09 April 2015

throwback thursday - elegia eternum

Kit here, doing a retro gaming post for once.

In the spirit of Throwback Thursday, and retro gaming, I want to talk about a game that has been with me since (roughly) 2002-2003 when I first discovered it.

It was a module for Neverwinter Nights, created by Stefan "Twoflower" Gagne, called Elegia Eternum. This is its official description:

It started out as such a simple quest... there you were, a bold adventurer, seeking a magic staff. There was an inn on the edge of nowhere, with a group of friendly locals willing to help... and then matters got more and more complicated, more horrific. A maze of sorrow and despair unfolded before your very eyes, enveloping all... a maze that sang a song of lamentation for those who have passed away. An elegy. 
(You can see more information, and get the module if you have Neverwinter Nights, here.)

Elegia Eternum used the tileset from Neverwinter Nights to turn a high fantasy setting into a setting of psychological horror; investigating the causes of the sorrow and despair around you, and making decisions that carried emotional weight. The music also stands out: I remember an incident playing it once where I had to go away from my keyboard, and the person I was playing it with (there is local co-op play available) had to listen to soft wails for minutes on end, alone there in the dark, embers flying amidst broken wooden boards and despair reaching out to pull them under.

While Elegia is a short module - I've gone through it in an hour and a half - it does have a sequel called Excrucio Eternum, which delves heavily into more of the psychological side of horror and examines fears like isolation, speech (and not being able to be coherent), sexual violations and objectification, and the fear of death. Excrucio also examines the possibilities of change;  the player character can overcome their own past and their own horrors, and become a healer instead of a destroyer. I used to play these games to help me face and battle my own fears and insecurities, and to help people understand a bit about trauma: this was before interactive games like Depression Quest or dys4ia appeared, and so it was the best tool I had at the time. Fantasy is good like that: in fantastical tales, we realize that even though there might be dragons, we can defend and do battle against them, or come to understand their pain.

These modules - games in their own right - heavily influenced our game of Die Nachtblume, and will particularly influence Chapter 2. It also influenced Crossroads, which is a Twine game you can play at my own personal site (donations encouraged).

If you have time, go and get Neverwinter Nights if only to play these modules for it.

And face your own fears.

26 March 2015

Throwback Thursday x2: Final Fantasy IX, The Place I Will (Re)Visit Someday

Given the general trend of today’s games emphasizing style and image over substance, it’s not exactly surprising that a lot of “old” gamers have found themselves going back to some of the gems of yesteryear. Some have even just plain forgotten that there was once a time when games had powerful stories, imagery and emotional depth that set them apart from flashier fare. Unfortunately, as graphics processors increased in complexity and character models became more intricate, games started moving away from their old standards and embracing newer fare.
Take a journey back to the dawn of the 21st century, to the end of the road for the Sony PlayStation, and there you will a find a game that might have been one of the last to truly mix a compelling story, relate-able and interesting characters, and just enough image to make it a true representation for what gaming could accomplish. Now, a full decade after its release, the game can still stand up against the best of what the modern generation has to offer, with excellent replay value and a lighthearted experience.
And did I mention, it was released by Square?

19 March 2015

throwback thursday: wayward ramblings about 90s gaming

Since MAGfest I’ve been on a huge nostalgia kick, thanks in part to long conversations with Aaron Clark on retro game collecting, and the sight of some lovely Dreamcast titles in their Dealers Room. That trip (and the resulting scouring of eBay for a copy of Grandia II) was only the tip of a very large, very deep iceberg, which has managed over the past few weeks to spread from video games to card games to tabletop RPGs, back to video games, and about a dozen currently-open eBay windows offering me chances to buy replacement copies of Devil May Cry, boxes of cards for Middle Earth: the Wizards, and a few options for Dungeons and Dragons books I didn’t buy because screw 4th Edition. 

This is my madness, my white whale. This is why I wake up late, stare at my computer for hours on end, and find myself thinking back to a far easier time, before stripping my game collection was necessary to pay my bills, and hoarding boxes of CCG cards wasn’t that big a deal for me. I sit here, in March of 2015, reliving my past quite vividly as I tear apart my closet hoping that some long-forgotten relics of my past are still there, and regret letting go of so many objects that defined who I was as the 20th century wound down to a close. 

12 March 2015

throwback thursday: a forgotten relic from the cog boom

Lately, life for me has been one big trip, both literally and metaphorically. Between the steady stream of weekend events, I’ve spent more time on the road than at home. But that only gets compounded by the nostalgia trips I’ve been taking, ever since I uncovered a stack of old InQuest magazines from the 90s. 

For those who’ve never had the chance to read that now-defunct publication, it was put out by Wizard Press, the same guys who did (do?) the comics price guide Wizard, and was a companion to the also dead ToyFare. Occupying a sort of middle ground between the other two magazines, InQuest was billed as the “Guide to Collectible Card Games,” which at its peak in the 90s, meant a steady stream of coverage dedicated to Magic the Gathering, and whatever other flavors of the months were on gamers’ minds. It blended a wonderful mix of news and often sarcastic/tongue-in-cheek humor revolving around the tabletop gaming hobby that was booming during those last years of the 20th century. Exposing/ridiculing stereotypes and the weird devotion that generation’s gamers had for their obsession was par for the course in the average issue, often spread out across the ever-present “Letters” page, continuing through deck building strategies, and even filtering into the massive price/card guides that took up the last third of each issue. 

19 February 2015

you better watch out…the namahage comes to town

I got you something...
Last weekend, while many of you were busy enjoying your candy and other gifts bestowed upon you by loved ones (or complete strangers, in which case STOP READING THIS AND RUN), the monsters were silently roaming about. Using the seemingly nonstop swarm of blizzards blanketing the country with snow and forcing any sane individual inside as cover, these hideous monsters crossed into our borders, hiked up their trousers, and began their silent march across the country, eager to dispense their own brand of rough justice. 

Justice you say? Justice for whom? Against whom? 

Well, that’s a good question to ask. Because when it comes to these cold-weather warriors, the justice attached to it can take so many forms, and none of them pleasing. So lock your doors, bar your windows, and begin praying. Because now, as the deep freeze settles in, the namahage have come to town with it. 

Snuggled in between Setsubun and Lunar New Year, the Namahage festival usually falls on or around February 15th, or typically “on the eve of the New Year” (localization be damned). While the festival has its roots in Northern Japan, particularly in Akita prefecture and the Oga Peninsula city, the monsters themselves are of the sort that would not have issue abandoning their traditional posts in order to deliver some serious “oni justice” to anyone who violates their deeply held convictions.