Underneath my yellow skin

More about that Elden Ring

It’s been nearly three months since Elden Ring was released to much fanfare. It’s sold 13.4 million copies since launch. It sold 12 million within the first two weeks. It sits at 90,000-100,000 concurrent players, which is amazing for a single-player game. It’s a bona fide hit and I could not be more thrilled about it.

I’ve been a From fan for nearly a decade. I came to the first Dark Souls late and didn’t grow to appreciate it until the second time I played it. And it wasn’t until I played Dark Souls III that I fell completely in love with the games.

Dark Souls III was my favorite game of all time. I have played it dozens of times, have the plat, and it was the first game I played after I recovered from my medical trauma. I know every nook and cranny of that game and love it with all my heart. I can talk about it endlessly and I could not imagine any game replacing it in my heart.

Then Elden Ring dropped. I had to scramble to prepare for it because the PC specs were beefy. They dropped the PC specs late in the  day, which miffed me. It was ten days or so before the game was released, which is not a hell of a lot of time. To make matters worse, the specs jumped up quite substantially from Sekiro to Elden Ring. I had thought I’d be able to play on low with my current laptop, but when I saw the requirements, I knew I had to get a new computer. Remember, it was nearly impossible to get graphic cards at the time for anything less than full-computer price. Since that was the case, I might as well get a whole new compy. My brother helped me set it up and it was ready to go (with the SSD, mega-RAM, 1 terabyte of memory, and two screens).

The PC version of the game was fraught with problems from the very start. Graphic pop-ins, juttering and stuttering, and hard crashes/freezes. I was lucky that I had a bit of stuttering and one hard crash. I don’t notice pop-ins so that didn’t bother me and I’m not into effects in general. To me, it looked crisp and clean and gorgeous. The stuttering was by far the worst, but it didn’t really get into my way. Still, I felt bad for my PC kin who had base rigs because there was no way the game would have run on them.

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Know myself

I know myself pretty well. That’s not a humblebrag; it’s just a flat-out brag. Heh. I kid. It’s just reality. I have a pretty clear view on my negatives and a little less strong grasp on my positives. For example, there’s a famous survey that says 80% of the people surveyed think they’re better-than-average drivers. Which, as you can note, is statistically impossible. What I did not know was that all the respondents had been in a car accident at some point. Also, there’s another study that said fewer than 1% of the people surveyed believed they were worse-than-average drivers. Basically, people think they are above average in everything. An interesting corollary effect is that being around people who are overconfident makes you overconfident as well. All of this is from an article in Inc., by the way.

I am part of that fewer than 1%. I know that  I’m a bad driver and I have no difficulty saying so .I also know that I am very bad at spatial recognizing, and I am not a patient person. I am not great with money (paying bills and such. Good at not spending it) and I’m very weird compared to normies.

I don’t like kids in general. I don’t think babies are cute and I would rather not spend time with them if I don’t have to. There are individual exceptions, of course, but in general, I’m not a fan of babies. Don’t much like toddlers, either. I find them boring and their need for repetition irritating–probably because it rubs up against my own need for repetition. I like kids starting around nine or ten, when they can talk about real-world things rather than just kid stuff. Funnily enough, kids love me. I think it’s precisely because I treat them like human beings and not kids. I don’t talk to them in any special voice (I save that for my cat), nor do I treat them like babies. It’s just not my style. I don’t talk over their heads, obviously, but that’s because I’m not a jerk. Not in that sense, anyway.

It’s how I treat everyone, really. I meet them where they are and don’t expect them to be something they’re not. There’s a cashier at my local grocery store that loves me. The other day, she told me that I was her favorite, which was flattering. I think it’s because she’s Native American and thinks I am, too. We bonded over Wes Studi (a hot indigenous actor) who was on the cover of a magazine, which prompted her to tell me that she was Native American. She’s also disclosed that she loves masa tortillas, that she’s been having car trouble, and her son had to leave his sick puppy with her. I think the fact that we are both BIPOC and female-presenting added to the bond.

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Elden Ring is close to perfection–but not quite

When Elden Ring was released, there was a lot of talk about whether it was perfect or not. It got a bunch of 10s and has been called the GOAT (it’s taken for granted it’ll win GOTY). Ian and I have talked about it and he makes a compelling case for why it deserves a 10. I, on the other hand, will never give it a perfect score because of the usual From idiosyncrasies that get on my nerves. Yes, you can argue that they are incidental, but to me, perfection means no flaws. The irritants of Elden Ring add up to at least .3 if not up to .5. It’s still neck-and-neck with Dark Souls III as my favorite game of all time, but I don’t consider it perfect.

Here’s the thing. I don’t think anything is perfect. How can it be? There’s no such thing  as perfect. So I can understand why people label something perfect even with flaws. I’m not like that, though. To me, perfection means it doesn’t have any big flaws, but this game does. Or rather, persistent flaws. And I need to get it off my chest. Also, I show love by criticizing. It’s in my blood and what I do. I am not one to gloss over the negatives. Indeed, I concentrate on them too much sometimes. But to me, it’s part of my love–the negatives. Or rather, that’s part of what makes the game what it is.

So. Here are the things that annoy the FUCK out of me in this game. Again, I consider this a 9.5 or so game. I want to put that out there so it doesn’t sound like I’m completely trashing it. It’s the best game of the year BY far and maybe the best game of all time. I want to state that up front so you know that I’m doing this out of love.

First and foremost, the platforming. I’ve ranted about this before, but non-platforming games should not include platforming because it uniformly sucks. Platforming is very precise and platforming games are designed by people who specifically understand the intricacies of platforming. In non-platforming games, it’s usually just thrown in for a laugh. Miyazaki loves him some platforming and it’s in every From game. And it uniformly sucks. Except in Sekiro because there is a grappling hook.

It’s even worse in Elden Ring because of Torrent. I love Torrent. He’s my buddy and he makes traveling so much easier. I love riding around on him, just exploring the hell out of the map. But. He’s no good for platforming. He doesn’t land where you want him to and he wanders a bit when you try to turn him around. He cannot stop on a dime, which is problematic in platforming. There is no precision on Torrent, which is frustrating as hell.

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Looking for love in all the wrong places

I love Elden Ring, but it doesn’t love me back. Story of my life, really. I always want what/who I cannot have for reasons as long as my arm. Back when I was dating, I was attracted to gay men, straight women, and anyone who was attached in a monogamous way. Even if someone fit into the category of who I was attracted to and theoretically available, they had no interest in me. The people I did manage to date ended up being not good for me in many ways. Rinse, lather, repeat.

Part of this is because I’m contrary. I could sugarcoat it by saying I point out things other people don’t see (which, true), but the practical outcome is that I am usually the minority voice. This can be a strong point, but it can also be fucking annoying. I fully acknowledge the latter point.

Because of this, I rarely take things at face value. There is always an underlying reason for everything. Again, while this may be true, it doesn’t exactly make me the most popular person when I voice these opinions. I’ve learned how to keep these things to myself when the other person shows they don’t understand what I’m talking about or aren’t interested in my perspective.

Side Note: One of the most insightful things my last therapist said to me was that people literally could not understand what I was saying. Not that they were misunderstanding, but they could not comprehend the concepts I was spitting at them. “Minna,” she said. “They are at a level 2 and you are speaking at a level 5. It’s like Maslow’s hierarchy. They are focused on food and shelter while you’re up to self-actualization.” Something about what she said flipped a switch in my head. Along with her pointing out the lesser-known results of the Dunning-Kruger study; that people who are good at something seriously underestimate the gap between them and other people in that area. Because you can’t get an outside perspective on yourself, what you can do is normal to you.

I see this in FromSoft games all the time, by the way. People who are good at the games can’t grasp that their experiences are not the norm. And it’s circular because those who are good at it are the ones who play the games, making them better at the games, thus making it easier for them to forget the difficulty in the beginning. I adore Aoife Wilson from Eurogamer, but she is especially guilty of this. She firmly believes anyone can play the games and that you just have to learn the moves. She calls Sekiro a rhythm game and says once you click with the system, it’s so easy!

Except, some of us do not click with the system. I did not. But Minna, says other people. I thought you could not beat the game if you did not click with the combat! Oh, you can. But you’re not going to have fun and it’s going to be very grueling. Because instead of the posture-breaking at the core of the game, you have to whittle away at the health in agonizing slowness until the boss finally dies. I remember fighting the Boss of Hatred and just hating everything about my life. It’s a three health pip boss and it took me hours to beat him. I have talked about how transcendent it was to beat Isshin, the Sword Saint, but was it worth it? I have to say no. That game just made me feel like a total failure DESPITE me beating it.

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Elden Ring redux

I feel like talking about my second Elden Ring playthrough. Fair warningthat there will be spoilers as I want to talk about mid-to-late game events. I’ve mentioned before that there is an NPC questline that I would pay $30 for on its own. This is Ranni’s questline, which also encompasses War Counselor Iji, Blaidd, the half-human/half-wolf, and Preceptor Seluvis–the  ultimate asshole. In my first playthrough, it took me between thirty and fifty hours to do her questline in full. Well, mostly in full. I did not do a few steps, but I got there in the end.

The questline takes you underground to a gorgeous, star-speckled universe that is stunning. That’s saying something because the game in general is one amazing environment after another. It’s purple and ethereal and has a magical quality to it. I’ve described it before so I won’t get go into details again.

I finished the questline today in about 10 hours rather than the 30 or so it took me previously. The last boss you need to kill before you can do the very end of the quest is one I had so much trouble with in the first playthrough. I was not confident at all  going into the fight this time around. I walked through the golden mist and got the boss on the first–no, that’s not how it happened. At all. It smacked me around and I was deaded over and over again.

Here’s the thing. I was still skimping on my health because I wanted to boost my Int as fast as possible. And there were other stats I needed to boost as well. I had my at 20 for a bit, which is more than I had in the first playthrough at 100+ hours. In that playthrough, I had 18 Vigor at that point. Which meant every boss could one-hit me. With 23 or so health, I can usually take one hit, but with this boss, there is one move it does that will inta-kill me. And it plays into my spatial issues, too, which makes me so very not happy. The move is that it’ll disappear and then reappear somewhere. Oh, and the arena is the abyss (the name of the boss is Astel Naturalborn of the Void) which doesn’t help with my spatial issues. Now, the tip is to look to your left because if Astel respawns next to you, it’ll be to your left. That doesn’t seem to be the case for me and even if it is, I can’t see him in time to avoid his grab.

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Elden Bling–and a quick look at NORCO

I’ve played a few hours of NORCO by Geography of Robots and I’m pleased to say that it’s a good game. Well, let me reframe that. I am enjoying it despite the gameplay is a more accurate description of what is happening. The gameplay as it were is few and far between, which is to its benefit. It’s mostly a graphic novel with dialogue choices and I really enjoy the gritty noire feeling to the game and the hard-bitten dialogue. Most of the time, I choose the kindest options when I play these kinds of games. I don’t like being a jerk, but for some reason, I went a different route in this game. I am Kay, the daughter of Catherine, who dies of cancer at the beginning of the game. Kay left Norco when her mother was diagnosed, despite her brother (Kay’s brother), Blake, pleading with her not to go. Instead of being sympathetic with Blake, I am bracing with him as I ride off on my motorbike.

The protag reminds me so much of Kathy Rain from her titular game. Hard-bitten, sarcastic, motorcycle-riding, and takes no guff from anyone. There was a mystery in that one as well. A dead mother, too. In that case, the mystery surrounds her missing father (missing long before the game starts). In this one, when she gets back home, she discovers her brother is missing. Also, her mom has a security robot who…does housework? I’m not sure what she does exactly, but she’s pretty cool as well.

Two things I really hate about point-and-clicks, both the fault of Wadjet Eye Games, the developers of the Blackwell series, which is the granddaddy of this genre. One, pixel hunting. Oh my god. The having to mouse over each pixel to find that indeterminate pixel that is important, but unnoticeable from the rest is excruciating. Two, and this is the one that annoys the FUCK out of me, having to find and combine disparate objects. It’s bad enough to be asked to combine a long piece of hair, a coffee cup with a heart on it that can only be found in the left side neighbor’s backyard, and a sham pillow to make a key. It’s always a key. Why is it always a key? The worst part is that you often have to backtrack to get what you need. And you know how From games are considered obfuscating and difficult to comprehend? They ain’t got nothing on point-and-clicks. I remember playing Unavowed (Wadjet Eye Games). It looked gorgeous and I loved the concept. I went into it with high hopes, but then there came a point where part of the solution was dangling rope out of a greenhouse (or something similar) and then going down a few floors to do something else with the rope, but it very much wasn’t explained. That was the last straw and I quit on the spot. I had been using a walkthrough throughout the game until this point.

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The gift of no gift at all

I’m a good gift-giver. I wanted to put that out there before I get into a rant about why I prefer not getting gifts. I used to think it was a no-brainer to get a good gift for someone. You just think about what they like and get them something from those categories. I can take hours to find the perfect gift if I’m not careful. And, I’m pretty dang good at it.

In return, very few people are good at getting me gifts. I’ve done Secret Santa twice in my life. Once in college when I was a Junior Counselor with my corridor and once in my first job. I went overboard both times and got nothing in return (first time) and things I didn’t want for the most part (second time). In the former case, I can make a direct comparison because the person I got had me as well. We were supposed to give little gifts to each other throughout the week in our PO boxes in the main center building. I gave my person something every day whereas she gave me nothing. I think she gave me a big candy cane at the end when we gave each other a big gift and revealed who we were. I did puzzles or a maze or something like that. I think I did a “On the _______ day of Christmas list”. For the job one, I think that’s the one I did the maze? The person who had me misheard me saying I hated Christmas stuff as I loved Christmas stuff, apparently. I had one friend at that workplace who I bitched about the whole Secret Santa thing to and it turned out she was my Secret Santa. Whoops. She did give me a yin-yang poster, though, which I appreciated.

Here’s the thing. I’m a terrible person to buy gifts for. There are many reasons for this. One, I have a whole mess of allergies that makes it nearly impossible to give me anything related to the senses. I’m allergic to almost everything in the great outdoors, for example.

Side Note: All the people who enthuse about the great outdoors crack me up. I did a hilarious rant on white people and camping on Twitter many years ago. I got a bunch of people of color chiming in with me and it was so much fun. But, it’s also real talk in that I can’t walk around outside without being reminded that many of the things are not good for me. I’m allergic to almost every flower. I like to say I’m allergic to air itself.

My brother is really into essential oils and likes to insist that I smell the bottle he carries around. The first time he did that, it was lavender, which I’m really allergic to and hate the smell of. My head snapped back and I pushed the bottle away with prejudice. I’m also severely allergic to poinsettias.

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Poirot in and out

I am a Poirot fan, dare I say a stan. I have read all the books anywhere from five to fifty times. I have watched the series at least three times–in order. That’s not easy to do because the series is broken up in two, each half owned by a different entity.

Side Rant: I HATE that there are so many sub-subscriptions. Amazon Prime is nearly useless as a subscription on its own for movies and television. Anytime I find something I want to watch, there’s a sub-subscription I have to buy in order to watch it. I don’t think I’ve watched anything from Amazon in years. The last time I wanted to watch Poirot, I had to subscribe to two different subs. I did the trial for each in order to watch the series before cancelling, but it was annoying as fuck. Here’s the thing. I don’t watch much TV or movies in general so I don’t want to have to pay ten bucks to watch one movie or TV show.

Anyway. I’ve been thinking about this because someone in the weekend thread on Ask A Manager asked for people’s favorite adaptations and least-favorite. Several people mentioned Poirot, much to my surprise, and how they thought David Suchet was the perfect Poirot. That’s not as surprising because he embodies Poirot. So much so that the one time I heard Suchet doing the audiobook version of Death on the Nile,  I couldn’t get over his very British accent.

I proposed a moratorium on British Poirot movies for more than one reason. First, David Suchet is Poirot. Period. Full stop. No one can do it better. Second, there is a lot of racism and classism in the stories. In the novels as well as the movies. Lower-class people are portrayed as slovenly, violent, loud, coarse, etc. People from Asian countries are portrayed as sly, inscrutable, untrustworthy, etc. And, what would be unforgivable now, the people of other ethnicities are just British actors with bad accents and bad makeup.

The Big Four is my favorite Poirot book and it’s rife with racist portrayals. Or at least national stereotypes. *Spoilers* for a really old book. I like the shock of Poirot dying in it and experiencing the grief through Hastings. Then, the appearance of Poirot’s twin brother! Shock number two! And, yes, it’s a tired old trope, but still a jolt to the system. And then, masssssssive spoiler, the twin turns out to be Poirot after all and he faked his own death to get the Big Four off his back.

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Family dysfunction is not a good function

Family dysfunction has been on my mind lately because it’s the one thing that has gotten worse since my medical trauma. Well. Let me restate that, but in a minute. The only lasting injury I’ve suffered from my medical trauma is a slight issue with short-term memory. It’s not a big deal as I can take notes to shore up the gaps. When I first got out of the hospital, I had marked short-term memory issues, but they’ve dissipated in the following months.

But with my parents, well, that’s another story. Part of the issue is that I’m not willing to shine them on as I once was. I shouldn’t say not willing because it’s more not able than not willing. I open my mouth to say the platitude, but I just can’t force it out. All the anger I have built up inside surges into my throat and I have to work hard not to let it out. There is always a thin edge to my voice when I’m talking to them (or thick, depending on how well I can hide it).

Here’s the issue. My father is getting worse. I think it’s partly because of his fear about COVID (which is rising rapidly in Taiwan). They went from no cases in 10 months to nearly 7,000 cases in one day. And if one of them gets it, the one who has it has to be isolated in the hospital or a hotel by themselves. Which would be terrible because my father cannot live on his own.

Side Note: That is one of my frustrations with his pontifications. He likes to talk all this big shit when he can’t live on his own. He used to be the president of a research company, so it’s not that weird that he has an overinflated opinion of himself. Plus, he had a secretary who did everything for him while he was president, including printing out his emails and putting them on his desk for him to read. And my mom does everything for him at home. He’s a paper tiger who thinks he’s a lion.

In addition, when he dumps this shit on me, he doesn’t actually start the conversation. He just assumes I know what he’s been thinking about and continues a train of thought. So, for example, last night, he started talking about these two people he knew who were doing some kind of business. They may or may not needed an editor, but he couldn’t say for sure because he never asked them, but they did do things in English, but he wasn’t sure how they did it, but one of them, it might have been private, so he didn’t know how to approach them about it because they might consider it privileged information…then he started looping with the same information. Mind you, he never once mentioned why he had brought all this up in the first place. Yes, I could intuit it, but still. He never once said clearly that he was suggesting I edit for them–and again, he hadn’t even talked to them about it, yet!

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Elden Ring the second time around

nSo. I’m romping through the second playthrough of Elden Ring in about a third the amount of time it took me the first playthrough. I’m around 35+ hours and in the Volcano Manor. I did not get there until roughly 100+ hours in my first playthrough. I think it’s actually more than that because–and, again, spoilers galore–I did not receive the invitations to invade other people’s worlds until after I was in the Mountaintop of Giants. Wait. I don’t think that’s right, but it later in the game, I think.

At any rate, I now have the Crepus Vial (talisman)/Hidden Form (spell) combo. The former is a reward for accomplishing the second Volcano Manor invite whereas the latter is the reward for figuring out how to get into a certain rise (tower). The Mirage Rise in this case. I did not like these puzzle towers, by the way, but that is neither here nor there.

I gotta say that my number one tip for n00bs is to bump up that Vigor. If you’re a FromSoft vet, yeah, you can glass cannon it. But if you’re a newcomer or, iike me, have spatial/twitch issues that make it difficult for you to be no-hit during a boss/mob fight, you really want to make sure that red bar stretches across the top of the screen.

I still remember all the boss fights on my first playthrough that were so frustrating because I was one-shot time and time again. I will never be good enough to do a no-hit boss fight. And it’s not fun for me to fight a boss, knowing that a certain move will instantly end the fight. I know it’s partly my fault keeping my Vigor so low, but I maintain that making it so a boss can one-shot you is just deflating. OK, OK, my Vigor was extremely low. 18 for the first 100+ hours. I ended with it being 30 when it’s recommended you have 60 by the end game.

I’ve mentioned this before, but when I got the Mimic Tear Spirit Summon, which uses health rather than mana to be summoned, I couldn’t use it because I was level 18 and you needed to be 21 to have enough health to summon it (and you’d only have 20 leftover at that). 18 is 598 HP, by the way. 30 is 994 HP and 60 is 1900 HP. I said this before, but the last boss has a HP of nearly 35,600 HP. That’s multitudes more than Gwyn’s paltry 4,250 HP. He was the final boss of the first Dark Souls! To make an even more astounding, Margit, the Fell Omen, the first big boss in Elden Ring, has 4,175 HP.

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