Wednesday, February 13, 2019

I'm not sure I can ever convince myself to support services like Spotify by putting my music on their platforms, no matter how many people clamor for it.  I very well may admit defeat someday, but to do so feels like turning against what I believe in.  Am I really the sort of person who would oppose their own beliefs just to gain more recognition?


I suppose I should write a more formal post about my stance on it, but it's not like I would be saying anything that hasn't been said already.  Thinking about how the collective herd simply chooses without fail to move on to the next thing truly pains my soul, because it is not just about moving from Winamp to iTunes and from iTunes to Pandora and then to Spotify.  It is about moving on from AIM to browser chat to Messenger apps, it is about moving on from blogs to instagrams, it is about moving on from Xanga to Livejournal to Myspace to Facebook, it is about moving on from Message Boards to Discord to Twitch chat.  And it is about all of the things that have been lost and tossed aside along the way.

When was the last time you wrote a hand-written letter?  When was the last time you left a voicemail message for a friend?

If no one else will remain behind to extol the virtues of what we once had all along, then I will.  For that is something that I truly believe in.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Anodyne

I finished playing Anodyne!  Not only did I get through the main game, but I also went ahead and used a guide to get through all of the post-game content as well.

Anodyne is a bit difficult to explain.  It is somewhat of a cross between Link's Awakening and Yume Nikki, with a hint of Earthbound.  But it is not really any of those three things directly.  To call it a "zelda-like adventure game" would be most accurate in terms of its gameplay, but you wouldn't really play Anodyne if you are simply looking to play something like Link's Awakening.  I think the people who enjoyed Yume Nikki would be most likely to enjoy Anodyne.

I actually quite enjoyed going through the game.  I thought exploring the various different areas and interacting with all of the auxiliary NPCs and such was pretty interesting, especially once you got to some of the darker areas such as the Red Sea and Young Town.

Anodyne doesn't lay anything out clearly and plainly for you.  You know that metaphorically, you are supposed to be exploring different areas of Young's consciousness/inner mind, and thus you are getting a look into various aspects of his persona, conflicting parts of his troubled mind, glimpses into what could represent traumas or issues in his life.  But as with a game like Yume Nikki, none of it is really explained for you, it's all very tangential and a bit obtuse.  But I think that really worked for me.  Since the game uses a lot of dialogue, there is a lot more to grasp onto than something like Yume Nikki.  In Yume Nikki there are a lot of really crazy environments and things to drive your imagination wild in terms of speculation -- "Why is there a disembodied hand with an eyeball in the middle of it?".  However there are also a lot of scenes and situations where unless you're really trying, you might not read into it as much.  There's a scene in Yume Nikki where you can see three Toringens having a party of sorts, but you can't reach the actual area where they are.  A lot of people interpret this to point to some sort of social isolation (Madotsuki's isolation is a central theme from the very start of the game), which makes perfect sense.  But I can also see people stumbling across that scene and not really thinking that deeply about it too.

So while Yume Nikki kind of plays like a visit to an art museum about abstract art, Anodyne with its dialogue leaves you with a lot more metaphorical bread crumbs, so it's a bit more like reading poetry.  You still don't know what it's about, but I think you feel a bit more guided.  That is certainly not to say that Anodyne is better or worse than Yume Nikki, I just wanted to illustrate the difference in the two that I felt since I think Yume Nikki is the closest thing I can think of in order to draw a comparison.

In terms of gameplay, Anodyne actually offers a surprising depth of simple puzzles and dungeon exploration for a game which really isn't about the mechanics.  There really isn't any part of Anodyne's gameplay that really "impressed" me per se, but it did a great job of keeping me engaged enough to keep proceeding through the world as I gathered the different collectibles and such.  So that's what I mean in terms of it being halfway between Yume Nikki and Link's Awakening, where the gameplay isn't nearly as deep as you would expect from a full-on adventure game, and there isn't as much to explore and lose yourself in as there is in Yume Nikki, but there is about 50% of both, and somehow that actually combined to form a pretty enjoyable experience for me.

That said, Anodyne is not without its flaws, and this is echoed by this post from Sean himself.  Interestingly enough, I found the auxiliary quests and exploration to be pretty fun, but the main narrative thread with Sage and Briar was a bit lost on me.  Perhaps this was the one point at which I felt like the game was simply spread too thin into perhaps one more bucket than it felt was right.

Going through the post-game content was interesting -- I feel like it was definitely the least fleshed-out portion of the game (understandably so).  I think going out of bounds and such was interesting and spoke to a more Yume Nikki-like aspect of unbridled exploration, but at the same time there just isn't enough content there to make it feel like it really is unbridled exploration in Yume Nikki.  So it boils down to more like "oh, there are some hidden secrets that I can access now", which is why I felt compelled to just get at them using a guide.  Interestingly enough, I felt like the 50-card door (which is unopenable and doesn't have anything else after it anyways) was sort of a more fitting "conclusion" to Anodyne than the "normal ending".  Perhaps the issue with the normal ending is that it's too much of a shift in tone (?).  For most of the game it really felt like I was exploring -- experiencing, Young's inner conflicts, feelings, subconscious thoughts, etc.  But at the end of the game there is a shift to more of a sense that you are conquering the problems, and taking a step forward towards something new.  I think it was difficult for me to really connect with that payoff in the end because as a character I feel like Young hadn't really been changing or developing through this process of exploration.  You could say that the thing that allowed Young to change was collecting all of the cards, "making new friends" and in a sense feeling not alone anymore, or to confront his inner demons (the guardians of the dungeons, perhaps?).  But both the guardian bosses and the final fight played so much more like traditional top-down action bosses, I felt like it was more like "oh, okay, suddenly I'm the hero fighting a monster".  And I think that caused some dissonance with the narrative of sorting through this troubled inner subconsciousness.

Anyways, that's what I have to say about that!  In the end I did enjoy the game and what it did have to offer, so I have no regrets about playing it.

I've started playing Dead Cells now, so we'll see how that ends up panning out!

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Gris

I stumbled onto Anodyne, from stumbling upon its remix album which aivisura did a song for.  While looking around on Steam for more games to fill out my shopping cart I remembered Gris.

Gris has been out for some time, so I looked to some reviews to verify what I thought of it.  It seemed like the most belovedly visually stunning art piece of a platformer...that unfortunately lacked substance.  Some reviews claimed that the platforming gameplay seemed a bit out of place, as in they were complete enough to be present but not detailed enough to actually add anything to the experience.  Other reviews criticized the emotional "narrative" (using the term loosely as it is supposed to be an abstract journey) as being a bit too cliche and kitsch.  Seeing these thoughts made up my mind for me and I don't think I'll be buying the game.  I might watch a playthrough of it or something though.

It's tough, though, I get it.  Visual design, gameplay design, and storytelling all coming together is sort of a perfect storm type of thing and I can think of a scant few games that have even come close, let alone really achieve it all.  But at the very least I think the industry is doing a lot better than it has been in the past in that regard.  I don't think there have really been a lot of games that truly "get it" but I like the attempts that I'm seeing.

I did also snag both Dead Cells and Unavowed (two very different games), which I'm sure will both be pretty exciting to play whenever I get around to them.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Melee Doubles

You are given the task of seeding the following melee doubles tournament.  How do you seed the tourney and who do you think will ultimately take home the gold?
  • Mango + Stango
  • Amsa + Amsah
  • Axe + Hax
  • Tai + Taj
  • Cyrain + Darkrain
  • Armada + Armads
  • Silent Wolf + SilentSpectre
  • Darkatma + Darktooth
  • Mew2King + Mew2Queen
  • Ice + Iceman
  • Eggz + Eggm
  • Bob$ + Rob$
  • Toph + Tope
  • Flippy + Flipsy
  • KJH + KDJ
  • NMW + HMW
  • Shroomed + Hungrybox (aka "Da Juans")
  • PPU + PPMD (aka "Team Kevin")
  • Ka-Master + FalcoMaster3000
  • Westballz + Bobby Big Ballz
  • Prince Abu + King Momo
  • Drunksloth + Druggedfox
  • Fiction + TheRealThing
  • Squid + Duck
...I spent more time on this than I'd like to admit.

Viennese Ball 2019 (and other stuff)

I suppose I better talk about VBall first and all the other stuff second.  So let's get on with that.

Last year's post is here.  (You'll notice this was during my experimental month where I was doing all of my social media via handwritten photos, haha)  Reading over it again, I talked a little bit about how VBall seemed more tiring than I remembered, how the dance contests were as always a good opportunity to push myself, and how us waltz-types really needed to step it up because we got completely outclassed by the dancers in the swing contest =(


This year was pretty fun!  I had a hoop skirt in addition to my petticoat, omg it was so amazing, it shaped my dress so well, I love it.  I feel like this hoop skirt alone made me excited to go to the ball, lol.

I wrote last year that I felt that VBall was ceasing to be a place to catch up with many friends and acquaintances from the dance world, and I think that trend continued this year as well.  That is perhaps just a function of another year passing by, perhaps interests have changed as well as people and even if I did see some people from previous times, would I really connect with them again?  I'm not sure.  Whether I had or had not let go of those threads of fate that once bound us together.  Or were they even there in the first place?

Every time that I push myself in my dance, as I tend to do in these competitions, I find that I learn a bit more.  Not just of dance, but about many things besides.  It's a bit hard to describe, but I think every time I push myself to go further than I have before, I am able to see things from a slightly different perspective than I once did.  Dancing changes, people change, what is "good" or "not good" or "cool" changes, and we constantly redefine where we are in our search for self-expression.  Or, well, maybe that's just me being a romantic about it.

For once I felt like the waltz room was if not on equal footing, then at least in the same ballpark as the swing room, and that was something I was happy to see, given how invested I have somehow found myself in this dance form (and how unhappy I felt about it last year).  I was also really happy with how my dance has evolved in the past year.  Despite having nothing to prove, I realized in the end that I did prove something, not necessary to anybody else but rather to myself.  There are few dancers to truly look up to in our relatively eclectic form of waltz, and I have found myself wandering alone throughout the years as a result.  Though my flaws are still ever-present -- some by negligence and others by inexperience -- it is a reassuring feeling, at least for myself, looking back and seeing that after walking forward in the darkness I had reached somewhere new.

Ok, but returning to the real world for a second here, I will say one more thing about the contests -- competing in both waltz events was =exhausting=.  I feel like I am more and more worn out every time and I am definitely feeling sore from it as I write this.  I felt like I really gave it my all, and man, trying to go all out for four songs in a row of high energy rotary waltz is....just........exhausting.  My shoelace came untied in the middle of it (oops), not to mention I also somehow managed to rip the bottom part of my petticoat (ugh), and somehow my foot kept finding its way through the hole (I was wondering why I kept feeling like something was wrapped around my ankle).  So that was...fun.  ...But no, really, it was actually really great, I don't think I have ever put so much emotion into performing a dance ever before compared to the preliminary rounds of the rotary waltz contest (such good songs!).

One of the songs that was danced to was "A Thousand Years" by Christina Perri and though I always say the song (ironically) is one that kind of overstays its welcome (when I play it I cut out the part at 2:50, blegh), dancing to that song was not only a joy but quite interesting for me personally because I performed a choreo to it just half a year ago in July as part of Decadance's final performance ever (oh man, flash back to that performance, it really does seem like ages ago).  Part of the reason I left Decadance in the first place was to leave choreo behind and continue pursuing my greater passions in social dance, so it felt quite validating being able to directly experience that.  Dancing to the same song freely, I truly felt like I was able to put so much more into it than before.  I guess that is just the type of expression that I find myself reaching for. (quite literally, in this case...I seem to be a big fan of arm reaches lately)

Anyways, enough about that.  Contests aside, in the end it was of course just awesome being at the event with everybody, all of us putting on our best looks and fanciest clothing.  I even stopped by the contemporary room for a brief glowsticking stint as well, which was fun, and though I am not good with photos in general, I managed to get some nice ones wearing my dress, so that is quite nice!

Since we're already talking about dance, I should take the time to shill for my own event -- come to JaSmix next month on March 2nd!  We'll have workshops, a few private lesson signups, and of course awesome dancing, so come on out!  I'm pretty excited to finally be hosting a JaSmix event during the school year, since JaSmix is always a bangin time and it's a shame that a lot of folks who aren't in town over the summer months don't get to come to it.

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Okay, that's all I'm going to say about dance, so if that was all you're here for, you can leave.  Bye!

In cooking news, I tried making pizza!  Followed Kenji's no knead + no stretch dough and pan pizza recipe which was not too difficult!  The result was okay, definitely could have been better, but I'd call it successful anyhow.  Topping the pizzas was of course quite fun and its definitely something I would try again, hopefully next time actually having a kitchen scale on hand to measure out the dough more accurately, and using a bit less salt, and of course perhaps experimenting with some different toppings.

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I haven't caught up with all the Genesis 6 footage, but yo Axe, can we get a round of standing ovations for Axe?  That was insane, it was really something, and it honestly felt like he "won" in all of our hearts regardless of the fact that he could not overcome the GF set and took 2nd place.  Axe you have solidified yourself as the true protagonist of Melee.  We love you dude.

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And pride is my sin, and pride goeth before a fall.

I'm really not the best at being a polite and friendly and respectful and outgoing person, so it's something that I have definitely sometimes just had to catch myself on in hindsight and apologize for or take back something that I said.  I think I still have the same tendency to jump to judging people rather than giving them the benefit of the doubt, to form an "us vs. them" narrative in my head rather than respect that everyone has their own story, their own path, and is trying in their own way.  But I have at least begun to see that when I break that mental narrative it really helps me feel better about the world, that we are all part of this shared human condition, and that the world is not just full of terrible people who are stupid and suck.  Really, we all are dumb in our own ways, and that should be okay.  So we need to find it in ourselves to be compassionate to others, in such that we would also learn to be compassionate to ourselves.  I have been watching Sangatsu no Lion which talks about that kind of theme a lot, and that has really resonated with me.

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I am still learning how to relax.  Of course, even if I am unemployed, it's hard to take an off-season from being an adult, not to mention all of the other things I expect from myself.  I think I am no longer feeling that sort of "active" stress over all the things I have to do, in fact just a few days ago when I was really in the groove, having had a lot of fun with pixel art and even more fun with glowsticking, I thought to myself "wow, I finally did it.  I think at this moment I finally feel like life is a 5 out of 5.", and that was quite something.

That said, I have been having trouble sleeping recently (though I didn't have trouble sleeping today, hah!  VBall may be more tiring than big dance lol) and I think part of that is a latent anxiety that still lingers.  I don't know if it is just things that have been on my mind recently, like some music distribution hassle stuff and blahblah adulting real life things.  But in those hours when life is no longer around to distract, I found myself feeling a bit stressed and sad. =(  So I think despite how well I am, doing, I am still searching for peace.  Hopefully I am taking steps in the right direction...