Underneath my yellow skin

Category Archives: Fun

A plethora of choices and two obsessions

I have an obsessive nature that if I don’t rein in, can run rampant throughout my life. It’s especially apparent when it comes to pop culture. I don’t like much, but when I do like something, I suck the blood out of it. Which is apt because I played as a Supervampire yesterday and died in the Mayor’s Village to a bullshit situation. I was trying to use an item, and then hwen I went back to actually playing, either my fingers were off or the keyboard wasn’t properly responding. Or, what is more likely, it somehow reverted back to Dvorak. Any rate, the Supercops killed me before I could figure out what went wrong.

What game am I talking about? Streets of Rogue, of course. The game I was going to quit before, several times, but then get sucked back in when I win a run. That high is almost comparable to beating a Dark Souls boss, but not quite because there is more RNG at work than in beating a DS boss. Yes, there is some RNG there, but it’s instances, not whole floors. In SoR, I often feel whether I win a run or not is based on items I get, traits I get, and which missions I get on which floor. Also, which character I play. Cop is the easiest (Supercop is cruise mode) with Soldier being a close second. (I would argue Supersoldier is easier than Supercop, especially with Infinite Ammo.) Assassin, once I got the hang of her, was super fun, and Vampire was fairly chill as well once I fully embraced her nature–and was able to chomp on people even when I was fully healed. It still surprises me that I won as the Shopkeeper, but I basically played her kitted out with as many guns as possible. And, since she got great deals on everything, I had enough money to buy ammo every floor.

So far, I have won with Soldier, Cop, Shopkeeper, Vampire, Assassin, and Doctor. I finished the Big Quest with the Slum Dweller, but got ripped apart in the Mayor Village.

Side Note: I’ve seen a recent spike of people using ‘apart’ to mean ‘a part’, and it makes me rage every time. One of my personal pet peeves (in English).

When you finish the Big Quest of the Slum Dweller, you become an Upper-Cruster. The other Super Special Abilities versions of the characters are way overpowered. This one seems like a joke because the only two positives I can see to her is that she starts with a tidy sum of money and she can use the alarm buttons during the later levels to summon a Supercop. This I know by reading about it because I have not made it very far as the Upper-Cruster. With the other souped up characters, I sailed through the game. Either I’m doing something wrong with the Upper-Cruster or she really is just a joke character (a poke at wealthy people being useless). Oh, Upper-Crusters run from conflict so having friends of your own class is not helpful in this situation.

Side Note 2: Teleport-Happy is god tier as a Trait. I didn’t value it much at first, even when Norrtherlion mentioned people telling him it was god tier. You can transport anywhere anytime as long as no immediate danger is president. Why is that a big deal? I’ll tell you why. Because you can avoid much of the mayhem on the Floor 3s, and you can transport to the Exit from wherever (with a few small exceptions). You can also teleport from indoors which you can’t do without it, which means once you finish the last quest, you can just teleport to the Exit. It’s fucking amazing, and it’s the reason I got at least two of my wins.


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The dark side to love

This week in video game sexual harassment has been a particularly harrowing one. It started with two women accusing Jeremy Soule, a video games music composer, best known for Skyrim, of sexual misconduct up to and including rape. Three more women have said he put pressure on them to date him as well, and it turned out badly (career-wise) when they turned him down. Then, Alexis Kennedy, creator of Sunless Skies was accused by several women of using his position to pressure them, younger women, to date. He has a history of dating women who work for him, and they claim he abused them during those relationships. There were more, but the one that hit me the hardest (and was revealed in response to the Jeremy Soule accusation in support of Nathalie Lawhead, the victim) was Zoë Quinn declaring that Alec Holowka, one of the developers of Night in the Woods, had lured them (preferred pronoun) to his place in Winnipeg after they started a long distance relationship, then through a mix of emotional abuse and intimidation, isolated them from their friends and made them afraid to leave.

Zoë suffered through this for a month, and then left. They broke up with Holowka over email, and he proceeded to blacklist them from the industry. This was early in their career, and they said he’s done it to a certain extent. At first, they didn’t name him, but two women asked them if it were him. That’s when they realized he had done it more than once.

You may be thinking that the name Zoë Quinn sounds familiar. It’s because they were the victims in a case of revenge that kicked off GamerGate. They were vilified and dragged through the mud, and it showed the very ugly side of the gaming industry and how it was still steeped in misogyny. At the time, Zoë identified as a woman, and the hatred for ‘her’ and her perceived gender was gruesome.

Once the allegations came to light, Alec killed himself. His sister, Eileen Holowka, released a statement of shock, disbelief, and distress, but also support for the victims. Ian was covering the news (the link is his), and he broke it to me gently when I messaged him in the morning. He set it up by talking about the other accusations, and then he said one was going to be especially hard to me. That’s when I knew, and I had to brace myself for it. When he told me, it hit me in the gut.

Side Note: I have never had to face loving something by a person who has done something so heinous. I will get to that in a minute.


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Get your gate-keeping out of my games

Recently, in the RKG group, there was a post by a guy (gender relevant) which stated that it may be an unpopular opinion, but you cannot say you truly beat Bloodborne unless you do the Chalice Dungeons and beat all the bosses (paraphrasing). I posted my opinion which basically is who the fuck cares? I was more diplomatic than that, but it’s what it boils down to. I hate gate-keeping in…well, anything, but I notice it most often in things I care about, naturally.

First of all, just fucking state your opinion. That’s tangential to my rant, but it irks me when someone starts anything with ‘this may be unpopular’. Own your shit! Who cares if it’s unpopular or not? Of course, I might be particularly cynical in this instance because all of my opinions are unpopular. Well, not all, but many of them. In addition, my whole lifestyle is unpopular in one way or another, so I’ve become inured to it. In addition, it has a whiff of excuse giving in the beginning. Kind of like, ‘I’m not racist, but’ blah, blah, blah.

Again, that’s just a side note to the real irritation–men who unilaterally decide the markers that make someone a TRUE whatever fan. I later tweeted on Twitter that while I loved the Souls games, I hated this aspect of ‘the community’.

Side note: I love the Souls games with the intent to replay them. I love Sekiro, but it broke me. I intellectually thought Bloodborne was a good game, but I didn’t love it. I would replay it if it were on the PC, but I don’t like playing on the PS4. I would replay Sekiro until the cows came home if I could co-op. I understand why I can’t, but I’m not willing to spend ten hours on bird daddy or the last boss once again. So when I’m talking about the community, I mean the FromSoft community in general.

Anyway, I know the gate-keeping thing isn’t specific to FromSoft games, but there’s something about this kind of game that brings out the extreme toxic masculinity. I think it’s because the games are difficult to begin with, so if you play them, it’s easy to get an attitude about it. I will say beating a FromSoft boss is unlike any other feeling, especially after hours of failing against the same boss. There is a dopamine hit unlike any other, and it’s why I continue to play the games.

Part of my disgust is because who gets to be the keeper of the gate and why? Historically, it has been men. Mostly white straight cis dudes who hang every  part of their identity on their knowledge of a certain thing. It’s a way to keep people out, and it’s similar to a ‘no girls allowed’ sign. It’s a way to make someone feel better about himself.


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Stuck in a rut

I have a habit of getting into a rut because I don’t like change. I adhere to a schedule, and it can be really uncomfortable when it changes on a dime. Small example: Yesterday, I had planned to do the laundry and go to Cubs. I told my mother the night before, but I made the fatal mistake of assuming she knew that meant going to Cubs right after I did my morning routine. Why would she know that, I don’t know, but it was so obvious to me, I didn’t mention it. She was on the phone as I was getting into the car, and she came running after me to inform me that they needed the car in half an hour. I lost my shit even though on the face of it, it seemed like a minor thing. There are many reasons this is like fingernails on the chalkboard for me, but suffice to say I did not take it graciously.

I waited for them to come back, and then after putting the first load in the dryer and the second load in the washer, I went to change. My parents went to take a nap, and I breathed a small sigh of relief. As I was in the bathroom changing, I heard a voice–my brother. He was in the neighborhood and thought he’d stopped by. I had  to talk myself down because I was on the edge. I love my brother, and I love spending time with him, but once a month is about my speed. Four times in a week on top of my parents? No. Admittedly, it was more my parents than my brother, but the fact that he came just as I was going to Cubs was the urine icing on the shit cake.

I told him I had to go to Cubs and invited him along. Then, my mom popped her head out because she hadn’t actually fallen asleep, and she wanted to go, too. Part of the reason I was going to Cubs was to have time alone, which quickly went down the shitter. Then, my mom spent an inordinate amount of time at the medicines, questioning each bottle. I grabbed a smaller cart and went about my business because I was losing my mind.

Side note: My mother has always been an over-talker. We all are, and it’s funny to hear them complain about each other with no self-awareness. I know I talk a lot. I know sometimes, my mouth just gets going and won’t stop. I’m trying to correct it, but it’s not easy. In addition, it’s in dire contrast to other times when I don’t say a word for hours. I don’t seem to have a stasis that is a comfortable medium. But my mom is bad is that she’s also an over-sharer. She likes to say she’s being frank, but she hasn’t yet learned you don’t have to say everything. I think it’s in part because she has to bite my tongue with my father so much of the time that she goes overboard in other times. When we were in Malta for her conference, she would tell anyone who would listen all about my father’s physical woes. If I were him, I would have been seething. She’s done it to me and to my brother as well, and it’s irritating every time.

She also has a habit of narrating what she’s doing no matter how trivial. “I’m washing the apple, and I like to soak it for twenty minutes because that’s the way to get all the (mumble mumble) out.” She’s not exactly sure what she’s getting out, but she knows it’s bad. I don’t care, Mom. That should be an inside voice thing, but she’s becoming more vocal about those kind of things in time.

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Hitting the wall hard–with infinite ammo

I’ve been mainlining Streets of Rogue hard as is my wont, and I think I’m hitting the proverbial wall. I’ve talked before about games I love that I’ve quit playing because I reached a certain point where I just couldn’t get better at it. Nuclear Throne, Dead Cells, Enter the Gungeon, and Hollow Knight all fit into this category. Notice that three of the four are rogue-lites/likes/whatever the nomenclature may be, and that’s what Streets of Rogue is as well, though it crosses over into other genres as well.

I wrote about it last week, and I couldn’t stop gushing about it. It’s strange because when I first started playing, I wasn’t that into it. And yet, I couldn’t stop playing it. I’d die, and then I’d play ‘one more run’–which turned into six or seven other runs. I wasn’t into the game the way I was into, say, Nuclear Throne, but I kept pressing the Q button (to go back to Home Base before starting the game) every time I died.

I didn’t talk much about the things that frustrated me about the game, which I’ll do now. It’s part of the reason I think I’m nearing the end of my time with Streets of Rogue, so I might as well expand on it. I did mention the lack of tutorial, but that’s minor in the grand scheme of things. Another thing that isn’t huge but is more irritating is that the different playable characters are so varied in terms of playability. Of course that depends on style, but for me, the Soldier and the Cop are by far the OP characters. Then, there are the ones that are middling such as the Doctor and the Vampire, and then there are the ones that I just suck at such as the Hacker and the Bartender. I’ve beaten the game with the Soldier*, the Supersoldier, and the Supercop. I reached the Mayor Village with the Cop and killed him, but after running around the level and making a beeline to pick up the hat, a Supercop killed me. That was literally the last second I could be killed before winning the game, which really sucked.

In thinking more about the different characters, I get more irritated because I cannot grasp the playstyles of several of them. I tried the Investment Banker last night, and I quite liked her. I played her because I wanted to unlock a mutator that could only be guaranteed to proc by going into debt with her so the Assassins show up. You need to kill an Assassin to unlock one of the mutators, and I had seven or eight of them waylaying me as the Investment Banker. I didn’t get her at first because her Big Quest (something each character has to do throughout the game, and it’s thematically appropriate for each character) is to make sure she doesn’t go into withdrawal, which meant mainlining drugs all the time. Which costs money. She starts with loads of money, but it goes quickly. What I didn’t realize is that many of the pills also count as being hopped up, but they’re not cheap, either. Now that I have a better handle on her, she’s more fun to play. And, now I understand the trait ‘Status Effects Last Longer’ and why I would choose it.


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Streets of Rogue? More like streets of rage!

In my search for the One True Game, I’ve accidentally stumbled upon a game that while I know it’s not the One True Game, it’s pretty damn addictive. It’s called Streets of Rogue, and it’s made by one man, Matt Dabrowski. I repeat, it’s made by one man. That’s pretty incredible given how polished and in-depth the game is. In some ways. I’ll get to that in one minute. I was intrigued by the description of it as Nuclear Throne/Enter the Gungeon meets Deus Ex because I adore the former (especially NT) and did not gel with the latter. It’s a top-down twin-stick rogue-like (or maybe an actual rogue! Who knows these days?) city sim and a half-dozen other genres. I’m saying this with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek because that’s the tone of the game in general. Very madcap and campy and a load of fun.

Let’s start at the beginning.  You’re thrown into Home Base where you meet the Resistance Leader. He gives you a speech about the mayor and how terrible the latter is. The mayor’s so bad, he banned chicken nuggets after one negative incident with them, so chicken nuggets become the currency of the game. The graphics are pixelated and cute, which can be off-putting for some people, but I find it adorable. There is customization, but very rudimentary. A few different hairstyles and colors, but it makes a world of difference that I can make my cute little avatar a woman. And look vaguely Asian.

There are seven starting characters and nineteen characters you can unlock. That’s twenty-six characters in total. Each of them have special abilities and perks as well as negatives in some cases such as the Zombies and Shapeshifters. I will say that the tutorial is not great. You’re given the basics, but each character is not explained well. I’ve had to look at the wikis more often than I care to admit, which can be frustrating in the middle of a run. Oh! Each character has a Big Quest that you try to fulfill throughout the game. The Soldier, for example, has the Big Quest of disabling all the generators on each floor. Here’s the thing. In looking that up to make sure I got it right, I learned that by completing the Big Quest, you’re granted a Super Special Ability that you can use on a new run if you choose the Super Special Abilities mutator before the run. In this case, it’s free ammo reload at the Ammo Dispenser and the Loadout-O-Matic. I did not know this because the game does not tell you this.

It seems as if I’m beating the tutorial drum a lot lately, but it’s important. I understand that there are wikis and such, but one, they take time to be written, and they are not necessarily accurate. I also understand that for one dude, it’s easier to crowd-source to the community than to do it himself. I also blame FromSoft a bit for this or rather the rabid Souls fans because they have set the standard for a truly incisive community. Blame is not the right word, more like attribute it to. When I played Dark Souls III in real time (as opposed to several years later), it was really hard because the wikis were so sparse! Anyway, now that Streets of Rogue has been out for almost a month, the wikis are more fleshed out. I still can’t find all the answers to my questions, but 90% is better than 40%.

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Still searching for the One True Game

just a girl and her sword
Cass, The Warrior Nun stands proud.

Still looking for a video game that I can pour hundreds of hours into, and I’m starting to think it doesn’t exist. I mentioned in last week’s post that I installed Killsquad, developed by Novarama. It’s a MMORPG, I guess, it’s definitely meant to be played multi. You can play it solo, which is what I do, but it’s structured to be played with others. Massive, endless hordes that swarm you, and I don’t know if there is a timed respawn if you go back to old areas or if I just went to a slightly different area, but there were more hordes. There was one time yesterday where the mobs kept coming, and it was at least five minutes of the same goddamn enemy.

First the positives. It’s a great-looking game. I like the graphics and the characters. I’ve tried all of them (four) several times each, and they are distinct in their abilities. Weirdly, the two ranged characters, Zero and Troy, did not gel with me. Normally, I’m all about the range, but they felt underwhelming in this game. The other two, Cass and Kosmo, are the melee characters. Cass was my go-to before I even started the game because she’s a woman and The Warrior Nun. Unfortunately, she’s also a glass cannon in that her damage is high (supposedly), but her health is low. Kosmo is a surprise candidate for my favorite character. I didn’t like him much when I first started. He’s a tank with a big, fuck-off hammer which I found unwieldy at first. But, he has a shit-ton of health and a regenerating shield. Plus, he levels up much faster than Cass, which I found odd. For whatever reason, I get more enemies when I  play as Kosmos–which I don’t understand at all. With Cass, sometimes I don’t even get to Level 6 (which is when you get your ult), but I regularly make it to Level 10 with Kosmos. Vector 20/25 for reference. We’ll talk about Vectors later.

Actually, let’s talk about Vectors now. I started at Vector 5, and I assumed it was equivalent to levels. During the game, I leveled up, and then afterwards, I was still Vector 5. What? Huh? I played a few more games, and I had to repeat the leveling up in the game and my Vector remained the same. I finally looked it up, and Vectors have nothing to do with leveling, at least not the level of your character. Vectors are based on the level of your equipment, which is not explained anywhere in game. You can buy weapons and gear from a robot called…ROBBIE STE3L. Anyway, it gives you unidentified items that are higher than whatever Vector you are, and you can buy character-specific weapons or general gear. Your characters can share the gear, but not the weapons. More than one character can wear the same armor at the same time, for example.

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Hope is fading…like the First Flame

I hate video games. This, obviously, is hyperbole, but it’s starting to feel true. I tried Furi this week, and I couldn’t get past the tutorial boss. Before you tell me to git gud, n00b, hear me out. I knew going in that Furi was a hard game. It’s all boss fights, and each one is difficult in its own way. That’s all I knew going in. Oh, and that the protagonist is in jail and has to fight the jailer to get out. That’s all I knew firing it up, and I was prepared to have my shit pushed in time and time again. What I wasn’t prepared for was how fucking irritating the jailer/warden, whatever the fuck his name is. I’m going to call him FuckFace just because. No reason. Anyway, he talks waaaay too much. Maybe it’s because I play Dark Souls and Monster Hunter, but I’m not interested in someone flapping his lips at me as I’m trying to kill him. Yes, there was Micolash in Bloodborne, but he was fucking annoying as well. Not as annoying as The Jailer, though. He’s sneering and pompous an supercilious. And he won’t. stop. talking. He fancies himself a dom with me as his unwilling sub. He talks about killing me again and again and again. Blah, blah, blah.

I could tolerate that, barely, if it weren’t for the fact that he has eight phases. Yes, you read that right. Three of them are tutorial, and you heal to full after each one. But, so does he. Then, in the fourth phase, shit gets real. He starts attacking you with everything he’s got, and I died to him a few times. I also noticed myself doing damage, but then seeing he had full health. What? Oh, right. He has a fucking shield for each phase. So you have to kill the shield before doing actual damage to his health. You get three lives to do five phases (plus shields), and I just–no. I did not want. I set down the controller, uninstalled it, and sighed sadly.

The thing is, I think it’s a good game. I really do. I just think it’s above my pay grade, and I don’t want to put in the work it would take to get firmly mediocre at it. Plus, I hated listening to The Jailer being such a jackhole. In addition, there were two other things about this guy that made me turn off the game One, there are bullet-hell aspects to the game, which I do not enjoy. The other is that you have to learn to parry.

*SOUNDLESS SCREAM*
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Needle meet haystack

So. The quest to find the One True Game* is not going well. I’ve reached the point in The Ringed City (Dark Souls III DLC) that I like the least. Hm. Well. I actually don’t like any of it, but the part that is the least enthusiastic for me to slog through. The end part, is what I’m saying. Despite me loving the last boss, Gael, even though I hate fighting him because of his hyper-defenses, but he’s a spectacular boss, I just find this part of the DLC tedious. It’s the part of running by Midir for the first time and fighting him on the bridge to the end.

I hate the Midir fight. I hate the Half Spears fight. I hate fighting the Gael fight (even though I love the fight itself and the lore). I just–hate everything about it. Yes, I could just skip it and go into NG+ because I have nothing to prove (have killed all the bosses in this game solo). Will I? No. The completionist in me won’t stand for it. I also have to kill the Champion’s Gravetender & Gravetender Greatwolf, which is not that hard as a Pyro, but I really loathe this boss fight. Mostly, I hate the Champion’s Gravetender because he’s bullshit, but anyway, I don’t want to do it. Nobody likes this fight, and I can never get any summons for it, so I’ve left it for now. It’s in the first DLC. There are ways to cheese it (which I’ve just looked up, and they all involve arrows). People are really smart and creative, I must say. I can’t even imagine how they thought up some of this cheese.

Anyhow, Dark Souls III is the most replayable of the Souls games to me, but I really don’t like the DLC. I’ve explained why in past posts so I’ll leave it at that. At any rate, it’s the reason I haven’t played the game in the past few days. I just don’t want to deal with the bullshit.

Side Note: I was talking to someone in a stream chat about The Surge because they asked if it ever got tedious, and I said candidly that the levels were very samesy and that it dragged on too long. I also said that the bosses weren’t that memorable and that it was hard to switch between weapon ‘classes’ because you gained proficiency when you used the weapon. Which, I hastened to add, I liked in general. You *should* get proficiency when you use a weapon. And, because I like to grind in games like this, I was able to get my second class (twin-rigged) nearly the same level as my first (single-rigged). In addition, there were implants that could bump up the proficiency of the different classes, so that helped.

Continuing the side note, the other person thanked me for being so honest, and I was taken by surprise. Why wouldn’t I be honest about a game? Stanning for…well, anything or anyone is beyond my ken. Liking something doesn’t mean thinking it’s perfect in my mind, and I don’t identify with anything or anyone as a core to my identity. I liked The Surge a great deal, much more than I thought I would because I hated Lords of the Fallen, but I am well aware that it is far from a perfect game. It’s too long and feels padded in the last third. The environments blend from one to the next. The main character is bland and boring. The shortcuts are too many and miss the point of being a shortcut. The enemies are not varied, and, for the most part, not that interesting (in and of themselves. Chopping off limbs never got old). The bosses save two are not memorable, and one of the memorable ones is memorable for all the wrong reasons.


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I don’t think I actually like video games

I came to a realization a few weeks ago that I may not actually like video games. Hear me out. I’ve been playing ‘hardcore’ games for roughly seven years. The first one was Torchlight, which I absolutely loved. I loved the protagonist who looked Asian if you squinted. I really loved that she came back as a voiced NPC in the sequel, and her voice was low and husky like mine. I loved that I could have a pet whom I could name and feed fish. The game was very addictive, and I immediately had the ‘just one more level’ feeling about it.

Diablo III was right after that, and I really dug that as well. Then the Borderlands, original and sequel, which I played for hundreds of hours. Then, I played Dark Souls, and everything changed. I could no longer play hack ‘n slashes afterwards because the combat was empty and unsatisfying. Yes, I played Skyrim afterwards and enjoyed it*, but I was a caster (of course), so I didn’t have to do much of the melee combat.

In all this time, I played dozens of games that I didn’t like. At all. Some that I really wanted to like and should have been up my alley, such as Alan Wake, and others that I just didn’t like at all. Like Arkham whatever. I’m not sure which game, but I hated the combat. I gave it a fair shake–a few hours–but I just didn’t click with it at all. Others, I liked, but there was one aspect that I just couldn’t stand that made me fall off it, such as Sleeping Dogs, which I call Sleepy Dawgs for reasons that should be obvious. I really liked it, not in a small part because of the badass Asian male protagonist, but the driving suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuucks. I can’t emphasize that enough. I didn’t love the combat as it’s similar to the Batman combat, but I could hack that. It was the driving that I haaaaaaaaaaated. I distinctly remember the incident that made me quit. I had to follow a wedding cake truck (long boring story) to get the cake back. After failing it twice, I was DONE. When I went back to try it again much later, I accidentally erased my saved game because United Front Games, the devs, made the inexplicable decision to put New Game at the top of the queue rather than Load Game like everyone else, and there are no saved files in the game–at least when I played. That was it for me. No way I was playing the game again, and I have not.


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