So, I’ve been helping my mother move, and have been cleaning out my old books. A lot of memories returned. Good books, bad books, and everything in between.
The in-betweens are getting tossed.
- Legitimately good books are occasionally going with me. I was keen on saving Stephen Baxter’s Exultant, one of my formative science fiction works. And save it I did.
- Legitimately mega-bad books all stay with me too.
The books getting removed are mostly mediocrities, or ones from series I no longer have an interest in but did back in the day-the embarassingly large number of Warhammer 40,000 ones certainly qualify.
So, VGCW has had its ridiculously incredible End Game. After a lengthy Q&A session and behind-the-scenes look, it wrapped up.
I don’t blame the creative staff for stopping when they did. Viewership was declining, the WWE 2K14 server cutoff meant that they had to stockpile content, and the wrestling (no pun intended) with the interface of a rushed yearly sports game.
In fact, the behind-the-scenes look showed that despite the server cutoff, they still had characters not used yet. This seemed to confirm my suspicion that the characters were getting in each other’s way. They were also becoming more in-jokey. While the non-famous, non-wrestling characters played a big role in the series’ theme, I can understand why they’d be daunting.
And as I wrote before, the novelty was wearing off, especially when it was the same dated game. The plot was what made it-and broke it. Not only was it increasingly hard to set things up in 2K14’s engine, but the improvised nature (especially since, unlike real pro wrestling, matches were not predetermined), made things hectic. A big example is in Season 12, where the villain stable kept losing, thus not being a serious threat.
So, it’s probably best that the series ended when it did, and the End Game itself was a masterpiece.
It’s weird that I can rattle off a huge number of books I found bad, but when, in a conversation, it came to recommending ones I legitimately enjoyed, I had to struggle a bit.
Maybe I could recommend books I found enjoyably bad or mediocre to see if others liked them unreservedly?
As it’s St. Patrick’s Day, I have this Celtic themed fanon fight.
Clover (Payday 2)
Holly Short (Artemis Fowl).
(I’m guessing Holly will win because of her superior technology and magic, but the Payday Gang have done so much crazy stuff that you can’t count Clover out.) They’re thematic contrasts as well, with Clover as a notorious criminal and Holly a policewoman.
Arcade, one of the Marvel villains ideal for one story, yet utterly unable to work in anything beyond it.
Arcade, for most of his existence, was/is a normal human in a bad 70s suit and giant bow tie who builds deathtrap amusement parks called Murderworlds and has an inexplicable ability to capture superheroes and plop them in there. Appearing in the second-rate title Marvel Team-Up, by all means he should have been a one-issue wonder who would be “lucky” to be a victim of the Scourge, a character created to eliminate “embarrassing” villains.
Instead, the legendary Chris Claremont liked the character and used him as an X-Men villain, and he became a B/C-list supervillain, even earning a place in Marvel Ultimate Alliance.
There have been multiple attempts to make Arcade a “serious” threat, the largest and most recent being the Hunger Games/Battle Royale ripoff Avengers Arena. None have worked. How could they work? It takes so much effort to force a character whose gimmick is ridiculous even by comic-book standards that one might as well make a new character or use someone more appropriate.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
Thankfully, the version that I call “Classic Arcade” is an ideal ‘filler’ villain that almost any low-mid level superhero can face. The amusement park gimmick can make for some interesting visuals, and Arcade rarely facing the heroes directly means his reappearances aren’t quite as contrived as-well, everything else about him.
The Ultimate Alliance appearance uses Arcade well, with his presence being an excuse to have a carnival level and some extra-hammy voice acting.
Even crossovers can work-there is nary a Marvel crossover I’ve come up with that doesn’t involve the other crossover characters being tossed into Murderworld.
I still like VGCW, but I’ve gotten a little less insistent on it. I think the novelty of seeing characters flop around in a badly programmed game has worn off.
So I read a bad book again. This was rereading it, and I honestly had more fun looking at it again than I expected.
When I first read the book Lion Resurgent several years ago, my first thought was that it was dull even by the standards of The Big One series it belonged to. That it was unmockably bad, and in an Amazon review, I even called it “the flat-out worst book I’ve read”.
I decided to read it again. Why? I had nothing better to do.
I was “pleasantly” surprised.
- The book has, very early on, a briefing given to President Reagan. Not only are there a million “Look how much better he was than Carter” claims, but that it’s the Mary Sue Seer giving the briefing puts it over the top in terms of wish fulfillment. “See, I’m-I mean, the guy I know is giving briefings to Reagan and he’s liking them!”
- Then there’s the “plot”. Like watching a scene in an action movie where the hero has to try to act, this can be unintentionally funny. There’s a death scene that is, with apologies to Gabriel Garcia Marquez, extremely foretold. Then there’s a spy plot that’s about on the same level as the shoved-in footage in They Saved Hitler’s Brain where “agents” with bad post-Sergeant Pepper Beatles mustaches spent several minutes getting and out of cars before the ‘real’ story began. The icing on the cake is a plot with South Africa whose sole contribution is-delivering armored vehicles.
- Then it was back to drudgery with the main story of the alternate Falklands War. Everything has to be explained, even something as simple to show and not tell like the missiles are missing their targets.
- In my first reaction, I said the following about the battles. “The Americans get a “look we’re awesome” scene like they do in all the books, the British take more casualties but you have as much attachment to them as you do to CMANO units so it doesn’t have any emotion”. This was unfair to the units of Command.
- The most interesting part-Packard and Studebaker are still in the passenger car business. A part of me was going “Well, even with a different market their survival is dubious because they historically failed at the height of the domestic industry’s power.” That’s what I was thinking of. Cars.
- The whole thing has a sort of detachment to it-like Stuart’s trying to tell of naughty seductions, but it’s told through the filter of an old military encyclopedia, with exactly as much emotion.
- The plots don’t connect. Not just mechanically, but creatively. It’s like there’s a story of a conspiracy of long-lived “immortals” mixed with a military story. Like mixing some of the Assassin’s Creed plots together with The War That Never Was.
The book is still very bad, but I had fun with the reread.
In VGCW, there is a phenomenon that (partially) explains the goofiness. The long name for this can be called “Watching designers push a rushed yearly wrestling game to its absolute limit.” The short names are “2Kuality” and “THQuality“.
Using WWE 2k14 had an additional problem-kind of. Once support was pulled and the servers shut down, they were stuck with the current rosters. (However, I must say that the nature of the show means the roster’s at its appropriate size anyway-adding more would devolve back into gimmicks).
2K15 had very limited customization. 2K16 is better, but still isn’t up to 2K14s, and, most importantly, lacks the “create a story” feature. (You’d have to prerecord the matches and make the story in Ren’Py or something similar, edit them, and then broadcast, compared to the existing smooth livestream).
I do want to see a 2K16 trial run, with a ton of new characters to shake up the matches. I fear the existing cast is too well known.
But the existing VGCW, jury-rigged as it is, is still enjoyable.
So, I have a new bizarre diversion-that strange diversion being Video Game Championship Wrestling.
Last night, I saw a VCGW stream in its entirety for the first time. And it is hilarious. Using WWE 2K14’s “create-a-wrestler” mode to make impressions of various fictional characters, and then leaving them to the game’s questionable AI, the result is one of those goofy diversions that keeps you diverted-
-And that’s without the plot. Yes, there’s a plot, and the plot itself is a work of skill. This is because unlike in actual professional wrestling, the match outcomes are not predetermined, so the storyline has to be made up on a week-by-week basis.
So, take a look at the show archives and see everything from the names the announcer programming can’t manage to the sight of cartoon goofballs and guys in bad costumes fighting it out.