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“Have people in instantly outdated meme masks steal goats in a crossover with a deliberately buggy game.”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

 

 

 

 

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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)…

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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.)

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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.

 

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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.

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[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.