Payday 2 Spring Break 2018 Reflections

And, it’s done. So, my thoughts on this Payday 2 event:

  • Story elements. I’ll talk about those below, so those who care about spoilers aren’t spoiled right away.
  • And Joy for the time being remains stuck in Consoleland.
  • Likewise, the fandom’s dream, No Mercy, remains elusively out of reach. (I personally don’t see the hubub, and want an official remix of the heist track more than the mission itself)
  • The game has slowed down definitely, development wise. Not unexpected, but you can’t have it all. Thus if this is the worst Overkill can do (they have a reputation for messing up events in some fashion or another), it’s not bad at all. At least they’re updating at all.
  • A stealth heist was the first delivery. My thought was going to be “And the next is either going to be No Mercy or some new one thrown together with mostly existing assets that will be bland like Alaskan Deal.” I was half-right. It was a new heist thrown together with mostly existing assets that was awesome.
  • Now for the story part. Last chance for spoilers, if anyone cares.

 

 

So, it’s becoming this weird almost Assassin’s Creed story of boxes, aliens, and secret lairs. And yet, I didn’t mind at all. I liked it. Yes, it was ungrounded, but somehow the subject matter makes it work. I think there’s a big contrast between:

“Decipher ancient conspiracies and rob the equivalent of the warehouse from the end Raiders of the Lost Ark”

And:

“Have people in instantly outdated meme masks steal goats in a crossover with a deliberately buggy game.”

I had fun with it at any rate.

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Payday 2 Spring Break 2018

The Payday 2 2018 Spring Break event has started.

They made a teaser website and released the first new heist. Unfortunately, it’s a stealth heist and I’m utterly terrible at stealth. Oh well.

Coiler’s Crazy Colosseum (Celtic Centered)

As it’s St. Patrick’s Day, I have this Celtic themed fanon fight.

cloverforbattle

Clover (Payday 2)

vs.

hollyforbattle

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.

Infamy 2 Reached

I’ve finally reached the second level of infamy in Payday 2 (which requires you to reach the level cap and then earn $200,000,000 per level). I love the game, but its high-level play isn’t really for me.

Why? There’s less room for error, both on your part and from the unreliable internet players who go alongside you.

On Trying to Not Be Spoiled

I’m trying not to be spoiled by blockbusters until I finally read/watch/play them. It’s harder than it seems, but I’ve managed it on more than one occasion. I got most of the way through Undertale without being spoiled, and my experience was all the better for it.

Though I have to admit there’s little middle ground with games for me. It’s either a bumbling blind playthrough or a robotic walkthrough.

Another one where I wasn’t spoiled before experiencing it was the name of the traitor in Payday 2′ Hoxton Revenge. Then again, I only had a <30 minute mission to sit through, not a long, detailed game.

Hoxton’s Housewarming Party

The latest Payday 2 super-event is over, and I’m glad to say that Overkill learned their lesson from the mess that was Crimefest 2015. (They even poked fun at it with the trailer).

Not only was the content far less controversial than the microtransactions of last year, but the lack of a challenge meant that it was not going to be overhyped like the last time.

I like the new safehouse, even if the “raid” missions are a little too Warframe-y for my tastes. In all, it was a good event.

A Journey Through Ambiguity

Ok, I’ve been on a kick regarding nightmarishly ambiguous fiction. I don’t know why, but that’s what I’ve been on.

Sometimes, an ambiguous work of fiction is best left ambiguous. There’s a quote from an author (it might have been Tolkien, although given his love of detail, it doesn’t sound like him) that I vaguely remember as being how a landscape often looks more beautiful from far away.

Sometimes it can work, and sometimes it doesn’t.

 

SPOILERS AHEAD FOR YUME NIKKI, THE HOTLINE MIAMI GAMES, UNDERTALE, OFF, AND MONKEY ISLAND

 

 

 

 

_ _ _ _ _

On one extreme, you have an old horror/adventure game called Yume Nikki (lit. “Dream Diary”). The game has essentially no plot beyond “a young woman who won’t leave her home has creepy nightmares, collects twenty-four ‘effects’, and then throws herself off a balcony.”

The speculation gap was filled because of that, with countless interpretations of the strange characters, the history of the protagonist Madotsuki, and even the seemingly straightforward suicide ending.

The alternative approach to the ending intrigues me. I honestly think it’s more than just trying to shove a happy ending into a game that obviously isn’t a happy one in the slightest.

What the alternate theory amounts to is that even the ‘real’ world is a dream by itself, that Madotsuki is confined/trapped there (somehow), and that the suicide is only killing her “dream” self and waking up. There are countless pieces of “evidence” for this (many of which are things that could be explained ‘out of character’ as game engine limitations), but I think an appeal is that it gives the game a story more adaptable to a conventional narrative, and consider it telling that the manga adaptation went (mostly) with said theory.

Then there are the other popular interpretations of Madotsuki, one depicting her as a psychotic fugitive (one of the effects is a knife, and the player can use it)…

_ _ _ _ _ _

Rather than go even farther down the dream-rabbit hole that is Yume Nikki speculation[1], I’ll turn to another dark, bloody minimalist game-which did everything that I warned it shouldn’t do.

That game was Hotline Miami-the original. The original was a simple, confusing, game. The sequel explained everything. And not in a good way. Any sort of hideous speculation is gone, and in its place is just a nonsensical storyline of the USSR invading Hawaii, turning the US into a puppet state, “resistance” fighters with animal masks taking on mobsters, and everything being nuked at the end.

Behind the curtain was a clotheless emperor holding nothing but shock value. The questions and fog surrounding Jacket were gone, replaced by a entire leading cast.

(A part of me thinks that the entire game was just angry trolling by the developers. With a strong suspicion that their hearts weren’t in it and that they didn’t want to make a sequel at all, the reveal is just a “look-here it is-nothing but (insert expletive here)” moment. This may just be me being too cynical for my own good.)

_ _  _ _

With Hotline Miami being a perfect example of how not to maintain good ambiguity, an example of one that is “straightfoward” yet incredibly surreal is OFF (of which an excellent Let’s Play can be found here). The very setting gives rise to a lot of fan theories, and also does the more famous Undertale[2], where we know the Underground but little beyond it.

Even the more “non-surreal” Payday has its own mystery moment-the strange Dentist’s Loot[3], which is a heavy case with the infamous eye-pyramid, that is never talked about in any detail. What it is, and why it ended up in a casino vault is deliberately unclear.

 

_ _ _

I’ll conclude this rambling by talking about what I think is an example of something that became ambiguous when it wasn’t meant to be. Yes, I’m talking about the Monkey Island II ending. I said people were overthinking it-call me a hypocrite.

There’s obviously no way of telling for sure, but I have a suspicion that the ending was the result of muddled changes. My guess is this: The writers use the ‘it was just a kid’s fantasy in a theme park’ ending they’d originally wanted to use in the original. But it doesn’t work in a long-installment setting the way it would in a standalone game. So, spurred by either by LucasArts’ hand or their own, they change it to the “illusion” ending that the later games used.

However, with the scene becoming famously bizarre, the developers make the understandable decision to run with the romance of it. After all, it’s far more fun to hint and wink rather than admit that it two unambiguous ones mashed together through the need to accommodate a series.

At least that’s what I think.

And I have some weird theories of my own, which I hope to share.

_ _ _

[1]”rabbit-hole” is not an unintentional pun, there’s a lot of fan art crossing over Yume Nikki with American McGee’s Alice, thanks to the many similarities.

[2]Probably the most dubious and loudest claim is the “Sans is Ness from Earthbound” one. Look it up yourself, I think it’s garbage not worth discussing further.

[3]One of my many bizarre theories is that the Dentist himself is a being from another universe. No one knows anything about him, and he’s the only one able to fence the most famous diamond in existence successfully.

Looking At Loopfics

So, I feel like writing about the “infinite loops” fandom again, after revisiting it. Looking at a few loops here and there, and taking the recent drama into account (which brings about both cynicism and hope), I want to blog about it.

I mentioned the time loop craze on Spacebattles before. I feel saddened, annoyed, and-disappointed by it, but also slightly hopeful. Very slightly.

The Infinite Loops aren’t/weren’t (just) a decision to write Groundhog Day-styled stories in various fandoms. They are their own universe of countless crossovers. The TVTropes page can at least bring a slight explanation. And-yeah. They’re something.

I like weird crossovers. Even with Sturgeons Law of 90% of everything being “bad”, and even knowing how especially hard it is to make a weird crossover good, I still like the concept. (The amount of theoretical heists I have daydreamed for the Payday cast is astounding, as is me mixing Fallout and the straight JRPG fantasy of the Fire Emblem series). Now, the issue is very simple.

To do a weird crossover right, it must be either extensively thought through or be a total goofball of a fic. The latter can work, but can’t really sustain a full story. The former requires a lot of thinking. To use my example- is there any chance that a noble (in all senses) squeaky-clean JRPG hero would back the psychotic Caesar’s Legion simply because they’re still the form of government they’re used to and know best? Could they stand House treating them as an especially bad primitive?

The loopfics somehow manage to combine all of the weaknesses of both approaches with none of the strengths. Most stories end up as tiny snippets. The ones that “continue” use the format as a way to shove aside anything in the original canon that the author dislikes-nearly always for the worse. So, they’re just tiny “crackfics”-

 

-that are tied together by a set of rules-Anchors, Admins, Awake, and terminology that I still have trouble getting. References to past entries that in practice take the form of in-jokes and arguments. Constant talk of violations of the rules. This was what kept me away from the loops far more than the content itself.

So, now for the events. Mods stepped in, trying to bring order to the chaos .The loop threads had one of the lowest posts-to-views ratios on the forum, and there was precedent in the Familiar of Zero threads, which went from anything goes “Louise summons ____ lol” to structured ones with strict observation and a firm requirement of substantive content.

This slowed the threads down but prompted much argument and few cohesive requirements. So looking at them now, can I say that it’s a total failure?

No. I’m seeing some better self-restraint, and some attempts at bringing order. Maybe that’s all that can practically be done-Familiar of Zero was at least a single setting, while the Loops were focused on massive crossovers from the start.
But there’s still a tiny bit of hope amidst the goofy.

Coiler’s Year In Gaming

I got a lot of games in 2015. Only a relatively few I actually played in depth. That being said, here’s a somewhat unconventional list (I’m not listing “best”):

Note: I’m using the time I got them, not the time they were actually released.

Most Played: Payday 2

Payday 2 is an interesting study in how a relative few changes can make a game far more accessible than its predecessor. Consider that while I barely played the original, Payday The Heist, the sequel is second only to Command: Modern Air Naval Operations as my most played game.

I think it’s this: Accessibility. The easiest heist in Payday is still long, and has a low overall completion rate. The easiest heist in Payday 2 is effectively impossible to lose on lower difficulties. Because of this, I can go for an easy “relaxation” mission, or push myself with a hard one.

Now to stop buying all that DLC….

Most Disappointing: Invisible, Inc.

Invisible Inc. isn’t a bad game. The production values are very good, and the mechanics are clearly quite deliberate. Applying an XCOM-style turn-based grid game to stealth gameplay is unconventional, but they clearly figured out how to make it work. So I didn’t and don’t want to rip the game apart.

But it has one problem that just, for me at least, bulldozed the entire experience-the level design. All the levels are procedurally generated. This did several things. The first is ruin the immersion-even with the game’s story being the most generic cyberpunk imaginable and the character design a mishmash of eras, seeing an obvious videogame level that looks like it was a graphically-touched up stage from XCOM-the 1990s XCOM-, breaks it.

The second is to go against its own genre. Stealth is hugely dependent on level design, and this throws it aside. In my short time playing it, I could get near-impossible missions where the objectives were scattered, and easy ones where they were close together. So this choice made me sour on the game.

Game I Want To Play More Often: Black Closet

Black Closet is a Ren’Py-engined mystery game where you control the leader of a student council in a boarding school, and must solve cases of varying-intensity. While the setting isn’t the first I’d pick, the mechanics-of questioning, searching, and interrogating, are excellent. (It’s really easy to imagine an intelligence service game with very similar mechanics).

So, why have I only gotten as far as deliberately going to the bad ending? I think it’s because it’s a game you need to be in a certain mindset to play in, and because I’m busy so often, that mindset is too infrequent. I have to think and record rolls, not just stumble through with my M308.

That the game is designed to be hard doesn’t help either. But I want to play it more, I just have to be in the mood.

Greatest Accomplishment: One Way Heroics

I beat a roguelike. Repeat-I beat a roguelike. For anyone who understands the genre, little more needs to be said about that.

CMANO Accomplishments:
I released fourteen scenarios to the community pack. In spite of my slump, this was still a good number, even if a lot of the scenarios were small and basic. These range from the futuristic “War of the Thirty-Fives” to the right-after-WWII “Phoenix of Indochina”, where I find a use for Japanese WWII aircraft beyond repeats of The Final Countdown.

A Gaming Contradiction

The games I can get the most into are the ones I play the least.

This may seem contradictory, so I’ll explain. I’m tired after a long day, and the choice is this. I can play a game with difficult mechanics and/or a huge quantity of text to read. Or I can play one that has very simple and/or memorized mechanics and doesn’t have much of a “failure” option.

Which sounds more appealing?

But just having free time often isn’t there-for the complex games, I often find I have to be in the right mood. I do enjoy them when I’m in such a mood, but without it-it’s not much fun to blearily stumble through a game your mind isn’t in the right state to enjoy.

My most-played games for my “low-thought mode” are:

Command: Modern Air/Naval Operations. Much more if you count the standalone version. Although an extremely complex game, it’s very easy for me (thanks to my mastery) to just make a tiny scenario in the editor, or even look at the database viewer.

Payday 2: Run Four Stores, Jewelry Store, or something similar on a low enough difficulty that it can be engaging without overly challenging.

_ _ _ _ _

Looking at my playtimes, you have:

-Freeform games like Kerbal Space Program and Automation.

-More linear games of all genres. Beat them (if possible) and then be done with it (sometimes). These can be a few hours, or they can be something like XCOM Enemy Unknown, which was much longer.

_ _ _

Pretty interesting to look at. There’s a huge paradox between a game I’m eager to dig into being played infrequently and one I know well being played often, but that’s how I play.