story mode that I could easily access (and that seemed like one of the better ones) - Nightmare Troubadour, but before that I played Yu-Gi-Oh! World Championship 2007 which has no story mode but has a comprehensive tutorial that taught me how to play the game. My expectations were not too high considering what I knew, but at the same time I was tempting the game to defy my expectations, and reveal some hidden quality that most reviewers failed to see.

For the first half hour I'm lost. I fill out a quick personality questionnaire thing at the start which I assume determines my starting deck of cards. I get signed up to a "beginner's cup" and then I'm on a map screen with no idea what to do. After looking up a playthrough online, I find out that what I have to do is move my cursor around the map until I find people to duel. The cursor changes colour and becomes more wild as I get closer to duellist, but the game did not explain this to me. If it did, then maybe I accidentally skipped that bit of info. Even some further pointers wouldn't have hurt. Maybe even just a "Find duellists!" sign on the map.

When I find out how to play the game, I'm duelling for what feels like a long time, and I'm duelling the same people over and over again. Téa is my first opponent, and also my second and third, and I'm wondering if for whatever reason this was meant to be and that she is rising in difficulty each time. For some reason I actually believe this, but then realise she is using the same deck each time and is actually pretty hard to lose to. The game is just clumsy or, rather, lazy, when it comes to presenting duels. She even says the same thing each time. I eventually get around to duelling others but it barely feels like a tournament, which is what I assumed "Beginner's Cup" entailed.

I have to consult a walkthrough again because it seemed like I was getting nowhere and I realised I would have to keep on looking at a guide if I wanted to progress at this game at a good pace, because there is no good way to know otherwise. You're banking on certain random events happening, and by being at a certain level (gaining exp through winning duels), the guide showing me around what area I need to look. For example, some of your encounters need to be at night, but the problem is if you go back to your house to save and it happens to be night or if it turns night after travelling back home, you can't go back outside without sleeping and making it day again. It's annoying, considering you need certain events at night to progress, and the less tedious way to get to nighttime is by duelling...and that in itself can get tedious.

But you know, despite all of that, I actually find that I'm enjoying myself for the most part. As I duel people I quickly gain 'Kaiba Corp' points which allow me to purchase more cards in order to strengthen my deck. I end up duelling the same people a lot, but it remains interesting because I find new and more interesting or effective ways to beat them. It can get tense too, even if it's just against AI. You can find yourself in a position where you're almost out of life points but you can turn things around just by holding out until you get the right cards for a deadly combination. By contrast in Pokemon, though it's a series I like a lot for the most part, you can just stack up exp on one Pokémon and just plow through you the game. You can basically just win and progress by mashing A. And while I understand that's not the most enjoyable way to play the game, it did kind of bother me that it was as simple as that.

For a while I am enjoying the game a good deal, despite some problems with the presentation. The writing actually isn't that bad but there are some oddly terrible regular lines. Whenever it gets too late and you're forced to go home the message, "Let's already return" pops up. If you try to go outside during night it'll stop you because of "slowness" apparently. There are other lines like this and it's baffling. Any person would glance at the line and realise that's not how a human being talks. It's like the job of proof-reading the text was divided between someone at least semi-competent at their job and someone who was not, or maybe just didn't give a crap. The game would sell well enough anyway and the mostly young fans would not care.

Your character is so shoehorned into the game. They weren't even trying. For the most part you could assume you're just a silent protagonist. That would have been fine I guess, but every so often your character does interject with something and it's jarring because you don't expect it and it's done badly. You name your character but your dialogue text boxes are not marked by a name like other characters. The messages are indistinguishable to game announcements and they are the most generic and pointless lines you could give a character. They should have taken a page from many other RPGs (say, Pokémon), where other characters act or talk in a way that suggests your character is saying something, simply alluding to the details. The silent protagonist. It's a minor point on its own but this is just one of many ways I've mentioned that the game lacks polish and a lack of polish takes you of the experience.

I didn't end up finishing the game and honestly probably never will, so I have to grudgingly accept that Yugioh games probably deserve their mediocre reviews. I did play most of the game and enjoyed it enough that I'd say it was worth the time. I plan on playing some other games in the series at some point, as well as the online games, and so I can built on what I learned. Nightmare Troubadour displays the potential I believe the series has but unfortunately drops the ball in a lot of areas, and in ways I felt were easily avoidable.

Re: The Writer's Circle

Posted: Wed Jan 03, 2018 8:00 am
by DarkRula
Nightmare Troubadour, the only Yu-Gi-Oh game I've ever played... When I was young.
You certainly gave it a great review, Kriken.

Film Review #1

Posted: Sat Jan 13, 2018 2:50 am
by Kriken
Thank you DarkRula.

Alright so I'm going to do film reviews as well now, along with other kinds of reviews probably. I will be light on spoilers, but there will be some spoilers inevitably. If there are a lot of them, or big ones, I'll be sure to give a spoiler warning before the review.

Film Review #1: Spiderman Homecoming
I was a bit wary about this film when it was first announced, and in fact when I saw this new iteration of Spiderman in the Captain America Civil War trailer I didn't like the look of this new brightly shoehorned-in Spidey. Think what you want of the Sam Raimi/Tobey McGuire era of Spiderman but they nailed the costume, and really, Tobey was tolerable enough. It was not just the costume or the more youthful tone he seemed to bring, however. I had a growing weariness for the Marvel Cinematic movie-churning machine at that point, and also a weariness for Spiderman reboots. Would we get another goddamn origin story in such a short space of time? Though Civil War already introduced the character, I thought Homecoming might have done in flashbacks. But nope. So that's one positive.

I wasn't a fan of Tony Stark having a major role in this film but it turned out he wasn't too intrusive. Unlike other Marvel films which feel a lot like chapters for the Avengers series, Homecoming is not that and has its own feel. Despite having a Peter Parker that not only looks younger but seems a lot younger, the film at some points often pushes at that PG-13 boundary with some pleasantly surprising humour. It has a more genuine feel to it than the other Spiderman films too, the characters seeming more real. Instead Stark's cameo is what it should be. Just plain neat with that familiar wise-cracking humour. His inclusion makes the film and its world seem a lot bigger, a part of the MCU which I made up with after the rather enjoyable Civil War.

It also should be said that Stark giving Spiderman his suit - which is outfitted with all sorts of complicated settings and abilities - helps introduce a refreshing element to the story. I hadn't noticed this in the previous films, but in them Spiderman got awfully good at what he was doing very quickly. Not that it was unbelievable - Peter Parker is of course a very intelligent character and always has been. Along with his super abilities he's even quicker with his mind and with his body too, so it makes sense. But in Homecoming we see a different side of the character who seems rather clumsy in his role for most of the film, despite being a superhero for some time already. The advanced suit Stark gives him doesn't seem to help with this as he comes to rely on it too much and gets himself into trouble because of that.

There's an amusing scene in the film where he has to run across a stretch of land because there are no buildings around him to swing from. So the depiction of Spiderman in this film is a bit more grounded, highlighting the limitations of the hero and how difficult it could be for him to get used to the role. After all, he is just a teenage boy and much younger than most of the other heroes in this universe. It's at least a new take for the films, which is especially nice since the 2012 reboot is still fresh in a lot of our minds. And what do I think of the new actor compared to the others? I liked them all, and I think this one is fine too. He played this kind of role really well in a way I don't think the other two could have.

Okay, now for the negatives. There were some dumb moments in this film. The downside of what I praised above is that this new Spiderman's clumsiness did border on frustrating at some points. Some points funny, but at some points it looked like literally any other person could have handled the situation better. All for the sake of the "he's in way over his head narrative". If a viewer was not familiar with the character I might forgive them for thinking he doesn't even have super powers.

The scene where Peter's friend Ned stands up in the gym and says to love interest Liz "Peter is friends with Spiderman" in a bid to help him get in there made me cringe. Who would do that? Why would Liz do anything more than roll her eyes at that? But no, it works for some reason and then she invites Peter and Ned to her party, seemingly with the expectation that Spiderman might drop by at some point too. Then there's the scene where Spiderman webs down an alien gun to the deck of a cruise ship. The contained power is overloaded and for some reason the explosion cuts the ship clean in half. As it somehow continues to remain afloat, Spidey then attempts to hold the two pieces of the ship together with webbing. When that fails, Stark-robots push the two pieces together, and of course they fit easily back together because the ship remained magically afloat anyway. It's then soldered back together by more Stark robots which I guess is the least dumb part but at that point I stopped caring. It reminded me of the train scene in Spiderman 2 which was a lot better.

Asides from those negatives which stuck out the most, Homecoming is a pretty okay film. It is absolutely better than The Amazing Spiderman which felt so pointless and retread much of the same ground as the original Sam Raimi film. It was refreshing and there was a neat twist for the Vulture character and a minor neat twist for the character of MJ. At the same time, as you can probably guess, it still didn't exactly blow me away. The Sam Raimi films for me remain to be the more enjoyable outings (apart from the third...) with a more emotional payoff - especially Spiderman 2, which I adore. That said, now that this new Spidey is properly established, I expect a more substantial sequel, one that really gets its hooks in, and one that hopefully doesn't shy away from creativity. I hope it doesn't get bogged down in some wider MCU plot, but from what I've seen here I can trust that probably won't happen.

Game Review #6

Posted: Fri Feb 02, 2018 10:29 pm
by Kriken
Game Review #6: Tiny Metal (Version 1.0.9)
I don't mind videogame clones as long as they're done right. Often they are not, but the potential is there for something even better or at least something that fulfils a certain niche. For example, Rivals of Aether is blatantly a Smash-clone, but it has its own unique mechanics and is available on various different platforms. It's not the only one of its kind and it's leading the way for the 'platform fighter' to become a genre of its own.

The prospect of an Advance Wars clone was quite frankly welcome. The 3DS is on its way out; it's clear there'll be no game for that system. There wasn't even a hint of a Wars game on Wii U. Intelligent Systems are still figuring out a good way to turn Advance Wars into a dating/waifu simulator like modern Fire Emblem - or perhaps they already have and they're waiting for Valentines Day to announce it (I'm joking but I'd appreciate that kind of humour from them).

My first impression of Tiny Metal was not overly positive, however. It opens up with a horribly generic cinematic of two cartoony CGI armies going at it. It's reminiscent of the PS1 Worms pre-game cutscenes without the comedy and it's somewhat out of place here given the mostly heavy-handed seriousness of the story campaign.

The game was launched with no multiplayer, and as of yet still does not have it, but honestly with a solid campaign I can forgive this. 99.9% of my time on the Advance Wars series was in the singleplayer modes and they're great fun. I still go back to them after years of first picking them up and after hundreds of hours, still finding better or more interesting ways to complete missions.

Trouble is, I'm not sure if the campaign here is solid. To be blunt, the AI is terrible, and it often feels like you have a big advantage unit-wise. I'm not completely sure of this since every map is fog-of-war and so the enemy's army is largely obscured before you eat into them, but if they ever have the advantage it seems like they don't do a good job of pressing it. Not at any point did I really feel like I was at risk of losing the mission and I'm nearly at the end of the game.

Meanwhile, while the AI in the Advance Wars series is not perfect they'll generally do the text-book correct things and sometimes give the illusion of genius. It also helps that you often don't have the advantage on maps, whether this is by units, city/factory number or placement.

All that said, the game could still be good and fun considering these factors. Perhaps there could be an art to scoring high in these missions. Alas, developer Area 35 drop the ball in this aspect as well. The scoring system is downright bizarre. I haven't counted all the factors, but two big ones seem to be: cities captured and area of the map explored. Even if no tactical advantage is gained. Healing units at cities also ups your score - again, even if no tactical advantage is gained. Like you could pointlessly waste funds on healing a unit you don't need to use. You lose points the longer the battle goes on - this I actually agree with.

I hate to draw so many comparisons to Advance Wars, but again the aforementioned does this better. Your score is based on the proportion of your units you keep alive, the speed at which you clear a map (in-game turns), and how many enemy units you destroy in a turn weighed against the total number of enemy units. Again, not a perfect system if we get into the specifics, but what is?

The only thing Tiny Metal does better in this regard is that it's almost completely clear what does change your score - there's a live counter during the game and you're normally told what triggers it going up or down. Advance Wars' scoring is a little opaque by comparison, but that has not stopped me from getting S ranks on every mission on Dark Conflict and on most of the campaign missions (normal and hard) in Dual Strike without finally looking it up online. So it's probably not unintuitive.

Moving onto actual game mechanics, they seem fine. Fuel - that is, running out of it - has been done away with completely, something which doesn't really bother me. There are no naval units, but again I can live with that. Healing at cities or factories/airports is done manually and it uses up a turn. There are a lot of little differences. There are counterparts to a lot of Advance Wars units but also a few unique ones.

There are some interesting new features. You can now get units into a flanking formation around enemy units before initiating a single focused attack. This spares you potentially punishing counter-attacks from 1v1 exchanges. There is an 'assault' option which allows the enemy unit to attack first but you can force them off a tile. Admittedly I haven't used it yet but it could be useful.

Graphically the game is mostly appealing. It would have been nice for enemy units to look more distinct to your own (although it doesn't help I'm a bit colour-blind), but apart from that it's solid. Character portraits in text sequences have fun and colourful designs that pop. Their mouths move animatedly along with the dialogue which is fully voiced. It's just a shame that they're not written in any appealing way. The story falls flat with a lot of exposition dumps - a lot - and is so muddled that I could write a whole 'nother essay about it alone if I could be bothered. The bottom line is, it's not good despite some effort.

This game is so unpolished that I could go on about its faults for quite a bit. With the state it's in now, I can't recommend it, but with continued patches it has the potential to be a passable game or even better. All it might take is a working online multiplayer, because then we could get some decent human opponents.

Another update has since been released and while it contains a lot of improvements, major issues have not been addressed.
Edit: In my haste I got a handful of minor details wrong. Healing units doesn't use up funds at all. Also, the Assault feature works a little differently from what I imagined. Not only does it push a unit off a tile, but your unit then occupies their old tile. Clearly very useful - if it's a unit sitting on a factory/airport, then you can block that off.

Re: The Writer's Circle

Posted: Fri Feb 02, 2018 10:50 pm
by DarkRula
Another good review, Kriken. And possibly the last review posted here before SONM locks itself up.

Re: The Writer's Circle

Posted: Fri Feb 02, 2018 11:05 pm
by Kriken
Yeah, I had the same thought haha. Thanks for the praise as usual.

And thanks to everybody who posted in this thread. I know it's Chaoscontrol's thread but I kind of sabotaged it and I have enjoyed seeing other people's writing efforts here over the years (on this thread and its equivalent on ONM). Admittedly I haven't read as much of other offerings as I would have liked.

Thanks for the praise and the comments. Thanks for the votes towards the best writer awards I got (1st all times baby), even from people I wouldn't have expected to read to my stuff (some probably did just because they didn't know who else used this forum). To be honest I'm aware I'm hack-fraud and I rank some of the other writers on here and ONM much more highly: weakboson/wombat samurai, aren142, Hyder, rukaio (probably got the name wrong lol), some other people I forgot. You guys are sick.

Honourable mention: Rik. ;) Seriously, I hope you keep up the writing, I know you enjoy it. And really, that's why we should write.

Re: The Writer's Circle

Posted: Fri Feb 02, 2018 11:09 pm
by DarkRula
I might upload an SONM Retrospective here before the closing date, allowing people a quick summary of events that happened. That'll be my personal one, though no doubt many others might start doing so.

Re: The Writer's Circle

Posted: Sun Feb 11, 2018 2:49 pm
by Rik
Honestly this is probably my favourite thread on (S)ONM, it's amazing how many talented writers the forums seem to have attracted over the years and it's been a blast seeing what you've all been up to. I've had a quick look on the creative section on GRcade and they don't seem to have an equivalent thread so I might set one up in the coming days, I'll post a link on the SONM discord when I do.
It's been a pleasure, gentlemen.
Kriken wrote:
Fri Feb 02, 2018 11:05 pm
Honourable mention: Rik. ;) Seriously, I hope you keep up the writing, I know you enjoy it. And really, that's why we should write.
Thanks man, you too. I kind of dropped off this thread towards the end but was always nice to come in and see what you'd been up to, especially when you were on your Lucky Zerucky run.

Also, is anyone in contact with CC still? Was a shame that she kind of just disappeared, it'd be ace if we could get her back for GRcade.