You are currently browsing the Obsessivity weblog archives for November, 2006.

27 Nov 2006

Kelethin

Games

Yep, EQ2’s back to obession status. The new player race is wonderful. I’m having a great time playing a Fae. They’re just so much fun. The new zone is exactly right – an update of the old Greater Faydark, with lore to account for the differences. The music is an updated version of the old Kelethin music – Kelethin, with some of the melodic content of the old Plane of Growth Tower, and the same high quality as the rest of EQ2.

Kelethin was the home of the wood elves in EQ1. It was in the center of Greater Faydark – it still is – but when I started EQ1 as a high elf I had no idea how close it was. I found it by accident, and thought that I had run for miles, when in fact it was just a short path between Felwithe, the High Elf city, and Kelethin. Short, but lethal to a level 1 or 2 newcomer. Even more so if you ventured off the path, which I did all the time. Gawd, but that was a scary time.

It’s all very nostalgic and very current at the same time.

Crushbone Keep – I remember from EQ1 how lethal that place was as a relative newbie. The new version is a much higher level, but advancement is easier, so it’s relatively about the same as Crushbone in EQ1, which is just right. Of course, I haven’t ventured beyond the entryway yet. It’s scary.

Dancer is a shaman. A mystic, as a good race shaman are called. This is the first time I’ve tried a shaman, and it’s working well – though how well she’ll perform in a group, I don’t know. Shamans used to be crucial in EQ1, but now other classes can slow, and shaman healing is weak. So I’ve yet to see how capable she is.

The in-game economy is all screwed up, with high-level players paying huge amounts to equip their new Fae characters (“twinking”), and paying astronomical sums for harvested material for the new tradeskills. I’m supplying both markets while they’re like this, and getting rich in in-game terms, but I hope that things will return to normal soon.

Now that I’ve explored as my Fae, I think I’ll be able to let the game idle for a while. It’s time to put some effort into chapter 2.

Also, simoun-fans is moving again. I’m falling behind, and avoiding spoilers again. Since it has been so long, I can’t just catch up; I’ve forgotten too much. So I’ll go back and watch from the beginning.

Current obsessions: (games) EverQuest 2

14 Nov 2006

EQ2 – new expansion!

Games

It seems that EverQuest II is back on the menu. I’ve been playing again for a couple of days. Mainly just tradeskilling, though I’ve been having a lot of fun working on my lowbie warlock.

I haven’t really been watching the status of the new expansion, but it turns out that I’ve returned just in time for it. I’d been planning to get it anyway, but this is convenient. Everything I’ve heard about it has been good. I already have a name “reserved” for my Fae – there’s a level 1 barbarian named Dancer who will never be played. As soon as the servers are up and I get chance to log in, I’ll delete her and create a Fae with that name. A shaman, I think. I’ve never played an EQ shaman.

I wasn’t thinking about the expansion when I wrote about the early days in Greater Faydark. It’s certainly not going to have the same feel for me as that time, but I do like that they’re bringing the city and forest back. It has the potential to be a lovely place.

Servers down today because of the expansion – and probably rocky for a few days yet, though Sony has done a far better job than Blizzard on pushing out updates efficiently. With luck, Dancer the Fae will be floating around sometime late this evening.

Update: Agh. It won’t be this evening. Still 9 hours of patches to download. Maybe I need to do something useful, like work on Chapter 2…

11 Nov 2006

Final Fantasy X

Games, Writing

Final Fantasy X was the first console roleplaying game I played, and one of the few I’ve played all the way through. It’s going to be hard to top.

I’m not going to bother with spoiler tags, since I want to talk mainly about the story, so I’ll hide the rest of this behind a more tag. Beware – spoilers beyond the link. Heavy spoilers.
(more…)

09 Nov 2006

The early days of EverQuest

Games

I started playing EverQuest in 2001. February / March timeframe, I believe. Both of my alternating bosses where I worked played.

I guess I went in with my eyes open, because I’d already heard horror stories of EQ addiction, and I pretty much knew that I’d get sucked in, but it looked like fun. (Ironically, I avoided Dungeons and Dragons at university because I knew that I’d have trouble managing my time with it – then N years later I started playing EQ.)

Those early days were amazing. Having never played a MMO (massively multiplayer online) game before, and barely even touching console games – I didn’t play a console roleplaying game until Final Fantasy X in about 2003 – I had no idea what to expect. In the dark woods of Greater Faydark, with the hoots of owls and the calls of insects; with lethal orcs and wolves wandering around – it was a unique feeling. I was lost constantly. I had no clue what I was doing. But I loved the nervousness I felt, and the thrill of exploring a new world.

Over the years I played EQ (and subsequently World of Warcraft, Guild Wars and EverQuest 2) I’ve had many great times, but nothing has ever or will ever compare to the joy of discovery of that first immersive game.

I think it’s one of the reasons that EQ held me so completely for so long. Even in later days, when the gameplay became predictable, and the new areas trivialized so much of the content, there would still be occasional glimpses of something that brought nostalgic reflection.

When I quit playing in mid 2004, I said goodbye to many friends I’d made online, most of whom I had no real expectation of ever encountering again. That made leaving a sad time. But even more, I think, leaving meant admitting that I could never recapture the magic of the early days of EQ. I knew that they were gone forever, but knowing it and accepting it were different things. Leaving the game meant that I’d admitted that they would never return.

I returned. Briefly, during 2005, when I was burned out on World of Warcraft, and had no interest in going back to EQ2 (more in a later entry, I’m sure), I went back for a few raids. But it was purely to play the game, not to try to recapture memories. There can only ever be one first MMO.

I’m not entirely sure why I’m not playing an MMO now. I’d expected to be playing at least part of the time when I created this blog, hence the “anime, games and being hooked” tag. I’ll probably be back with EQ2 soon enough. I’ll need to avoid getting tempted to play obsessively, though, if I have any hope of working on The Book.

Incidentally, there’s nothing on the obsessions list right now. Though I’m still waiting eagerly for the rest of Simoun, and I’m even helping simoun-fans with distribution, I’ve waited long enough since seeing episode 16 that I don’t much care if I wait longer. So I’m going to re-watch the series as the fansub group finish up the translations of the last few episodes.

08 Nov 2006

yume miru

General

When I think of the things I obsess over, music is not something that comes to mind. Yet it’s probably as significant as any. The big difference being that listening to and obsessing over music doesn’t get in the way of most other things I do. I have my iPod, after all.

What it means is that the music I listen to is a narrow selection – not a narrow range, but the pieces I’ve discovered within a particular category – I listen to those over and over again.

Back in high school it was Tschaikowsky, Brahms and Sibelius, in about that order. Genesis (yes, they existed back then, with Peter Gabriel as front man), Focus (appropriately enough) and a few others. For a long time in college I listened to very little but “Crime of the Century” (Supertramp).

More recently it has been mainly anime music (of course). Before I saw .Hack//SIGN and got hooked on Kajiura Yuki’s soundtrack music, it was Final Fantasy X. Suteki da ne (isn’t it beautiful), the love theme / ending theme (and Yuna’s theme, in a modified version) still makes me sad. So did senyaichiya (1001 nights) (from .Hack//SIGN and .Hack//Liminality) for a long time. When I listened to it constantly, I had just quit EverQuest, leaving behind right around three years of memories and online friendships. Oddly enough, that’s just a little over 1000 days…

Don’t make the 1,000 nights disappear. I stand up to walk a lonely path.

I wanted to at least remember your gentle words,
remember the 1,000 nights that disappeared in a single night…

In a similar vein, I wanted to make a “farewell” video for my time in World of Warcraft. I had the entire thing choreographed in my mind. I was going to use asu e no brilliant road by angela, one version of which is slow and sentimental. I had it so completely mapped out that when I hear the song, now, I see Erice flying on a gryphon… I contented myself with writing a farewell story, and never did use the music, but I wish I’d been able to make the video.

I started thinking about this when I updated the “about” page for this blog. If Kajiura’s Kioku is the theme song for The Book, her soundtrack music for Noir and .Hack have been its soundtrack. I’ve listened to little else while I’ve been writing, and that’s still true as I return to the effort.

05 Nov 2006

The Book, version 2.0

General

Continued from The Book, version 1.5

So I was in a situation where I quite liked the work I was doing, but seemed doomed to one of two choices: throw away the romantic aspect of the story, or throw away the story itself. Neither one was appealing.

Then I saw Noir.

A lot of people dislike Noir for its lack of character development. There’s some truth to that, though I’d argue that within the context of the story, neither main character needs to change; what needs to change is the relationship between them, and that, it does. [spoiler /Moderate spoiler/ /Hide spoiler/] In fact the entire concept of the Noir duo, in history, in Altena’s view, and in the understanding that Kirika and Mireille come to, is based on the relationship bond between the two.[/spoiler]

The change is subtle, and never explicit. It’s not necessary for the understanding that I reached that Kirika and Mireille are lovers, and some do argue that they’re not, though I’d say that there’s plenty of internal canonical evidence that says they are. It is clear that they come to love each other in some sense, and to have a deep respect for each other.

What I realized after watching it is – there is no strong or weak partner. Mireille’s somewhat the leader, in taking jobs and assigning tasks to Kirika, but the younger girl is the better killer, taking the lead when needed, and Mireille respects her skills and learns from her. In every key aspect, the two women are equals. And it works because there are no gender-based expectations placed upon them.

That is not to say that straight partners can’t be equals – of course they can. Nor to say that a gay pairing wouldn’t be likely to have a dominant partner. But in fiction, you’re either working with or against a stereotype, and both have their problems.

If Andy in my story were gay, she could still take orders from Malcolm, and be as snarky as she wanted with him, because she wouldn’t be in a relationship with him. If she had a love-interest, she wouldn’t be fighting a stereotype by being the dominant partner.

And that’s why Andy stopped being Andy.

Of course, she needed a new name. Using a gender-ambiguous name for a gay character is overdoing it. I wonder even if I’d been subconsciously thinking along these lines when I named her Andy – I already didn’t see her as a conventional girl. So Sara came into being, though she seems more of a “completed” Andy than a different person.

Now, finding her a love-interest within the context of the story – what would be the chance that a girl she encountered as part of the storyline would also be a lesbian? Well, it could happen, but coincidences are rickety crutches in fiction. More likely that she’d be straight. And that opened up a whole new avenue – cool, efficient, sardonic Sara being hopelessly in love with a straight girl.

That had so many interesting possibilities I dropped all of my other obsessions and got right back to writing – right up to a new novel-length draft.

Current obsessions: (anime) Simoun
(writing) “Skeptics project”
(Currently reading) Wintersmith (Terry Pratchett)

04 Nov 2006

Another blog…

General

I’m wondering whether to make a public blog, and move this off to the side.

It looks like I finally have the chance to join a decent critiquing group – which is something I’ve been trying to find for over a year now. ‘Course, they all have blogs…

Having set this up, and hacking WordPress for the “Skeptics Project”, I’m pretty familiar with the tools, now, but I’m just not sure I have anything to say. But the idea of a two-layer blog, with a few public comments on the main and a less public blog of obsessions does seem like a decent plan.

Update: I’ve moved this blog’s URL. http://www.iain.com/ is now an “official” blog.

Current obsessions: (anime) Simoun
(writing) “Skeptics project”
(Currently reading) Wintersmith (Terry Pratchett)