Phaedrus' Street Crew
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Everything posted by Urthman

  1. Firewatch Spoiler Thread | Henry Two Hats

    The part that irked me the most about Tom Chick's review is the implication that he thinks we pretty much know all the things games are good at and the things games are bad at. That seems like a depressingly reactionary view of the potential to discover new ways of making games. Even if Firewatch were a failure, surely we're nowhere near exhausting the possibilties of game design such that we could say Firewatch failed because it tried to do something Games Were Not Meant To Do and Never Will.
  2. Firewatch Spoiler Thread | Henry Two Hats

    I think you're expecting Firewatch to be a different genre from what it is. In some games, conversations are a means to an end, you try to figure out what to say in order to make something happen. In Firewatch, the conversations are ends in themselves. The reason you have a choice in responding is supposed to be that it's fun to have a conversation with Delilah and make choices. The conversations aren't a puzzle to be solved, they are an experience to be enjoyed.
  3. Front Page Layout

    If I was complaining, it was about not enough content on the front page.
  4. "Cars sucks." - A Pixar Thread

    This is also not in the movie. The disgust is at him building a robot that kills people so he can pretend to be a hero, not that he's pretending to be super. It's the killing people to try to make himself look good and sell weapons that's disgusting. And Mr. Incredible doesn't apologize for chastising Buddy for being irresponsible any more than Helen apologizes for chastising Dash for being irresponsible. Because Bob and Helen were right and Buddy and Dash were wrong.
  5. "Cars sucks." - A Pixar Thread

    I don't see that in The Incredibles at all. Nobody with powers makes elitist statements about whether they deserve power or other people don't, except Dash who is admonished for it by his mother. You have two kids doing irresponsible and dangerous things, Buddy with his inventions and Dash with his speed. They both get in trouble for it and in the end the difference is not that Dash's powers are innate, but that he's willing to accept supervision and guidance from adults. Mr. Incredible is tempted to run off and use his powers irresponsibly and his redemption is learning to value his common human role as a father above that desire to get thrills from using his special powers. And again, the idea of giving people superpowers is not really on the table. That's Syndrome's rhetoric, but what he's actually doing is using his own inventor superpowers to make weapons for himself and sell weapons to other people.
  6. "Cars sucks." - A Pixar Thread

    Syndrome doesn't want to give anyone superpowers, he wants to sell weapons to a few people after he retires. Syndrome himself has Maker superpowers (in the tradition of Tony Stark, Reed Richards, Lex Luthor, Doctor Doom, Hank Pym, Amadeus Cho, Ray Palmer, etc).
  7. "Cars sucks." - A Pixar Thread

    The only dialogue in The Incredibles that is pro-Randian comes from the villain and a kid trying to weasel out of trouble with his mom. Calling The Incredibles pro-Randian is like calling Captain America pro-Hydra. The closest thing to a Randian Übermensch in the film is Syndrome, the villain. The conflict is entirely about responsible use of power, not whether some people were born superior (in comic book tropes, Syndrome's supergenius is just as much a superpower as Mr. Incredible's strength). The narrative directly refutes Syndrome's (and Dash's) Randian belief (and Mr. Incredible's temptation) that having power puts you in a special moral category which entitles you to ignore the rules that apply to everyone else. When Dash gets in trouble for his bad behavior at school, his self-justifying cry is, "But dad says our powers make us special!" He mistakenly thinks that his special powers should put him in a special moral category. His mother rebukes him with the phrase "Everyone's special" which in this context has the same meaning as "all men are created equal" that is, all people should be equal in the sight of the law, all people deserve to be treated the way we treat those who are special to us. Dash misunderstands this, thinking that affirming the moral worth of everyone and holding everyone to an equal moral standard is the same as trying to handicap his abilities. When he says, "If everyone's special, then nobody is," he really means, "If I'm special, I should be allowed to get away with behavior that gets other people in trouble." The ending of the movie, in which Dash's conflict with his mother is resolved by using his speed but not to misbehave at school and not in a way that endangers his family, makes it clear that the movie's message about power is not the objectivist "Excellence vs. Mediocrity" but rather "Responsibility vs. Irresponsibility." And the entire family, in the end, agrees that they need to be held accountable and use their powers on the same terms that a policeman uses a gun. This is a movie where trial lawyers and lawsuits help rein in the anarchy of super powers unaccountable to the rest of society and in the end the world is better for it. In fact you could make a better case that The Incredibles is an allegory about the need for rational gun control laws than that it is in any sense pro-Randian. Superpowers are guns, the villain is a kid who got mad because adults wouldn't let him play with guns, his irresponsibility causes guns to be outlawed for a while, his evil scheme is to sell guns to everybody, Dash gets in trouble for bringing a gun to school, and the happy ending is that the protagonists are allowed to use guns again under strict government oversight.
  8. I think one of my favorite things about this game is the way some players say, "I thought it had to be a multiple-personality thing because the twin story was just too ridiculous," while others say, "I was sure it had to be twins because this sort of MPD isn't a real thing that exists." I was in the latter camp. The multiple-personality thing never even occurred to me, and I was kind of dumbstruck when Chris said he stuck with the multiple-personality theory because it seemed to fit better with the game's flat, realistic tone. What? Twins at least are a real thing that exists, even if the story about them is far-fetched. Given what we know about confirmation bias, I would guess that the difference for most people is attributable to the order you discovered things in the game. I would guess most of the people in the MPD camp ran into a detail early on that either made the twins story seem preposterous or multiple personalities seem plausible. Likewise, I'd guess most people who favor the twins explanation found some of the more plausible evidence that they are twins earlier, making them later more willing to accept some of the less believable details. Another way of looking at this would be that in genre fiction we typically suspend our belief about the premises but want the conclusions to follow plausibly from those premises. So depending on the order you discover things, you might (consciously or unconsciously) be thinking, "Oh, this is a world where MPD exists" or "Oh, this is the sort of story where you just except the idea that a little kid could grow up hiding in the attic." Neither is actually credible, but whether that breaks the story depends on whether, for you, they were premises or conclusions. And that dichotomy seems like a really fascinating feature of this kind of non-linear storytelling. It seems players might, depending on the order they discover things, form different ideas about the very genre of the story, and that perception might have inertia that causes them to have very different reactions to identical plot points.
  9. Some of my favorite moments on the podcast are when somebody says a wordplay, especially if they don't realize it, and the conversation moves on before Jake can say anything about it, but I know that Jake and we, the readers, are just silently enjoying it together.
  10. Devil Daggers - Cutting to the Quick

    Cool! That was one of my favorite things about Dustforce.
  11. Firewatch Spoiler Thread | Henry Two Hats

    So, has anyone found a secret winter ending hinted at by the soundtrack?
  12. Firewatch Spoiler Thread | Henry Two Hats

    Ned was an arsonist, an attempted murderer (trying to leave Hank to die in the cave), and he vandalized those girls' campsite, frightening them and stealing their boombox.
  13. Firewatch Spoiler Thread | Henry Two Hats

    Firewatch is basically a Scooby Doo story, and I loved it. I was so disappointed when I found the research station and it looked like the game was going to be about being trapped in some weird social experiment. That seemed like both a huge step down in realism and a really tired video game cliché. So I was actually delighted when what seemed like a stupid plot development turned out to be something more interesting, original, and plausible. Old Man Ned was just trying to scare away those meddling kids who were poking around to keep them from finding out about his terrible secret. I can definitely believe in a guy who pushes his son too far to be a climber and when a terrible accident happens he just can't deal with it. He can't face returning to civilization and telling people what happened, so he just stays there. He can't even bring himself to haul away or bury the body. He just locks the cave and tries to turn his back on the whole thing. He's lonely and has nothing to do, so of course he eavesdrops on radio conversations. (The radios aren't bugged, Delilah just doesn't seem to know how radios work. Of course anyone on the same frequency can listen to them. The new radio is pointless; Ned can listen to that one just as easily -- and he does, making a tape of Delilah's "burn it" comment.) He panics when Hank starts poking around the old cave and tries various things to scare him off. First he tries to start trouble between Hank and the girls, trying to make each side believe the other is harassing them. Then he cuts the cable. Then one day he forgets his clipboard (stolen from that research station) and when he goes back to get it -- disaster! -- Hank is there (or maybe Ned was hanging out by the lake and panicked when he heard Hank coming and dropped the clipboard in his haste). He ambushes Hank using his radio as bait. Then later when he hears them talking about Wapiti Station, he gets the idea to try to pin his eavesdropping on the scientists. (I think my main problem with the story is the lack of consequences to Ned knocking Hank out. Hank probably has a concussion! He should've been flown out to see a doctor. I couldn't believe Hank and Delilah would both have so little reaction to him being actually assaulted like that, that they wouldn't immediately decide the stakes are now too high, get out of there, and notify the police.) Ned is recording the conversation when Hank breaks into the camp, maybe hoping to get Hank in trouble for trespassing. When he hears Delilah's comment about burning it down, he realizes he can frame them for arson. I'm not sure about the backpack. If Ned left it there as a decoy to get Hank away so he could leave the incriminating tape on his tower, the fact that he left the key there means he must have planned to trap Hank in the cave. I kind of like the idea better that it had been Brian's, but if so, the game is bugged, because I found that clearing earlier in the game and there was no backpack. But Ned's plans fail when the fire gets out of control, forcing him to flee his hideout, and Hank makes it out of the cave alive with news about Brian's body. I would have liked to have been confronted with a choice between leaving Ned alone or reporting him to the authorities. Even if Brian's death was an accident, the bastard is an arsonist and tried to leave me to die in that cave! I think the story actually was inspired somewhat by Foucault's Pendulum (Chris loves that book). Ned seems to get the whole idea to create the conspiracy of scientists from what Hank and Delilah say when they're trying to figure out what the hell his clipboard was about. This is getting long. I'll just say I also loved the Hank/Delilah relationship. I love how it turns out. In real life, not every woman wants to hook up with you just because you have a few friendly conversations. I'm not surprised that a lot of gamers can't deal with that. Finding her empty tower worked way better than whatever uncanny-valley version of Delilah herself Campo Santo might have come up with. And wow, I loved exploring the beautiful little world of Firewatch. The whole area is fairly small, but I wasn't expecting some huge Witcher-sized open world, and I think the handcrafted, designed areas were much more satisfying than acres of bland perlin-noise terrain. That cool cave at the end was bigger and more interesting than I expected. And I thought the hedges and treefalls were a pretty nifty way to gate off a few areas, giving me a few extra places to go back and find toward the end. That damn racoon scared the shit out of me. I think my main disappointment is that they didn't steal some sort of mapping mechanic from Miasmata. I thought sure I was going to get to use that Firefinder sitting there. I was also a little disappointed that smoke and fire are obscuring everything at the end of the game. Narratively, it totally makes sense and works, but I was a little bummed that I had 6 pictures left on my camera and all the beautiful scenery was obscured. I would have liked to finally see Delilah's tower with blue sky behind it.
  14. Grow Home, that ghost flower game

    This was one of my favorite games last year. And now you can get it in the latest Humble Bundle for whatever price you want. Grow Home makes climbing, jumping, beanstalk-riding, leaf-bouncing, gliding, catapulting, and jetpacking all feel dynamic and exciting and it does a great job of making you feel like you’re doing it all very, very, way-too-far-up high in the sky. It's the best feeling of don't-look-down-vertigo since Giants: Citizen Kabuto. The game is utterly charming, with a bunch of silly animals to laugh at, nifty nooks and crannies to explore, and kindly condescending comments from your robot MOM trying to encourage you. And it's short! Give it a try. You might love it.
  15. Chris, you are a terrible, horrid rascal. I was listening to this episode on headphones at night, skulking around quietly so as not to wake anyone else in the house, when that music came in under the bridge discussion, and something about the way you mixed it in made me sure it was coming directly from my phone or some other source besides the headphones. I had a terrible moment of, "Oh crap! What did I do? Where's that music coming from?" before I realized what was going on, and even then I had to take off the headphones to be sure. I assume that was a callback to your experience of mistaking the Churchill soundtrack for NPR background music? Well played.
  16. That's a really fun and interesting video. Thanks!
  17. I figured the restrictions on how you talk in Bridge must be some rule about not passing signals to your partner. But it seems like an odd rule to me. Surely if you were determined to pass illegal signals to your partner, there would be a dozen non-verbal ways to do it. So why put a restriction on how people talk? It seems like you'd have to either trust your opponents to play fair or all go to separate rooms and play with a computer setup that allows no communication except for the bid and the cards played.
  18. Perhaps a moment of silence would be appropriate next episode in memory of those of us who did not survive the Great Star Wars Spoilering of '15.
  19. I approve of this idea for an Idle Thumbs vacation week.
  20. Baby Got Backstory - A trope creation thread

    Yeah, if we're following the TvTropes model, the thing to do is subdivide the concept into as many distinct tropes as we can identify, rather than lumping as much as possible under a single trope. So "The Character Happens to Want To Dress The Way The Author/Audience Wants Her To Dress" needs a different pithy name than Baby Got Backstory.
  21. Baby Got Backstory - A trope creation thread

    I'm not gonna go to the mat for the Inara example in particular. I was just trying to draw the distinction between characters who are sexy because audiences like sexy media vs. characters who have some sort of in-story excuse to for being sexy. I think this is better, if more subjective. I think the essence of the trope is when it feels like the creators are defensive and making excuses. But the characters never really have a say in the matter. It's the creators who decide what the character "wants," and it seems like there are implausible character motivations that would fall under this trope, such as Power Girl's "I use the boob window to distract my enemies."
  22. Baby Got Backstory - A trope creation thread

    It seems like a good test of this trope would be to imagine a conversation in which someone points to Character A and says, "Sigh, yet another character designed to appeal to dudes who like big boobs [or whatever it is]." If someone could respond, "No, Character A looks/acts/is dressed like that because...[details from the story]" then it's a Baby Got Backstory situation. It doesn't matter if the justification is sexual or allegedly non-sexual. To take Firefly as an example, Zoe, Kaylee, and Inara are all played by very attractive women, but there's no in-universe explanation for why a pilot or an engineer should happen to be so attractive. But Inara is attractive and wears sexy clothes because she's Got Backstory. Lots of stories have sexy people in them, because audiences* like sexy people, but in this story Character A is Sexy For a Reason. (*I'd argue that the main reason it gets problematic is when the sexy is consistently designed to appeal to one particular audience to the exclusion of others.)
  23. As a perfect example of the discussion imagining Han Solo tea-bagging Darth Vader, I noticed when this Star Wars Battlefront video of Luke Skywalker getting stomped by an AT-AT went viral on Facebook that the player controlling Luke Skywalker had the classy username "deepthroated".
  24. So the "Bach" in CPU Bach is kind of a synecdoche for "baroque-style composition rules"? That reminds me of David Hurwitz's modest proposal "Let's Just Say Bach Wrote It" (sadly unavailable behind a paywall), suggesting that the problem of excellent but neglected baroque works could be solved by just attributing them all to J.S. Bach.
  25. Guild Wars 2

    Yeah, in a superhero MMO, the look of the characters is the most important thing. The look of the world is often kind of dull. In Guild Wars, I don't really care so much about how my character looks because I'm too busy gawking slack-jawed at the rest of the world.