Dysfunctional Humans

Dysfunctional Systems has a very interesting setting to it.  Placed in the (likely) far-flung future, members of Earth have taken it upon themselves to monitor other worlds (dubbed “systems”) in order to make sure things don’t get too chaotic and steer the worlds’ growths to be as orderly as possible.  These Mediators travel to different worlds and more or less try and solve the immediate problems, sometimes “by whatever means necessary”.

But, let’s not talk about that.  Let’s talk about Winter instead.

Winter Harrison is the protagonist of Dysfunctional Systems (at least the first episode), a student Mediator that ends up getting caught in a rather nasty situation.  Winter’s mindset is a bit odd, though; she barely understands what the word “war” even means, and balks at the down trodden people as if they are simply playing at being poor and overworked.  She wonders why people “seemed to pick their outfits from a pile of rags” and why the President of Brighton threatens to launch a weapon at their oppressors because it would hurt people.  The whole concept of a world being less than perfectly operated is just a bit above her head, which leads to a slightly condescending attitude to the citizens of other worlds, even if she doesn’t verbalize this attitude.

She is not the only one that thinks like this, though; apparently many of the Mediators hold similar thoughts.  Their detached attitudes that a another other world is destroyed is rather unsettling, really.  But when you really think about it… these rather off-putting attitudes aren’t too far from what some of our own thought-processes are around these sorts of subjects.  In the United States, we only really see news that’s related to our country–whether it’s an address from the President, or of some guy that opened an amazingly unique shop in Minnesota.  While us Americans do hear about the major world news (such as the deadly tsunamis), we know little about the plight of others outside our own country.

This isn’t true in every country, of course, but we can easily see how this can be distilled down to an individual level.  Many of us have our hobbies, favorite TV shows, and whatever else have you; while we may garner information about subjects that don’t interest us as much, we generally do not care much about them.  If someone is following the The Walking Dead and not Game of Thrones, would that person particularly understand the impact of, say, Eddard dying in Game of Thrones?  Not really, though it’s likely they had some thoughts about when Jim died in The Walking Dead, whether they liked the character or not.

That’s the key here:  Understanding.  We know of different situations that are worst than our own, and can even empathize with people within these unfortunate situations, but we don’t really understand what it is that’s the problem unless we go through them (and therefore care about it) ourselves.  For example, I personally know how it feels to be living below the poverty line, struggling to make ends meet, but I do not understand the suffering that comes from being homeless and/or jobless, or starving because I didn’t have enough money to buy some food for a few days.  While I can sympathize and feel sorry for those in that type of situation, but I cannot truly understand what they’re going through.

It’s the same with Winter, really.  She may not sympathize with the people of Brighton, and her thoughts of them seem needlessly ignorant, but the world that she grew up in had none of these issues; in fact, it would seem as if most people of the future Earth that Dysfunctional Systems would never have to come in contact with such issues.  It’s only natural that she doesn’t understand why these people seem so downtrodden and desperate, when she comes from a society that’s (at least hinted at ) pretty much perfect.

So, perhaps if you think Winter’s being a little cruel, or harsh, remember that she’s really not that different from us, even if we can (usually) mask it better.

An Internet Phenomenon

Eight days.  Over eight days this madness has gone on.  Eight days of fifty thousand people trying to play one copy of Pokemon Red, inputting basic commands and moving Red around like he’s an hyperactive child on a sugar rush, randomly looking at items in his pack and commending his Raticate to dig through floors of buildings to the exit.  It’s a crazy concept, but one that is so intriguing, so abnormal that it has gamers enraptured, having them type in commands in chat and argue amongst themselves whether cutting that tree again is really worth the effort.

It’s impressive that the collective whole has gotten as far as it has; about now the collective effort has gotten the group through the Safari Zone and Koga’s gym.  Eight days of playing Pokemon Red straight would certainly yield more than that for the single, normal player, but the chaos of a slurry of commands makes even healing your Pokemon at a Center a monumental task.  The stream has seen Pokemon aptly named AATTVVV, AAJST(????, and DUX (hey, for a Farfetch’d that’s pretty good).  Gamers have mercilessly released Pokemon back into the wild and shun the Master Ball like it was nothing more than a toy.

I can say, without a doubt, that this is the single most interesting playthough of Pokemon that I’ve ever seen, and the fact that more people are watching this than League of Legends matches makes me think I’m not the only one.

Twitch Plays Pokemon started as a small thing; a simple game ROM hacked to take inputs from the viewers as opposed to the player.  However, once a few big name gaming websites caught wind of the stream and advertised it, Twitch Plays Pokemon exploded into an Internet phenomenon.  When thousands of people get together like this, trolls are rampant, inspired people make art, and a slew of memes are created to honor… well, the craziness of it all.

Even amongst this mass confusion of button presses, people get together and plan, mapping out the best routes for success and trying to achieve it.  It’s an admirable effort, and certainly one to keep serious player morale up when they’ve jumped over the ledge for the twentieth time, but a playthough like this thrives off its chaotic nature; it’s more interesting when things don’t go as planned.  In fact, that’s when the players seem to get the most excited.

Now we have an over-leveled Pigdeot so powerful it’s dubbed “Bird Jesus”, an All Terrain Venomoth, and of course the BigDig Rat.  The players’ accidental usage of the Helix Stone over the course of the game have given it an allure of a religious object.  There’s not even different sects of users, dividing themselves amongst their ideals and Pokemon mascots to simultaneously add both more order and chaos to the entire ordeal.

Some people even view this as a social experiment; can these many strangers really coordinate long enough to beat a game of Pokemon?  Given the arguments and different ‘factions’ of people adhering to Anarchy and Democracy to the point of reverence, there’s certainly a few things to be learned from watching this unfold.  All colors of the Internet have gathered here, from trolls to overly serious types to those that just want to have fun, and watching them try to play a game of Pokemon Red together can lead so some intriguing discussion… well, if you could parse it out amongst the flurry of input commands.

The whole ROM hack itself has been becoming more sophisticated during the duration of this, adding an “Anarchy and Democracy” system to help players progress in more maze-y areas.  Anarachy is, of course, the normal mode of chaotic button presses, and Democracy has a voting based system where the majority rule of button presses decides which way to go.  By nature Democracy is slower and a tad on the boring side, but practically a necessity for the Step limit of the Safari Zone or Silph Co.  Other little sophistications have been added too, such as arrows instead of the words for directional arrows, and the ability (in Democracy mode) to vote for multiple button presses at once, such as “left3up2”.  Even Twitch itself had to work out some errors, as the popularity of the stream caused some major chat lag, and Twitch Plays Pokemon had to be moved onto its own server; and on top of that, chat tweaks had to be made to keep it running smoothly.

This playthrough of Pokemon Red isn’t even alone, though it is by far the most popular.  There are also similar streams of Blue, Yellow, and even Crystal.  These tend to have a bit more sophisticated layouts, including current objectives and the current party, but the lack of viewers (and by extension players/inputters) doesn’t make the other games as interesting to watch as the original read.  Of course, it’s also worth noting that the Blue and Crystal runs are much farther along than the Red run, but that is due for the most part due to a smaller, and more serious, group of players controlling the protagonists.

 

It’ll be a while before the stream can beat the game, but when it gets there, it’ll be a sight to behold; the result of probably a million people over the course of weeks slowly progressing through a Game Boy game together.  Maybe someone other than Bird Jesus will lead the way.  Probably not, though, it IS the only high leveled Pokemon they got.

Maybe the sacred Helix Fossil has something to say about it.

EvilQuest – The Pseudo Sequel to Crystalis

EvilQuest is a very interesting title.  One of the ‘gems in the rough’ of the Xbox Indie Games service, EvilQuest stands out not only because it’s supposedly an okay game (well, maybe it’s not for everyone) but also because you get to play as the villain.  Not the ‘evil that eventually turns good’ villain, but a straight-up evil dude.  Also, it’s only a dollar, so what’s the harm in giving it a try?

But the game’s merits or faults aren’t what I’m talking about today.  No, I haven’t played the game yet.  But, when I watch my boyfriend give the game a whirl, I had a bit of a thought…

“Man, this game looks JUST like Crystalis.”

In the past, I called Crystalis one of my favorite NES games, though that probably wasn’t the best idea:  I only played the GBC version, and ultimately it’s a flawed game, albeit with some interesting concepts.  It also had quite a unique style to it… the way the character and the world looked makes the game pretty easy to pick out amongst a crowd.  So, it’s a bit surprising to find a game that seems to use the same character animations and general models as SNK’s action RPG.  Heck, it even seems as though both titles have the issue of a invincibility time after getting hit that’s far too short!  Of course, that’s hard to really tell without a direct comparison, but it’s there.

EvilQuest certainly isn’t a rip-off of Crystalis, but it’s very hard to not see the similarities.  Then again, it can be a little hard to explain in words.  Why not take a gander of these gameplay videos of the two games, side by side?

Yeah, they look quite a bit alike, don’t they?  Of course, EvilQuest does offer a but more design wise: Level ups allow you to choose what stats to increase, and items are of course easier to use.  But, it’s interesting–much like the NES game, EvilQuest seems to be loved by some yet hated by others.  Some of EvilQuest’s design choices were flawed… and while some our unique to the game (such as Galvis, the main villain, and his lack of personality), others seems to resonate with Crystalis’ problems, such as balance and difficulty issues.

But hey, that doesn’t mean EvilQuest is bad.  It’s certainly true that some people don’t like it, but chance are if you enjoyed Crystalis than this title’s worth a shot, especially for a single dollar.  Give it a try if you’re interested in a pseudo-kinda-sorta-sequel to Crystalis… I know I will be giving the game another look soon!

Zelda Challenge – Day 30

Day 30: Your expectations/thoughts on Skyward Sword and/or Ocarina of Time re-make?

I haven’t played Skyward Sword yet… I really should get on playing that and Twilight Princess already.

Ocarina of Time 3D was a pretty great remake, in my opinion.  The textures were nicely updated and looked great, and having the touch screen available for the Ocarina and other item equips helps with not having to change your items was good too.  Little else was changed, though, so gamers were able to enjoy what Ocarina of Time really was.  The addition of Master Quest was a great touch, too.  Overall, a terrific remake.

Zelda Challenge – Day 29

Day 29: Favorite side-quest, why?

I don’t know if it counts as a side-quest, but I’ve always liked the little trading circles the games would have.  People would ask for the craziest things, and it was interesting to see what they’d use things like pots or clocks for… and what they’d give you in return!

Also, even though it was a bit of a pain, I liked taking pictures for the guy to make mini statues in Wind Waker.  If only you could take more than three pictures at a time…