In which I don’t know how you got there or what you’re doing

An interesting phenomenon, at least to me: I’ve noticed that the older I get the more annoyed I get by bad worldbuilding in my video games. This isn’t a story concern, necessarily; what I mean is that I need things like levels to make basic physical sense and seem in at least a cursory way to be things that could exist in the actual world the game is portraying.

Why yes, I am playing Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order right now. How did you guess?

It’s been a running joke for a while, at least among my immediate family: my wife works in occupational health and safety, so we notice these sorts of things: Star Wars doesn’t have OSHA. Everything, everything is positioned with no railings over a bottomless pit or, if there is a railing, there’s not a chance in hell it would keep anyone from falling over it or, uh, being thrown:

That shit is not safe. And don’t even get me started on this bullshit:

So I’m used to the idea that in a Star Wars video game there are going to be some fall hazards. The idea doesn’t bother me. It doesn’t make sense on a fundamental level, but it’s pre-established in the world. But here’s my problem with Fallen Order: you unlock your Force powers as you travel through the game, and you use them extensively to get where you’re going on whatever planet you’re on– particularly the wall run ability, which is used constantly.

So if I had to use half a dozen Jedi wall runs, had to Force Pull a convenient vine over to myself to swing across a huge gap, had to use Force Push to break through a conveniently weak area of wall, and — oh, right — had to exterminate hundreds of incredibly dangerous examples of the local fauna in order to get to an area, how the hell are there two dozen Stormtroopers already there when I get there?

(“Why the hell are the Stormtroopers so much less dangerous than this space goat” is another question relevant to the game, but not the one I’m discussing at the moment.)

This shit gets to me, guys, it really does. You don’t have Jedi powers, Stormtrooper! How the fuck are you here? How did you get to the top of this wroshyr tree on Kashyyyk that I’ve been climbing using my magic Jedi abilities for twenty minutes? Did someone drop you off there in a ship? Why did they do that? Are they going to come get you? Are you here just in case a Jedi shows up? Because they’re supposed to all be dead.

How did any of these chests get here?

Remember these goddamn things?

Random huge pieces of machinery with no clear function whatsoever that seem to exist only to impede player progress are starting to get on my nerves. There are tons of enormous machines everywhere (on abandoned planets; who built all this shit?) that serve no purpose other than to kill you if you don’t figure out how to properly avoid and/or slow them down (Oh, also: Jedi slowing powers. I had to slow down a huge fan and sneak through an airduct to get here! How are you here, Stormtrooper?) and I just want to know what they’re for. Why are there giant spinny blades with holes in them in this area? What’s this thing, that just slams back and forth but doesn’t seem to do anything? Who decided that these catwalks needed to have places where you had to jump over holes? Because every fucking catwalk has holes, and they don’t all appear to be damaged. Some of them just aren’t finished. Why? Is the Empire suing the shit out of their contractors? Because they need to be suing the shit out of their contractors.

I’m having a lot of fun with the game– don’t get me wrong. But Jesus, the level geography is like they deliberately tried to make no damn sense at all.

In which I miss out

There were apparently something on the order of fifteen thousand teachers protesting at the Statehouse in Indianapolis today. Most of the public districts across the state, including mine, cancelled school today when it became clear that it would be utterly impossible to staff the buildings given the number of people taking personal days to attend the protest. I was not personally among them; I know a bunch of people who went, obviously, but given that my mother is currently back in the hospital and the only viable transportation to the protest was by bus (I am not about to fight fifteen thousand extra out-of-towners for parking in downtown Indianapolis) I was deeply leery of being three hours away from home and not actually personally in charge of when I could come back.

So I didn’t go. Which, honestly, is probably for the best; I have Twitter and my blog when I want to talk and/or think about politics, the governor wasn’t there anyway, and I really didn’t need to spend the day in a simmering rage. If I could have had a guarantee that no one would try to talk to me while I was there it might have worked out okay, but that seems unlikely. Instead I stayed home and played with cats and also played the new Star Wars game on my PS4, which is not the most productive use of my day but possibly the most sane.

The new cat’s name might be Dr. Doofenschmirtz, by the way.

Name this cat

So New Cat has been living in our master bathroom for a few days now. At the vet’s suggestion, we have expanded his range to the laundry room as of yesterday. He is about three years old, which is about what I figured, an unfixed male, which was obvious, and unchipped. As of yesterday he is flea, worm and ear mite free and we’ve confirmed that he does not have FIV or whatever the other disease they make sure to check cats for is.

He is a friendly soft cuddly boi. Technically we can’t call him our cat or get him fixed until fifteen days have passed since reporting that we found him, so we’ve got a bit more time on that. I suspect an unchipped and unfixed male that was wandering the neighborhood is almost certainly not someone’s cat, however, and he’ll be ours soon enough. He knows what a litterbox is, so he probably got dumped by somebody.

We are having a hell of a time picking out a name. On one hand, this maybe isn’t a bad thing, as he’s not our cat yet and it’s always possible his owners might claim him, and renaming him before he’s official is putting the cart before the horse just a bit. On the other hand … it’s just not that damn likely. We may as well.

Possible options include:

  • Gus, which was my brother’s initial choice and seems to fit him. However, my wife has bad associations with a cat named Gus in the past (don’t ask) and so this is highly unlikely to be the final name.
  • Walter. He is a dignified-looking cat, and I feel like Walter sort of fits him.
  • Chewie. If I had been able to create a new cat out of thin air he would have been an orange boycat and we would have named him Goose; I feel like Chewie is too Captain Marvel-adjacent (Chewie is the name of the flerken in the comics that became Goose in the movie) to name this cat when the appearance of a Goose in the future is still possible.
  • Mochi. The Great Old One is literally from Japan and is named Mizu, which I have always suspected was supposed to be Miso but spelled wrong by the people at the shelter I got her from. I had a cat named Moro who passed away several years ago who was named after a character in Princess Mononoke, and our current kitten is named Sushi, which was my son’s decision. So we have a previously-established pattern of naming cats with 1) Japanese names starting with M and 2) Japanese foods. Which is a weird accident, because otherwise I display no weeaboo tendencies. Mochi fits both.
  • I have mostly been calling him “Big boy” or “Buddy,” and honestly I think “Buddy” works pretty well as a name for him but my wife calls our son that all the time and I’d rather not get that mixed up. I don’t like “Big boy” as an actual name but as a temporary nickname it works.

So far, I think Mochi is probably my favorite choice, but nothing has stuck yet. Suggestions?

In which all I do is review things now

This week was seven hundred years long and featured hospitals and shingles— the disease, not the roof covering–, neither of which I was directly involved in, but I’m tired and utterly refuse to brain in any significant capacity right now. Luckily I have massive megacorporations providing entertainment to soothe me. So: two brief mini-reviews.

I have watched both episodes of The Mandalorian that have been released, and it’s pretty solid. It’s definitely Star Wars– the series not feeling right was my second biggest fear behind the fact that it was going to secretly be about Boba Fett, which it isn’t– and while I wasn’t sold on the music or the humor after the first episode I was right in suspecting that I just needed to get used to it. My favorite thing about the show so far is that it subtly reinforces the idea that Mandalorians aren’t actually the big tough badasses that Star Wars have been pretending they are for years– Boba Fett got killed by a blind man with a stick and a monster that couldn’t move, and the Mandalorian (who still doesn’t have a name) gets his ass kicked by Jawas in the second episode. I mean, it’s hilarious, but still. I don’t know that this is worth getting Disney+ for all by itself, but if you’re a Star Wars sort of person you probably already have your subscription and have watched the show already.

I have beaten this now, and everything I said in my early impressions post still holds: this is basically a Fallout game, only more Westerny and less post-apocalyptic, and with Mass Effect/Dragon Age-style companions. If you like that sort of thing, you’ll get along with it perfectly well, and unlike the last Dragon Age game I was actually able to finish it without dying of boredom, but I’m starting to think that unless someone does something to radically shake up how this genre works I think I’m going to tap out of it now, because long quest chains and ceaseless fetch quests just aren’t fun for me anymore. I damn near turned the game off when one character literally asked me to go ask another character if a poster he’d ordered had arrived yet, and I accidentally screwed up a quest late in the game involving modeling for an NPC and when I looked up what might have happened had I not messed it up I realized that there were 10,000 more things to do for it and I’d have been howling and throwing shit at the walls by the end of it. It’s mostly well-written and entertaining beyond that, but this game demands a bit more patience than I actually have available to me right now. I might go through it once more to see how some quests might go when I make different choices, but it won’t be happening for a while.

#REVIEW: Upon the Flight of the Queen, by Howard Andrew Jones

Back in February I was able to get my hands on an early copy of Howard Andrew Jones’ For the Killing of Kings. I enjoyed it quite a bit, and said so, as I’ve been known to do, and miraculously just recently ended up with an early copy of the second book in the trilogy, called Upon the Flight of the Queen. I finished it today, a few days before release– the book comes out on November 19, next week.

I’ve been a fan of Jones’ for a while; he basically writes modern sword-and-sorcery, which is a genre that’s directly up my alley. The Ring-Sworn books are a bit more European in tone than the previous books I’ve read by him, and the first one basically ended up being a sort of fantasy murder mystery for about the first 2/3 of it, only the setup was that most of the characters were pursuing the rest of them for the murder that the book started with, while the main protagonists were looking for the shadowy villains who were actually responsible for the killing.

Upon the Flight of the Queen is, unapologetically and directly, a fantasy war novel. Killing of Kings ends with an invasion, and the entirety of Queen bounces back and forth between several locations all simultaneously being invaded by a group called the Na’or, who are 1) generally not very nice, 2) have dragons, and 3) are sort of allied with the Queen, whose role in the story I’m not going to talk about all that much because spoilers and I’ve probably already said enough, although if you’ve read the first book you’re already aware that something not quite kosher is going on with her.

The strengths of the first book were the characters and the fact that Jones never stopped stepping on the gas for basically the entire length of the story. This is much the same, really, except that the book’s timeline is really compressed compared to the first book– it takes place over no more than a couple of weeks, at most, I think, and there’s absolutely no point where the author lets the momentum of the book flag at all. Now, one mistake I think I made: I’ve read, conservatively, probably 75-80 books since Killing of Kings, and it might have been smarter of me to have reread it before jumping back into the sequel. There are a lot of characters and a lot going on in this book, and I spent a bit more time trying to figure out what was going on than I generally like to, which I think is more my fault as a reader rather than the fault of the book– which is, after all, book two of a trilogy, which one might not reasonably expect to stand on its own all that well. I also could have benefited from a map. Fantasy books should always have maps, even if they don’t need them. This one involves war and invasions so it needs them.

The first two books in the Ring-Sworn trilogy came out ten months apart, so one assumes Volume 3 will be out sometime next year. I didn’t love this one quite as much as I did the first volume, but I’ll make sure to reread them before the third book comes out. If you enjoyed For the Killing of Kings, I’d go hunt Upon the Flight of the Queen when it comes out next week.