Monday, September 9, 2013

Haul

Having been through the novel-writing process five times in the last ten years, I'm not surprised I'm procrastinating. The novellas I wrote in that same time span were much less intimidating. A few months and BAM, finished! The full novels... they take SO LONG, and they are so INVOLVED. I'm scared to do it again, knowing what lies ahead.

I need to begin. I've been hesitating for too long. I'm not doing anything else, and I'm tired of talking about writing. Time to do it again. Time to make it real.

I have plenty of books to read between writing sessions. Short story collections, actually. No more games, but those are only a click away if need be. It's time to stop bouncing around aimlessly on the net for hours at a time listening to music. It's time to get to work again.

But I dread the life-sucking WORK that lies ahead. I dread the HAUL and the COMMITMENT and the EFFORT! Novellas are nice and quick, short stories are a breeze, but a big idea... Man, how did I start off writing novels and then progress to shorter works??

So, here I go again. No matter what happens, I'm about to put my oldest idea onto paper.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Zeno Clash 2




The first Zeno Clash was a quirky, surreal boss brawling game. Like Street Fighter 2 in 3D. It had just enough story to keep it interesting, the fighting was solid and satisfying, and the world it created was bizarre and quite cool in its own way.

My only complaints with the first game was how repetitive it got, and the difficulty of fighting multiple foes at once. Someone on the development team must have listened to feedback like that, because Zeno Clash 2 corrects those issues. Game 1 was boss fight after boss fight after boss fight and it was tiresome. Game two takes a more open-world approach. Instead of being on a path and fighting everyone on it, now you have a whole world in which to wander.

But I can't call it "open world" gameplay. An open world has other places to visit, other people to meet and talk to, other stories to find. Zeno Clash 2 has none of that. You have an entire world to explore, but pretty much the only thing to find is the next objective. That part is disappointing, but it is a much needed break from the constant boss fighting of the first game. Now those fights are spaced out with some exploration.

There are other things to find in the world, though. Once I figured out what the cubes were for, it gave me something else to accomplish, and I wasn't disappointed when I found out what happened when I had all eight cubes.





Zeno Clash 2 has something the first game only barely had: a story! The story is a little tricky to get into at first. Character motivation is a problem because it's not obvious why Ghat is breaking FatherMother out of jail. After all that fuss in the first game discovering what FatherMother really is, now they want him/her back?!

It does become clearer as the game progresses, and it all ties to who these people are, what Zenozoik is, and why everyone in it is fighting all the time. Yes, the game's core mechanic (brawling) is part of the story, and it's pretty clever.

A reviewer at PC Gamer apparently didn't catch it. The Golem is trying to bring law and order to the world, so yeah, why would the people be against it? Well, if you think about it from their point of view, law and order is stupid when you can just fight out your troubles yourself. These are primitive, uncivilized people. To them, law and fairness are the chaos they must resist.

I agree with the reviewer that the issue of fighting crowds of enemies isn't any better than the first game, except that now running away from the fight is easier. The fighting itself seems to be weak now, but this may be my fault.

I foolishly didn't think to check the system requirements before buying the game. I figured the first game ran perfectly, so the sequel would also run! Wrong. New game engine, and my computer isn't strong enough to handle it. But like Skyrim, the game runs well enough on the lowest graphics setting.

The combat doesn't feel as solid as in the first game, and I don't know how much of that is my computer's fault and how much of it is the game itself. I found it almost impossible to string together any combos. I'd click the mouse and press buttons on the keyboard, but half the time Ghat wouldn't punch in quick succession. Maybe only one or two of those button-presses actually got through. This may not be the game's fault, and if I ever upgrade systems I'll find out then.

But Zeno Clash 2 doesn't rely so heavily on brawling! In the first game, it's all you did. This time the guns do more damage, you have secondary weapons, and now you can run and turn at the same time! Plus, it's open world, so you can run away from the fights to find health and weapons, and sometimes leave the area entirely. Finally, you can have up to two allies fighting with you! There are more options in how to play the game, which gives it more appeal than the first.

For me, the story is what saves this game. You get to know who the people of Zenozoik are, and why they're here. We finally learn who the Golem is, who those shadow things were, and what their purpose is. All the stuff missing from the first game is here.

(Side note: I noticed the resemblance to the Wizard of Oz in the mountains level, and just minutes later, the game makes a self-conscious joke about it. Perfect timing.)

I can understand people's issues with the story, since it does require a stretch to understand. The story could have been told in a much stronger way, but it's a game, so development is always geared more towards gameplay. I would have liked more places to visit besides the objectives, too. What we have here could have been better, but it's still good and fun, and it does make more sense this time 'round.

But unless you played the first Zeno Clash, you're probably not going to understand the second. It tries to bring new players up to speed in the tutorial, but it's not enough. You must play the first game to enjoy the second. I did enjoy it, and I look forward to Zeno Clash 3 revealing even more about the people of Zenozoik and what's beyond.


-official site-

Monday, September 2, 2013

Who glorifies "hard work?"

Roommate calculated he's pulling an average of 68 hours a week at work. It's physical labor. Very difficult work. It's taking a lot out of him. But it's good money.

I'm just now back up to earning a living wage, but my hours can be cut at any time. There's no security. No stability. 30+ job applications over the last six years. Three interviews. Still can't get out. I'm glad I have a job and I've held onto it, but man. The job market is tough. It's not as simple as "just get a better job," contrary to people thoughtlessly saying it is.

It used to be. Wake up to the new economy. Businesses are profitable again because they've cut back on their workforce enough to be so. Now they realize they can function just fine without those extra jobs, forcing their remaining employees to do more work for no extra pay. The economy will not return to the way it was before the crash of '08, unless something big changes.

Is this what it takes to be self-sufficient? You have to work so much you have no other life? Is this the glory of hard work? Just keep working! You'll prosper! You'll be rich! All you have to do is keep working! Only people who have never had to work hard would ever glorify it.

Fuck, we accept this as the way it's meant to be? Once upon a time, a person could support a family on just one income. These days it takes two and three incomes to just barely get by! With few exceptions, both parents have to work full-time to support themselves and one kid!

Why have we simply accepted this is normal? Employment is said to be a choice, and yet we are all required to earn a living. Is it really a choice? Are we really free?


Notice when Capitalism took off in America? After the civil war. Or, more accurately, after slavery was abolished. Once America no longer had its supply of cheap labor, slavery was expanded to encompass everyone.

Equality!

Ever wonder why Americans don't organize and protest very much?--why we seem so complacent? It's because we have to spend so much time working! We can't say or do anything that might take us away from our jobs because we're terrified of losing them. It's the ideal way to control a population so they'll never overthrow the current system: keep them so busy they won't have time to think, let alone act! I don't believe it was planned this way (no conspiracy theories here), but it seems to be what happened.

Hard work is not worth glorifying. It's just work.

Happy fucking labor day.




Sunday, September 1, 2013

I hate the word "entitled"

(Inspired, partially, by this blog)

I applied for a job a little while ago, and for the first time in 5+ years (and some 30 applications) I actually got an interview.

I was told the company has had trouble finding people who want to work. Considering the job is very blue-collar, and this person used the word "entitled," I think he figures kids these days just don't want to work, like Fox News and Rush Limbaugh keep telling people.

I think that's a narrow way of looking at the problem. A more complete picture would consider that kids these days are told they have to go to college or they will end up slaving away in a factory, or McDonalds or something. So they go to train for something better. They expect to land a white-collar job in the tech industry, or as a manager, then they're surprised when the only jobs out there actually require doing hard, dirty, physical, blue-collar work.

Friend of mine told me about a relative years and years ago who got into the railroad business as a caboose operator. Worked his way up to engineer over fifteen years. That's how things used to be done. You get into a company, and you work your way up. Not anymore. For the most part, the burden is now on the employee to pay for school and learn the job, and then he's hired. Kids expect to skip starting at the bottom. They're taught they'll start at the top if they go to school.

"Go to college and you'll land that dream job that will earn you lots of money doing something you love without having to get your hands dirty," they tell the kids. Then they blame the kids for not wanting to start at the bottom, doing those crappy jobs. Well duh. They went to school to be above that kind of work! If kids are entitled, it's because they've been taught to be by the previous generation.

Here we are in a depression. There aren't enough jobs to go around, and yet diehard conservatives call everyone lazy for not getting a job, as if overnight America has stopped wanting to work. It makes me so mad when people simplify the problem by just dismissing people as lazy freeloaders.

Stop using the word "entitled." It does not accurately describe the problem in America.

We tend to oversimplify problems like that.

"If the government would just get out of the way all problems would be fixed."

"Income inequality is not a problem. People who do more work should be rewarded for it."

"Unions are holding business back. Get rid of the unions, give more freedom to the businesses, and everything will fix itself."

"All the problems in the world are because we've turned away from God. If we went back to God, everything would fix itself."

"The government has no right to tell us what to do! The Constitution is under attack! Freedom is under attack!"

I've heard people say all of these things.

It doesn't look at the issues from multiple angles:

There were a lot more problems before the government stepped between people and business.

Income inequality is a symptom, not the problem. Some people seem to think the debate is people who do more work should not be rewarded for it. Nobody is claiming that a person who does better work than someone else doesn't deserve to succeed while the other person fails. To dismiss the debate as such is misdirection. Nobody is saying there shouldn't be greater reward for success. The problem is that people who are not doing hard work are being rewarded disproportionally more than people who are doing the work. That the playing field is not level.

Union demands are rarely unfair. Even with unions, corporations still manage to make billions of dollars in profit. Unions didn't kill Hostess, and even the so-called liberal media makes sure to place union demands and the fall of the company side by side, never actually stating the unions are to blame, but silently implying it. Without them, business would keep all that profit for the nameless shareholders and executives, and not give anything to the people actually doing the work. Sound familiar?

When was the ideal time period when America was close to God and there were no problems? Was it back when the country was founded, and blacks were slaves and native Americans slaughtered and forced off their land? Was it in the 1950's, when segregation was an accepted fact of life and women were only allowed to do "women's work?" Think, people!

Kinda like Waiting for Superman, that documentary on America's school system that seemed to imply the blame for bad schools was on the teacher's union. It ignored any and all other factors (like state and federal government cutting funding for schools and police departments while giving tax breaks to big business), which pissed me off.

It's what we do as human beings. We oversimplify problems because it's easier than trying to look at them from multiple angles, considering all factors. Most people don't think that deeply. It's easier to label and generalize than take in multiple points of view.