rionaleonhart: final fantasy versus xiii: a young woman at night, her back to you, the moon high above. (nor women neither)
My housemate Ginger is now playing Until Dawn while Rei and I watch! I robbed myself of the opportunity to play this game unspoiled myself, so this is my vicarious first playthrough. We've only just finished the first chapter, so not much has actually happened yet.

It's been an absurdly warm day, or at least it's been absurdly warm for anyone who grew up in England, so there were a lot of envious noises at all the in-game snow. 'Lucky bastards. I mean, yes, they're probably about to die, but at least they'll die cold.'

The game really can't shut up about the butterfly effect in its first hour or so. We ended up cracking up at every mention of it, which slightly impaired the atmosphere.

Ginger commented that the butterfly shown in the opening ~ooh butterfly effect~ sequence has the same colouring as the butterfly representing Chloe in Life Is Strange. Chloe Price is behind the events of Until Dawn. It all makes sense now.

Ginger doesn't get along with the controls. 'It sort of makes me want to kill all of these characters, just as revenge on the game.' Please don't deliberately kill all the characters, Ginger.


Ginger finds the first totem (showing a glimpse of a possible future event in the game). I explain the concept:

Riona: So, if the totem shows you choking to death on a pie, you turn down the pie when it's offered to you later.
Rei: I'm not sure about that. I do really like pie.
Ginger: Are you willing to die for pie?
Rei: I am willing to chew very carefully.


Mike's intro screen: Intelligent. Driven. Persuasive.
Rei: Dick.

Ginger agrees. I'm not at all surprised that my housemates immediately decided Mike was a dick (I can't even say they're wrong), but I still hope in my heart that they'll warm up to him later on.

Stupid Mike. Of course the arsehole ended up being my favourite character. Not that this game is short of arseholes.
rionaleonhart: the last of us: joel and ellie look out at the ruined horizon. (lot of ground to cover)
Out-of-Context Theatre:

'To be honest, I'm glad that Google considered my search for "nude Crash Bandicoot" and concluded, "I'm sure she meant new Crash Bandicoot."'


Here is a reaction to some E3 game trailers!

Life Is Strange: Before the Storm: I'm more excited than I would have expected myself to be! I love the shot of Chloe beating up the car in the junkyard. She's a ball of rage and bad coping mechanisms, and it's great. My relationship with Chloe had a bit of a rocky start (she pointed at me and blamed me for her weed! I was slightly outraged!), but by this point I think I can appreciate her for the absolute mess of a person that she is.

I'm glad they're sticking with the soft, sort-of painted visual style of the original.

Are we going to see [unpleasant character] in this prequel? Rachel knew him, but we're playing as Chloe, and, when she first meets him in Life Is Strange, they don't seem to know each other. So I suppose he won't be making an appearance. I, er, probably shouldn't be disappointed by that.

Hidden Agenda: something genuinely cool and new from the Until Dawn developers! A multiplayer anyone-can-die decision-based crime thriller, where you all vote on decisions. It seems like a great way to ruin friendships. I'm tempted.

Assassin's Creed: Origins: come on, another male protagonist? Not counting spin-offs and handheld titles, there have been nine main Assassin's Creed games, and the protagonist has been male in eight and a half of them. I was really hoping Ubisoft wouldn't go, 'Okay, you can play as a woman for part of Syndicate, we've eaten our vegetables and now we can get back to dudes.' The setting looks gorgeous, but this game isn't really sparking any excitement in me yet. I'll probably warm up to it, though.

(To be honest, I can't be too grumpy about protagonist gender when all three of the other games in this list focus on two women, which would have been unthinkable a few years ago. I'm so happy. You're improving, videogame industry!)

Uncharted: The Lost Legacy: this looks like so much fun! Action! Adventure! Fraught 'I'll save your life, but that doesn't mean we're friends' partnerships! (Between two women! I don't think I've ever seen that before.) I'll miss Nate and Elena and Sully, but, if you'd said, 'Okay, the central trio are off the table, but we'll make a game about any other two Uncharted characters you choose,' I would have asked for Chloe and Nadine. I can't believe this game is actually happening.
rionaleonhart: final fantasy xv: prompto, the best character, with a touch of swagger. (looking ahead)
I hope you like it when I talk at excessive length about videogames, because it's that time again. Ginger, old friend and new housemate, is replaying Life Is Strange, and it's got me thinking about narrative choices.

In the last year, I've experienced three games - Life Is Strange, Until Dawn, Oxenfree - in which the gameplay consists almost solely of making choices. There's the occasional puzzle in Life Is Strange, there are QTEs in Until Dawn, but fundamentally these games are about the player making choices to shape the story.

In theory.

In practice, these games have a linear story to tell. You can't drag the game down wholly different paths, in the way a Choose Your Own Adventure novel might offer. There are a handful of variables, but every playthrough will hit more or less the same story points and end in more or less the same way. Even in Until Dawn, where the way you play determines who lives and who dies, it's not possible to kill everyone off in the first few hours and make the game go '???? roll credits, I guess?' - certain characters are guaranteed to survive long enough to steer you to a predetermined endpoint. Ginger is currently doing an arsehole run of Life Is Strange, making all the horrible decisions they avoided on previous playthroughs, and at moments it's painful to watch, but it's still much the same story I experienced on my own run.

I mentioned this to Ginger, and their response was something I wasn't expecting: they put forward a case for games like this following roughly the same path and ending in roughly the same way, regardless of player choice. I'd always just assumed that 'your choices have as much impact as possible on the narrative' was the ideal point for these games to reach, and the current 'your choices can change small aspects of the story without actually changing the story's direction' situation was a result of budgetary and time constraints. But Ginger pointed out the social aspect to playing games like this: when you've finished a chapter or a game, you'll want to discuss it and theorise with other people playing the same game. If your choices could make Life Is Strange branch off onto one of ten different paths, that wouldn't be possible; you'd go, 'Hey, wasn't it strange when Max drank from the magical fountain and became a unicorn?' and nobody else would be able to discuss it with you, because only 10% of players even come across the magical fountain.

Thinking about it, this applies to fanfiction as well. In total, I've written ten works of fanfiction for these three narrative choice games, most of them set post-ending. If I hadn't been able to go 'yes, I know that the reader's playthrough will have ended in roughly the same way as mine and therefore they'll be able to tell what's going on here,' I'd never have been able to write them. I feel 'we'd better make things easier for the fanfic writers' is possibly not that high on the list of game developers' priorities, but I'm still glad that I was able to create things inspired by these games.

Life Is Strange also has strong themes of memory and nostalgia, of beautiful fleeting moments, of returning to where you came from and realising you're no longer the person you used to be. Would it be possible to write a game with twenty different endings and make its themes feel coherent?

You could argue that a game shouldn't try to be a film, and, while the developers going 'we know the story we're telling here; you can nudge the tiller occasionally, but we're the ones steering' makes for a better narrative, 'the reins are entirely in your hands! go wild!' would make for a better game. But I think I've been persuaded that greater freedom of choice shouldn't necessarily be the goal of all choice-based narrative games. Maybe Life Is Strange isn't an example of a genre that needs to develop; maybe it's a genre that's exactly where it needs to be.

It could still be fun to have the occasional cinematic game where your choices really do shape the narrative. But, for the moment, with all the budgetary issues involved, that might have to remain the domain of visual novels.

I do think choice-based games could do with fewer endings that explicitly undo the effects of all your choices, though. If the entire game consisted of the player making decisions, don't render those decisions meaningless!
rionaleonhart: the mentalist: lisbon, afraid but brave, makes an important call. (it's been an honour)
I played Gone Home! Spoilers under the cut. (If you're planning to play it, it's best to do it unspoiled.)


Spoilers for Gone Home. )


I think my favourite part of the game may have been The Menstrual Cycle: A Novella. Truly a masterpiece.
rionaleonhart: the mentalist: lisbon, afraid but brave, makes an important call. (it's been an honour)
I watched the first five episodes of Elementary a few days ago. It's good! I often have trouble getting along with procedurals, but Elementary has genuinely interesting mysteries of the week, which strikes me as unusual. I loved The Mentalist, but I never really cared much about the case of the week; I just enjoyed the characters enough to carry me through it. With Elementary, I'm not hugely invested in the characters yet, but they have potential, and the mysteries are interesting enough to keep me watching until that potential is (hopefully) fulfilled.

I'm also seeing potential for Holmes and Watson to have a really interesting claustrophobic, codependent relationship, but I think Watson might be too well-adjusted for that. Alas!


I've just discovered Koethe Koethe's Life Is Strange fan songs, and they're ridiculously impressive. 'Price', 'Storm' and 'Better Then' are some of my favourites (if you discount 'The Beans Song', which is so good it's unfair to make the other songs compete against it), but they're all pretty great: so well produced, and they all sound like songs that could actually appear in the game. I usually get second-hand embarrassment from fan songs with lyrics, but these really work. They sort of make me want to play it again.

Bit of a disconcerting change from all the Linkin Park I've been listening to lately, though (whoops).


Danganronpa V3, having previously been listed for a June release, now apparently isn't coming out in English until the end of September. Another seven months of dodging spoilers, I suppose!

I love these games so much. I love how well-crafted and interesting most of the murder mysteries are; I love the characters, this collection of weak, flawed, frightened people making horrible mistakes.

I first experienced Dangan Ronpa through orenronen's fan translations, which got up to halfway through the second game before the games were licensed for release in English, so I've only actually played half a game unspoiled. And, as much as I enjoyed reading it in Let's Play form (and as fiddly as some of the minigames are), actually playing it was a much better experience. The trials guide you gently from logical conclusion to logical conclusion, and that process - gradually piecing together what happened yourself, the dawning sense of dread as you realise who the murderer was - works so well.

I'm so excited to play an entire Dangan Ronpa game without knowing what to expect. I just have to make sure I don't run into spoilers!

For... for seven months. And, going by the fact that there are almost four hundred works on AO3 less than two months after the Japanese release, I'd guess that there are plenty of fan translations floating around. This is the sort of series where an entire case or an entire game can be spoiled by a single piece of fanart. Wish me luck.
rionaleonhart: okami: amaterasu is startled. (NOT SO FAST)
I played a couple of hours of Oxenfree last night! It's very pretty and colourful, which is an interesting design choice for a horror game. All the landscapes sort of look like they've been made out of coloured paper.

You have to make decisions within a few seconds in Oxenfree, which I find very stressful, even when most of the decisions are just 'what do you want to say now?' (I feel a bit spoiled by Life Is Strange, which not only gives you as much time as you like to choose your response but allows you to rewind and redo things if you change your mind.)

At the very beginning of the game, just after you get off the boat, I refused to speak alone with Jonas because my mind was working by Until Dawn rules: DON'T SEPARATE, BAD THINGS WILL HAPPEN. [livejournal.com profile] th_esaurus pointed out that this was very early in the game, nothing bad had happened yet, and a brief conversation with my stepbrother was unlikely to get anyone killed. I felt so bad for turning Jonas down that I restarted.

At this point I set the first and most important of several goals that would help me make decisions in the future: I want to get along with my stepbrother.

Later, after panicking during the 'who do you meet up with first?' decision at the radio tower, I came up with my second goal: I want to improve my relationship with Clarissa.

My third goal, after telling Ren there were other fish in the sea and TOO LATE realising that the game might think I want to be his fish: UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES can I end up in a romantic relationship with Ren.

('The game won't let you romance your stepbrother,' [livejournal.com profile] th_esaurus said, with deeply felt sadness. I laughed at her.)

I feel a lot more comfortable making quick decisions now that I know what I'm aiming for. Even if I still miss Life Is Strange. (The soft colours and loading-screen Polaroids really remind me of Life Is Strange, actually. Although I'm puzzled by the fact that Jonas took a picture on his phone and it appeared on the loading screen as a Polaroid.)

I'm playing this game at [livejournal.com profile] th_esaurus's flat, so I don't know exactly when I'll be able to pick it up again, but I hope it'll be soon! There's a lot of intriguing mystery. And I like Alex, which is unusual; I usually have trouble warming to characters who communicate entirely through dialogue choices, because they can end up feeling like an empty vessel for the player rather than a character in their own right, but a lot of personality comes through in everything she says.


Here are a handful of things I experienced in 2016 but didn't post full entries on:

- I watched the anime ERASED (it's available legally on Crunchyroll here), which is about a man who goes back to his childhood and tries to prevent the abduction and murder of a classmate. It was very good and very gripping, but I don't know whether I'll ever watch it again; it might be a bit too bleak and serious without the 'but what happens next??' drive to keep going. Still, I loved that it told a very compact, intense story in just twelve episodes. It also has one of the coolest opening sequences I've ever seen. The shots of the empty school give me chills.

- I saw Your Name in the cinema and loved it. The basic concept (two strangers keep swapping bodies across a great distance and can only communicate with each other by leaving notes) is exactly the sort of idea I find irresistible: people being drawn together by weird experiences, unable to talk about them with anyone but each other! Inevitably, I'm now wondering whether it could be employed in fanfiction for other works.

- Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is a much, much better show than you'd think from the title. A couple of my favourite songs:

I've kind of got a girl crush on you, by which I mean I wanna kill you and wear your skin like a dress.
FACE YOUR FEARS. RUN WITH SCISSORS.

- The second series of How to Get Away with Murder is, I'm delighted to report, just as stupid as the first. The scene in 'Meet Bonnie' where the students were going 'pfft, we've screwed up our lives, might as well have an orgy' inevitably delighted me. Has anyone written the fic where they follow through? I'm going to be so disappointed in fandom if nobody's written that fic.


Inevitably, the combination of fandoms in this entry is making me ponder a How to Get Away with Murder scenario in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, in which Rebecca somehow ends up killing someone and has to try not to get caught. It's actually a worryingly plausible scenario.
rionaleonhart: final fantasy viii: found a draw point! no one can draw... (you're a terrible artist)
Somehow, in an idle moment, I found myself running a brief 'text adventure' in a Whatsapp group for the benefit of some friends. The result was a deeply silly mess of references and bad poetry, but I thought I'd reproduce it here in case it entertains someone. My narration is in italics.


You're walking in the woods. There's no one around and your phone is dead. )


I can't believe they didn't check the inventory once. There wouldn't have been anything particularly interesting in the inventory, but come on. It's like you guys have never played a text adventure before.
rionaleonhart: harry potter: extremely poorly-drawn dumbledore fleeing and yelling NOOOOOOOOO. (NOOOOOOOOO)
I've been waiting for the start of a fresh month to share this story! On the first of August, I was contacted by one of my clients.

'I've got a new book coming in for you to edit,' he said. 'It'll need to be ready by the end of the month.'

'Okay! How long is it?'

'About thirty days.'


Unfortunately, I also have to share a story where I'm the one who ends up looking silly.

'I don't know why I finished Life Is Strange and immediately started writing horrible fanfiction about [unpleasant character],' I said to [livejournal.com profile] reipan yesterday.

'Don't take this the wrong way,' Rei said, 'but I'm really not surprised.'

'I don't know. I've always thought of my writing as reasonably wholesome.'

Rei laughed in my face.

Here's the thing: I was serious. And then I started scrolling through my Archive of Our Own account, trying to find the most recent wholesome thing I'd written. And scrolling. And scrolling. And scrolling.

'Let's see... psychological trauma, psychological trauma, two teenagers discuss the horrible murders of their classmates, someone is afflicted with a hallucinogen and nearly kills her brother, someone isn't afflicted with a hallucinogen and nearly kills her friend... does "someone ropes a friend into having sex with her purely so she can use her pregnancy to evade execution" count?'

'No.'

'A guy has the memories of fourteen other people loaded into his head and has a mental breakdown, a photographer deliberately cuts off her fingers so she can't hold a camera... hey, my fic where the Final Fantasy VIII cast become l'Cie is all right!'

'Doesn't that mean they're doomed to become either monsters or crystals?' Housemate C asked.

'IT'S A LOVELY WHOLESOME STORY ABOUT MORTALITY.'

So, yes, it turns out that everything I write is horrible and somehow I never even realised it. So much murder! So much guilt! So many psychological breakdowns!

This is a genuine revelation and I don't understand how I never noticed it before.
rionaleonhart: final fantasy xii: fran glares; tremble with fear! (don't cross me)
APPARENTLY I'VE WRITTEN MORE LIFE IS STRANGE FANFICTION. timydamonkey mentioned enjoying the brief prison visit scene in Split, so I started wondering whether that was a concept I could explore further.


Title: At Arm's Length
Fandom: Life Is Strange
Rating: PG-13
Wordcount: 1,600
Summary: Arcadia Bay has been saved, time is back to where it should be, and Max has no one to talk to about her trauma. Except maybe the asshole in prison who caused half of it.


At Arm's Length )
rionaleonhart: final fantasy versus xiii: a young woman at night, her back to you, the moon high above. (nor women neither)
I really wasn't expecting to write Life Is Strange fanfiction, and then somehow this happened. Please be aware that it contains imprisonment, sexual threat and general creepiness.


Title: Split
Fandom: Life Is Strange
Rating: R
Pairing: Max/Chloe
Wordcount: 1,200
Summary: Max feels like she's living three different lives simultaneously. Maybe she really did break time.


Split )
rionaleonhart: the mentalist: lisbon, afraid but brave, makes an important call. (it's been an honour)
I finished Life Is Strange last night!

The 'finding bottles to shoot' sequence was a bit frustrating, but I was very entertained (whilst also being horrified) afterwards, when I screwed up my aiming instructions so badly that I accidentally made Chloe shoot herself. Sorry, Chloe! Sorry for the trauma, Max.


Spoilery thoughts on the entirety of Life Is Strange. )


So that was Life Is Strange! It's been an interesting experience. It has its flaws as a piece of interactive fiction, and there are moments when it almost feels a bit too dark and bleak, and there's the uncomfortable sense that the characters might say 'lollerskates' at any moment, but overall I've enjoyed it a lot.

I think Max herself was my favourite character. Her internal observations were good fun, and her relationship with Chloe was fascinating, and I liked her conflict over whether she's nice out of the goodness of her heart or just because she wants people to like her. It was pleasant to inhabit her for a while. Even if she did once say 'wowser' three times within the space of ten minutes.
rionaleonhart: final fantasy x-2: the sun is rising, yuna looks to the future. (hope is all we have)
The first episode of Life Is Strange is now free on PS3 and PS4! I thought I'd check it out, as timydamonkey recommended it to me a while ago. And then I bought the rest of the episodes. Whoops. It's fundamentally a 'looking at things and having awkward conversations' simulator, but it's strangely compelling.

Here's a miserable fact for you: the developers brought this game to several publishers before eventually settling on Square Enix. They chose Square Enix because all the other publishers said 'nope, can't have a female protagonist, you're going to have to change her into a boy.' Fortunately, Life Is Strange sold well and received good reviews despite being about one of those non-male things nobody cares about.

I'm currently two episodes in. I have some specific things to say about actual plot events, but I'll save those for a spoilery post once I've finished the entire game. For now, I'm going to keep things as spoiler-free as possible.

There's something about Life Is Strange that resonates oddly strongly with me. I think it's the depiction of a particular type of friendship between kids that I know from my own childhood. You're pretty quiet and insulated, and she's much cooler than you, and she can get you into trouble or be manipulative sometimes, but you endure all that because you're just so awed that this cool person is willing to spend time with you. (It's a type of relationship that sometimes appears in Jacqueline Wilson novels, actually.) I didn't realise until I suddenly thought 'hang on, I'm making a lot of groundless assumptions about Chloe's character' and then realised it was because I felt like I'd known her when I was a child. She's a very interesting character, even if in some respects she's difficult to like.

It's perhaps no surprise that this game gives me a very strong feeling of nostalgia. I really like the strange, quiet atmosphere of it, too, and Max's internal observations are often endearing.

There are, of course, a few things that don't entirely match up with my own experiences. For example, I went to school in a different country, and I've never been any good at photography, and I can't reverse time. I also don't have the speech patterns of EZboard fandom circa 2002. There's some very odd dialogue in this game. It feels very much like a game about teenagers written by adults, although of course I'm an adult, so it's possible that in fact it's an entirely accurate representation of modern teenage speech patterns and I'm the one who's out of touch.

Sorry, did I say 'in fact'? I meant 'for realsies'.

I clocked almost immediately, from his LOADS OF TEXT MESSAGES, that Warren had a huge crush on Max. This means that every conversation with him is a bit of a minefield, as I don't feel Max thinks of him that way at all. I'm constantly caught in a state of 'I want to be nice to you, because you're my friend, but I definitely don't want to give you the impression that I'm romantically interested in you.' I felt a bit bad about turning down his invitation to see a film. Sorry, Warren! I didn't want you to think of it as a date!

I find the occasional 'THIS ACTION WILL HAVE CONSEQUENCES' butterfly very stressful. I don't need consequences in my videogames! I get quite enough of those in real life! (Now, in real life, whenever something minor happens as a result of something I unthinkingly did a while ago, I think back to that moment and I see 'THIS ACTION WILL HAVE CONSEQUENCES' in the corner of it. You put a glass in the dishwasher! That glass was still in use and later your housemate will be trying to find it. This action will have consequences.)

The statistics at the end of each episode are sometimes a bit distressing. 'You didn't help Alyssa,' I was informed at the end of the second episode. I'm sorry, Alyssa! I didn't realise you needed help! 'You didn't water your plant.' I DIDN'T KNOW MY PLANT EXISTED.