Project #Murflocke: I am the alpha. #Pokemon

Project Murflocke is a written Let’s Play series where I play Pokemon: Alpha Sapphire with certain limitations. Known as a Nuzlocke Challenge, I am also incorporating three community voted rules into the mix. Here’s everything I will be self-enforcing:

Core Rules:

  1. Any Pokemon who faints is considered dead. They must be released immediately or permanently banked.
  2. Only the first Pokemon encountered in a new area may be caught. If that Pokemon faints, then you do not capture any other Pokemon in that area.
  3. All Pokemon must be given nicknames.

Mercy Rules:

  1. HM-slaves are allowed, but cannot fight under any circumstances.
  2. Any shiny Pokemon encountered may be caught but cannot be used.

Elected Rules:

  1. No fleeing.
  2. Newly caught Pokemon cannot join the Party unless a previous Pokemon dies.
  3. Pokemon cannot greatly exceed (more than 5 levels) the next Gym Leader’s highest Pokemon.

The shortened version of this above text will appear in every subsequent entry.


I don’t remember the “plot” to Pokemon Ruby/Sapphire at all. Pokemon Ruby was the last Pokemon game I played before returning to the series with X/Y over a year ago. While I doubt I hated it, the third generation of Pokemon games represents my ‘falling out of love’ with the formula. Pokemon Alpha Sapphire won’t have the nostalgia value of the first two games, but that’s probably for the best since it’ll feel newer.

Arriving in Littleroot Town (in the back of a moving van instead of waking up at my mom’s house), I was happy to finally be moved into a new place. My father is apparently some big shot gym leader two towns over (marital problems?!) since he has television commercials. I am imagining something like a cross between a local car dealership and a well-cut wrestling promo.

Speaking of wrestling, I was struck by the efficiency of our two Machoke movers. Not only did they unload my Wii U ((in-game, I still don’t regret getting rid of mine)) without breaking it, but they did it while wearing their title belts. I am going to pretend that not all Machokes wear them and that these two were Tag Team Champions. Seriously though, it is a bit ‘dudebro’ that they evolve with wrestling belts and tights on. Machop doesn’t even wear clothes!

The Pokemon world is a bit awkward. It has that ‘everyone is friendly’ vibe of 1950’s television, which flies directly in the face of my ‘everyone wants to rape/murder/rob you’ modern perspective. Immediately after checking out my new room (which seemed to be the entire top floor, mind you), Mom sent me to meet Littleroot’s leading professor and only other male resident with a house, Professor Birch. Upon arriving at his home, his wife forced me to meet their daughter and my new rival, May, by telling me to barge into her room upstairs. Thankfully, she had a speech ready just in case a strange boy came into town, so there was no miscommunication or ill will.

My first foray into the wild immediately led to a question of bending the rules. I had to make an on-the-fly decision to not go back and capture a Pokemon from Route 101. It’s a short trip, but I didn’t get Pokeballs until after Route 101, so the first wild Pokemon I encountered was impossible to catch. I didn’t want to break my rules, even if it meant losing out on a Pokemon, but my starter registered as being caught on Route 101 where I first met him, so it all worked out for the best.

Speaking of which … meet Kipper:

600px-258Mudkip

He’s a gentle guy, but not if I ask him to start throwing mud at you! My mudkip is also ‘thoroughly cunning’. He’s probably planning to break out of his PokePrison and put a pillow over my face while I sleep. Or maybe not! Something this adorable can’t dream of breaking his chains of eternal servitude, right? Right?!

Remind me to check the locks on my Pokeballs …

After trouncing May’s precious treecko (who narrowly escaped death because other trainers aren’t as hardcore about ‘survival of the fittest’ like mine is), I decided to find Kipper a brand new friend. Wandering the bushes of Route 102, I met this pretty pup:

600px-261Poochyena

I named her Luna on account of her love of darkness and wolf-like appearance. She’s pretty docile, which helps because on Route 103, I added yet another member to the team that I didn’t want her to eat. This is my zigzagoon I named Bandita:

600px-263Zigzagoon

She’s a lonely sort, but her extreme curiosity has already led to a few pilfered items. I managed to capture her when I saw her tail sticking out of the brush. Once I snuck up on her and captured her to do my eternal bidding in my quest to usurp my father’s fame, I realized two interesting facts. First, she had the move Charm which greatly reduces an enemy’s physical attack with her feminine wiles (and obfuscatory facial accoutrement). That’s pretty cool, I thought. Then I realized that she also had Tail Whip, Growl, and eventually Sand Attack. Basically, she does nothing but debuff the enemy! Ugh.

Route 103 planned to be a great place to get back into the swing of being a trainer. Fellow newbs were everywhere, so I opted to put the team of Luna and Bandita at the forefront so they could begin catching up to Kipper’s advanced form. Bandita would set things up by charming away their attacks and then tail whipping their defenses into rubble, and then Luna would jump in, howl, and tackle the opposing Pokemon to a brutal death, er, concussion/headache.

It backfired.

Luna was in critical condition after a series of pecks and tackles from opposing trainer’s Pokemon. I knew she would finish off the enemy in another Tackle, but the dastardly enemy wurmple had coated her in layers of its sticky, gross, bug strings! Slower than him, he got in a tackle on Luna before she could – it was a critical hit! Her innocent mass crumpled to the ground whimpering.

I did the only thing a merciful trainer can do in such a situation: I put her out of her misery and buried her. My darling Luna, I barely knew you. Don’t tell Bandita, but I secretly hoped she would be the first, not you!

2015-01-22 01.20.17

This journey may be tougher than I thought, but at least I made it to Petalburg!

Murf Versus Movies: Election (1999), Dredd (2012), Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014), Boyhood (2014)

I am hardly a movie buff like Roger (over at Contains Moderate Peril) or Eric (over at The Warning Sign), but everyone now and again I get an itch to “catch-up”. With the feeling takes me, it overtakes me and soon I find myself many hours deep into a movie marathon. Utilizing the combined power of Netflix and Redbox, I recently assembled a fantastic run of movies that I hadn’t seen yet. I have assembled a short write up on each, arbitrarily ranked so as to be in the language of the Internet.

(There aren’t any real spoilers beyond someone else’s general opinion shaping your own views. Proceed with whatever caution you deem necessary!)

#4 Election (1999)

I don’t know why I wanted to watch this. At some point perusing Netflix, I threw it into my queue. I think it began to mold in its time there, but I finally gave it a chance. Mostly, I liked it.

The movies of the mid-to-late ’90s are an odd breed for me. I was still very much a kid at the time, so many of the more adult movies I had only heard about in whispers. Others, like Cruel Intentions (another 1999 movie with Reese Witherspoon), I watched in secret with my cousins because I knew my parents would be against the subject material.

I am glad I didn’t see Election as a kid. For starters, I would’ve hated it, but also because it just seems like a mean movie. There aren’t any real heroes and it is all a bunch of ‘humans being humans’. It is fantastic to see the old cliche of adults playing teenagers, and I spent a good bit of the early goings laughing at how Matthew Broderick and Reese Witherspoon looked equal in age. I enjoyed this movie, but more because it reminded me of a lost bit of my youth more than the content itself. It really is a mean spirited movie with only the most tragic senses of comedy to it.

#3 Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)

I missed this one in the theaters, but I desperately wanted to see it. I have patiently waited for its bluray Redbox release for some time now. I loved the first one, tolerated the terrible Mark Walhberg/Tim Burton failed reboot, and vaguely remember bits and pieces of the originals.

I loved this movie. I didn’t expect it to have sub-titles or be so ape-centric, but everything worked. The performances were great, the movie had heart, and my complaints are minor. For example, the CG was good, but the opening where I watch CG apes hunt CG animals made the movie feel more like watching an entirely animated film. The cuts to real animal corpses or the sudden shift to humans just made it all the worse. Also, some of the actors need a little more practice with green screens because a few scenes had people obviously looking past the apes.

#2 Dredd (2012)

I was working at a movie theater when Dredd came out and I still couldn’t be bothered to see it. I don’t do straight up action films as they typically bore me. There are a few that I find acceptable, but the key to the formula for me is to keep things either simple or go completely out-of-this-world crazy.

Dredd kept it simple, but with enough allusions to its world’s backstory that I feel immerse into the plot. There weren’t zany speeches or huge exposition dumps: Dredd delivered a straight-forward action movie that was compelling from beginning to end. Also, Karl Urban killed it and the lead actress needs to play Samus Aran in a Metroid movie treated with a similar sense of keeping the whole movie tight, focused, and simple.

#1 Boyhood (2014)

Going in, I thought Boyhood would be a fun idea and a boring movie. I was wrong. It is a really good movie and a really great idea, and I now understand that all the excitement for it goes beyond the concept.

It is a long movie though and it will feel aimless, though that is probably the point. Most important for me was seeing Halo, a Gameboy Color, and watching Dragonball Z after school all show up in a movie. Though the main character is younger than me, it was amazing to see certain things that helped define my childhood make it on the big screen and not as a joke or to paint anyone as a certain stereotype.

Honestly, of all the movies here, this was the one I was least excited to see. I wanted to check it off from my list as more of an achievement to say I experienced its concept. Instead, I was thoroughly engaged in this kid’s story, the way his family changed and evolved over time, and the movies imperfect reflections of the imperfect lives of regular humans. It was a thrill to watch and I am so happy to be so surprised by it!

Rampant Monetization to a Modern Gamer

mariotization

This post comes after a brief conversation on Twitter and after Clockwork published this first post and later a second one, all somewhat related. The subject was video games, designing them for future monetization, and how doing so doesn’t sit very well with some of us (including myself) despite rapidly becoming the new normal.

It can be difficult for anyone to discuss ‘what is deserved’ when we exercise our market powers and make a purchase. Typically, one group of naysayers will call you ‘entitled’ for expecting anything or smear you by accusing you of thinking a business not make money. The other group will take what you say and expand it dangerously far into areas that seem less like compromise or more like the ‘feed me, Seymour’ entitlement which makes the first group so afraid/annoyed.

Video games are a product which has been created to earn a profit*. This is innocuous enough since this free exchange has been going on for a few decades now. Yet, as major publishers have consolidated into fewer companies, the cost of entry into getting your game on the market has rapidly diminished, and the cost of gaming’s biggest blockbusters have skyrocketed in production costs, the standard model of how we as consumers purchase our games is rapidly changing in some unpredictable ways.

One of Clockwork’s major contentions are games designed from the ground up to have DLC, such as Evolve. We both agree that such design intentions differ from the expansion models of old. The concept of an Expansion has an almost wistful, nostalgic sensibility to it at this point. It conjures up ideas that a developer had too much content for one game or too many ideas with too little time to implement them. Whether it is the designers intention or otherwise, for many of us, DLC seems to be an outright attempt to game the system, take advantage of the players, and rake in “unjustified” money.

I don’t think publishers are necessarily corrupt beyond the norms of capitalism’s ‘maximize gains, minimize losses’. I also don’t think DLC is especially abusive. Still, though my rational mind comprehends quite well the reality of my relationship with publishers and game developers, the elephant in the room will always be the illusion of corruption and abuse. Frankly, I think any sense of trust has been largely eroded away by the period of rapid monetization changes we now find ourselves in.

Take the example of a game designed from the ground up for DLC. This is the new norm for most major releases, and it includes pre-order DLC, same-day release DLC, or season passes to unlock pre-planned DLC. The concept immediately generates a gut reaction that the product I end up with is incomplete. Whether it is the case or not, I feel like the developer/publisher have planned well in advance ways to hold back/limit their initial release so they can extract more money out of me on a semi-regular basis.

As a long-time gamer, I feel bombarded these days on all sides to give additional revenue for games. You can buy your way into Early Access, spend a lot of money on the Cash Shop, and then finally pick up a bit of DLC when the time comes. More and more AAA releases are adding small cash shops or multiplayer features which seem to only be added as an additional revenue stream (buy skins or other unlockables). Once upon a time, there was a single cost of entry and then one or two expansions for an additional charge. I should also note that the concept of an expansion works far better than a DLC for me since its themes/features/other additions all flow together better than a far more limited DLC pack.

Nowadays, playing a game means actively willing yourself to ignore all of the prompts for additional ways to spend your money. The means of monetization grow and that illusion of abuse looms ever larger.

There are no easy solutions. For the most part, you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Designing a game from the ground up to be marketable and profitable beyond its initial release should be the norm, but publishers and developers need to be more conscious of how their systems of monetization are perceived too. While you may gain more pre-orders and sales with exclusives, I worry that we are risking the long-term faith of the consumer for some short-term and ultimately short-sighted gains.

I fear that these changes in how the medium is monetized may drastically alter it for the worse. Case in point, I think H1Z1’s charging for Early Access into an alpha build of the game is bad enough, but for SOE’s first priority to be their means of monetization seems to be a perfect example of the illusion of corruption. Rather than deliver a quality product that people are already paying for, they are more concerned with guaranteeing additional streams of revenue after taking gamer’s money for the privilege of testing their game for them. Other games feel designed to print money, not make it honestly by being a good product first and foremost.

It is a truly sad world when expecting a quality product for your money that doesn’t try to monetize you at every corner is regarded as naive or idealism. I suppose the notion of “getting what you paid for” has largely been replaced with “pay us and we will give you access to an exclusive marketplace where you can pay us again and again.”

Well, at least the marketers are making money. Keep building websites, cutting trailers, and tweeting you indomitable bastards. You’ve earned it!


Further Reading: