Saturday, June 25, 2016

Name Triva

The protagonist of the Dead Space trilogy, Issac Clarke's name is a combination of two famous science fiction writers - "Issac Asimov" and "Arthur C. Clarke".

Featured in all the King's Quest games (and the protagonist of several), Gram's first quest was putting a stop to a dragon terrorizing the countryside.  The right man for the job considering "Gram" was the name of the sword Sigurd used to slay Fafnir

Alucard is a vampire hunter from the Castlevania series.  The fact that he undoes vampires seems quite appropriate since the name "Alucard" is "Dracula" spelled backward.

A fusion of the Japanese word "Warui," meaning "bad," and the "o" at the end of "Mario" results in this evil version of Nintendo's most iconic mascot.

From Silent Hill 2 comes James Sunderland.  His first name is unremarkable, but his last name literally means "split" or "shatter," and "place."  It's a metaphor for the town of Silent Hill (which has multiple realms), and the final plot revelation that contrasts the lies James told himself versus the reality of what really happened in his troubled past. 

In Japanese "paku" is an onamonapia used to express the sound of someone taking a big bite of foot.  The "man" part, on the other hand, doesn't make a whole lot of sense considering Pacman doesn't have a torso... 

Saturday, June 18, 2016


For me the three E's in E3 2016 were, "Eh...?"  (Where are all the non-VR games?), followed by, "Eek!" (the Last Guardian), and finally, "Er..." (that's it?).  There sure was a lot of stuff for VR enthusiasts.  Sadly, I'm not one of them since my current living situation isn't compatible with VR.  Not just in terms of money and space, but time as well.  Whenever I sit down to play something chances are I'm going to be interrupted on a fairly regular basis.  Take House of the Dying Sun for example, it's a cool game that I'm sure looks even cooler in VR, but I really don't want to be pulling off all that headgear constantly because some machine is beeping at me, or someone wants my undivided attention.  Granted, House of the Dying Sun can be played in little snippets (seriously, the average mission is about three minutes long), but I think most VR games are going to demand more.  Needless to say I've been playing a lot of Stellaris and Hearts of Iron 4 as of late in large part because they allow ease of use with regards to multitasking.  Just hit the space bar on the keyboard and you're free to attend to other matters.  Anyway...getting back to E3...

I didn't see a whole lot to get excited about this year.  Last Guardian finally has a release date, but that's been a long time coming.  Zelda: Breath of the Wild looks nice, but the Amiibo stuff and NX cross-gen situation is kind of off-putting.  Trailers for Oxygen not Included, Tacoma, and Death Stranding looked mildly intriguing, but there wasn't all that much footage shown so all three remain largely unknown quantities.  Also, what is with all this "pre-order now!" garbage (not to mention "Fee-to-Pay" nonsense).  At the very least wait until the game is closer to launch guys!  Ordering now feels like a total sucker bet.  Obviously, the best thing to do would be to wait until after the game has come out simply because there are way to many buggy and poorly-optimized games inundating the market these days to justify the risks.

Maybe I fell off the E3 hype train at some point, or maybe real life events have been intruding on my fantasies.  That certainly is the case with Jim Sterling and his opinions about E3.  Either way I'm definitely no longer the target audience for this sort of event.  That's not to say I don't like trade's just that I would put GDC or even PAX well above the "merchants of cool" and their Electronic Entertainment Expo.    

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Legacy of the Ixthi (Part 2 of 2)

At the outbreak of the second Multyx-Ixthi War there was a great deal of disharmony among the three members nations of the Sanguine Alliance.  The Glost desired a speedy assault, feeling that delays had cost the war effort dearly the first time around.  The Chinorr wanted to be more systematic, especially with regard to liberating the slave worlds of the Ixthian Empire.  Meanwhile, the Multyx desired a more defensive posture for themselves while their allies led the charge.

Within the boarders of the Ixthian Empire circumstances had also changed considerably.  The Beastslayer had died of natural causes at the ripe old age of 87.  In the wake of his passing two captains were appointed the rank of admiral.  Both had served under The Beastslayer during the first Multyx-Ixthi War, and before the end of his short reign, the second Emperor bestowed the honorary title of "Multyx-Bane" to one officer and "Terror of the Multyx" to the other.  Almost immediately disagreements over naval doctrine arose between the two admirals.  Bane favored the raider tactics of his predecessor, while Terror advocated the use of the new formed Imperial Guard Fleet to neutralize interloping threats through a series of ambushes.  Unlike his father, and his grandfather before him, the newly ordained third Emperor cared little for military cohesion.  His solution to this divisive matter was a simple compromise.  Terror would lead the Imperial Guard Fleet with it's new heavy cruisers, while Bane would be placed in command of a smaller, faster squadron of warships designated the Raider Fleet with Void Wanderer as the flagship.

In a repeat of the first war, the planet Yrd was the first to come under attack.  The invasion fleet consisted of a combination of Glost and Chinorr forces.  Terror attempted his long desired ambush tactic, but was forced to retreat once the defensive installations around Yrd fell to overwhelming Alliance firepower.  However, Yrd itself turned out to be more resilient.  It's people had no desire to endure occupation a second time so they held out under orbital bombardment.  The Chinorr, for their part, were determined to take the planet before moving on.  The Glost, on the other had, grew restless.  While the Sanguine Alliance stalled at Yrd, the Imperial Guard Fleet underwent repairs in orbit over the Ixthian homeworld.  Hoping to catch the Ixthi in a vulnerable position, the Glost commander recklessly ordered his ships to make haste for the Imperial capital of Ix, while the Chinorr continued their siege of Yrd.  For the Sanguine Alliance this proved to be a serious blunder.  The unsupported Glost fleet rushed headlong into a trap and the Terror annihilated their ships to the last.  In a matter of days the entire might of the Glost navy was swept away and for the remainder of war their only major contribution would be in the form of robot armies.  The Terror became flush with success.  So much so he felt confident enough to allow the dying Glost fleet to send off a distress signal to their Chinorr allies at Yrd.  The Terror thought he would repeat his victory a second time, but when the Chinorr arrived they brought with them a secret weapon - battleships.

Ixthian cruisers proved inadequate in the face of this new threat.  The Imperial Guard Fleet was reduced to a cloud of debris over the homeworld's zenith and the Terror perished along with it.  The defense stations around Ix soon followed, as did the valuable shipyards.  Once again the homeworld was hammered from orbit.  The blows were not as hard felt this time though.  The Ixthi had learned an important lesson from the first war, and far down the galactic spiral arm a cluster of forge worlds had been established.  Here, vast amounts of resources had been poured into establishing the infrastructure needed to build corvettes, destroyers, cruisers and legions of troops.  Soon, the factories of war began to produce massive quantities of weapons, armor, transports and warships.

Meanwhile, the Chinorr found themselves in a dilemma.  Without the aid of Multyx ships, it would be impossible to provide acquitted escorts for their freighters.  Thus far the Multyx had not encountered a single Ixthi vessel along their boarders, so it was decided to drop the defensive posture in deference to a ground support role.  Alliance armies, unmolested during their voyages through space, captured Yrd and even the Ixthi homeworld.  The talk among the Sanguine Alliance soon turned to immanent victory.  Surely, the reasoning went, the Ixthi's fleets were scattered and their will to fight broken.  It was a wishful sentiment, completely divorced from the reality of the situation.  Bane and his Raider Fleet were still out there, they simply waited for the right time to strike back.  The next step for the Chinorr was to push on to the mineral rich slave worlds.  It was believed at the time that depriving the Ixthi of these resources would force them to make an unconditional surrender.  Little did the Sanguine Alliance members know about the huge stockpiles of minerals the Ixthi held in reserve, enough to rebuild their entire Empire twice over.  As the first of the slave words fell to Alliance forces, the Ixthi launched a counterattack.

Mining stations, research installations, frontier outposts, one by one they blinked out of existence.  Multyx warships began to wither on the vine.  They turned away from Ixthi space rushing back to defend their threatened planets.  Once, they found success catching a portion of the Raider Fleet as it obliterated the last of the Multyx held Betharian resource extractors.  Void Wanderer was lost in the ensuing naval engagement, but Bane survived, as did the majority of his warships.  Starved of resources, the Multyx could do less and less.  In frustration the Chinorr pushed on to the moon of Dissadia, blasting everything in their path.  Their hope was to fight fire with fire, but the change in tactics proved fruitless.  The vastness of Ixthi held space meant that a large Alliance fleet found few targets of opportunity, while a small fleet would be ambushed and destroyed.  Such was the case with a Chinorr battleship traveling with an inadequate escort.  Lightly guarded troop transports and non-combat vessels began to suffer a similar fate.  Occasionally, an Ixthi corvette would be caught and destroyed, but many more escaped.  Then news came that Yrd had been liberated by eleven legions under the command of General Vir J'Khan.  In retaliation the Chinorr demanded that the Glost launch an immediate invasion of Dissadia, and so armies of robots swarmed out of dropships onto the surface of the arid moon.  The Glost general proved to be an incompetent buffoon though, and before long the long columns of robot soldiers were reduced to mountains of scrap metal by the defending garrison.  The Multyx and Chinorr committed ground units of their own, but these were fed into the battle piecemeal and eventually the landings were repulsed entirely.  Meanwhile, the Ixthi homeworld had been liberated.

Adding insult to injury, Multyx worlds began to fall.  First Holden IV, then Moc Krac, followed in quick succession by Othriga III and Xant Ovac.  The Multyx cried to their allies for aid, but none came.  The Glost had only just begun to rebuild their fleet and what few ships they had were allocated to protecting their own boarders.  The Chinorr had been griped by a kind of paralysis; unwilling to abandon the siege of Dissadia, but unable to divvy up their forces without risking total annihilation.  Next the Multyx homeworld came under siege and capitulated soon after.  The hardest fought battle though was on the remote arctic world of Ullus II.  The Ixthi are native to a dry, warm world and unsurprisingly found the conditions on Ullus II to be hellish even before the fighting started.  To make matters worse, the Raider Fleet performed an incomplete bombardment of the planet before departing on a Glost convoy intercept mission.  Unperturbed, General Vir J'Khan ordered the assault and a hard and bloody battle followed.  Of the seven legions that landed on Ullus II, none rose back up to orbit with more than a quarter of their fighting strength intact.  Nevertheless, the planet was taken and with it, the last of the Multyx worlds were now in the hands of the Ixthian Empire.

Several times during those final months of the war, the Multyx offered to make a white peace and each time the Ixthi rejected it.  Now, the terms were laid bare, vassalization of the Multyx Cooperative and all of its holdings.  While the Multyx balked they were but a shadow of their former strength.  The war weary Glost consented, and the Chinorr, eager to deal with a more pressing rivalry with the Gox Republic, also grudgingly agreed to the peace agreement.  The slave worlds were returned to the Ixthian Empire and there are some who say the Multyx may soon join their fettered ranks.  However, there are others who claim that from the ashes of this destructive conflict a lasting peace might grow.  Already embassies and understanding have been established where once there was only rivalry and hatred.

The future is uncertain, but one aspect of it holds true.  History repeats itself and even this far future conflict bears more than a passing resemblance to Human history, particularly with regards to the second World War and the Punic Wars of antiquity.  Will history repeat yet again?  Only time will tell.  

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Legacy of the Ixthi (Part 1 of 2)

To recite the tale of the twin conflicts know simply as the Multyx-Ixthi Wars one must first set the stage.  Along the length of a spiral arm in the Cybrex Galaxy there lived four races capable of interstellar travel.  Nearest to the galactic core were the Chinorr, a proud and industrious species of molluscoids.  Further out along the arm, were the Glost, a mammalian races of spiritualists and explorers.  Further still were the Multyx, anthropoids renown for their ruthlessly capitalistic practices.  Last along the spiral arm were the Ixthi.  They were a race of xenophobic avians with strong marital and spiritual traditions.  To say the Ixthi were disliked by the other species throughout the Cybrex Galaxy would be putting it lightly.  The Ixthi enslaved the native populations of developing worlds at put them to work in mines.  Vast wealth flowed from these exploited planets into the Ixthi coffers, fulling their ever-expanding Empire.  The Multyx saw this and in their hearts avarice began to take root and grow.  Greedy by nature, they desired the riches of the Ixthi Empire for themselves.  A rivalry sprang up between these two space-faring nations, but for many years no open conflict occurred.  The Ixthi were content to expand outward along the unclaimed spiral arm of the galaxy, while the Multyx were forced to hold their ambitions in check for lack of a fleet that could challenge the might of the Ixthian Empire.  Decades passed, but before the 22nd century drew to a close circumstances began to change.  The Multyx had plotted and planed, forging first an alliance with the Chinorr, then the Glost.  With the combined fleets of these three nations, conquest of the poorly-regarded Ixthi seemed certain.  So it was that the long-held ambitions of the Multyx were revealed with a deceleration of war against the Ixthi.

At first the Chinorr and Glost were hesitant to prosecute the war.  Although honor-bound to oaths of mutual support, the former had more pressing concerns near the galactic core, while the latter held no particular malice toward any foreign power, large or small.  In frustration the Multyx charged alone across the boarder with their ships, seizing the fortress world of Yrd, before a proper defense could be mustered.  Despite the ease of this early gain, the Multyx hesitated, choosing instead to wait for their sluggish allies to send ships of their own.  This delay was fortuitous for the Ixthi fleet which, at the time was on deployment far from the Multyx-Ixthi boarder.  While this misplaced force made a mad dash for the homeworld of Ix, the trifecta of invaders re-branded themselves the Sanguine Alliance and proceeded to the very same star system smashing the orbital shipyards.  The severity of this blow cannot be understated.  Without the shipyards of their homeworld, the Ixthi had no means of manufacturing spacecraft larger than the corvette-class.  Worse still the Alliance fleet employed superior technology, outmatching comparable Ixthian designs on a ship-to-ship basis.  The admiral in charge of the Ixthi fleet was aware of these facts though.  In fact he had only just recently been bestowed an honorary title by the First Ixthi Emperor in recognition of his services, The Beastslayer.  Countless space amoeba and crystalline entities had perished by his command as he swept the outer reaches of the galactic spiral arm.  Had he faced all the monsters he encountered at once he would have surly been lost along with his fleet, but by dividing their strength he had slain them all with hardly a scratch to show for it.  So rather than advancing into the maw of certain destruction, The Beastslayer redirected his fleet away from the homeworld and instead led it headlong into Multyx territory.

Even though the Ixthi fleet was inferior to that of the alliance, The Beastslayer ordered his meager force split into two.  The corvettes were divided evenly, but both destroyers were allocated to the second fleet.  The Beastslayers flagship, Void Wanderer, would serve as the backbone of his own forces.  It was a Cybrex frigate salvaged with the help of an Ixthi science vessel many years ago, and outfitted with a variety of unique weaponry that put it on par with the pair.  As for orders, they were simple - Hunt.  In quick succession the two small fleets hit star system after star system, smashing Multyx mining stations and construction vessels.  A particular emphasis was placed on obliterating orbital energy production facilities, but space stations proved too tough to crack.  Planetary bombardment of Multyx worlds was also forbidden since doing so would sacrifice the one thing that kept The Beastslayer's ships intact, mobility.

It was during these hit and run maneuvers that The Beastslayer struck a jackpot, a flotilla of Glost freighters packed to the brim with robot soldiers.  They were the main contingent of a planetary landing force on route to the Ixthian homeworld.  Not a single one of their metal boots made it onto Ixthi soil.  Every last troop transport was blasted to pieces, their machine armies forever consigned to emptiness of space.  The price had been high though, many Ixthi ships were damaged, so The Beastslayer ordered his fleet back in halves to the as-of-yet untouched colonies for repairs.  During this time damaged corvettes and destroyers were outfitted with new point defense systems, greatly improving their survivability against the missile-based weaponry of the alliance fleet.  By repairing and refitting only half of his forces at a time, The Beastslayer was able to keep up the pressure on the Multyx.  Soon the invader's supply of energy credits became exhausted, and with great regret they were forced to accept the terms of a white peace.  Neither side ever met in direct combat.

With the benefit of hindsight it's easy to see how the humiliating defeat of the Multyx by the numerically and technologically inferior Ixthi left a sore that would not go away.  While the Ixthi used their mineral reserves to rapidly recover from war damages, the Multyx spent many long years rebuilding their shattered infrastructure.  Thus, it comes as no surprise that after the ten year ceasefire period had elapsed the Multyx once again declared war on the Ixthi.  It was not simply about riches.  This time the Multyx sought redemption in the eyes of the other Sanguine Alliance members, and even more importantly their wounded pride needed to be satisfied, if not in booty then in blood.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016


“The fate of the world hangs in the balance!”  It’s a common theme in video games.  So much so, it can feel a bit stale.  That said, some developers exercise a degree of restraint and opt for a more personal approach.  In some cases this can lead to a more relatable conflict, or even amusing circumstances.  Let’s look at a few examples from the distant past, shall we?

The Wing Commander franchise eventually turned into a poor-man’s Star Wars, but early on it actually had a much more grounded approach.  The outcome of the overarching conflict didn’t rest in the player’s hands.  Rather, the overall prosecution of the war is pushed to the background in favor of the exploits of a single warship, the Tiger’s Claw.  Its struggle to hold the line in the Vega Sector is important (but not vital) in the grand scheme of things.  Depending on the player’s performance in the cockpit, the Tiger’s Claw might secure the sector or be forced to abandon it.  Either way the war isn’t won or lost.  It’s strongly implied that there are many other sectors and at least a half-dozen other warships like the Tiger’s Claw.  However, this doesn’t mean the player is unimportant.  Far from it, Wing Commander will periodically cut to other places in the Vega Sector to show how the player’s actions have indirectly affected the well being of people far and wide.  More personally, the lives of fellow pilots can be saved or lost based entirely on how well the player does.  Ultimately, it’s about the low ranking men and women serving aboard one warship in a time of interstellar conflict.

A point-and-click adventure game about a biker gang might seem like a hard premise to make interesting, but the now defunct Lucas Art’s Studios did an admirable job with Full Throttle.  In the near future Corley Motors is the last combustion engine bike manufacturer in the world.  The CEO has just been murdered and the player’s gang has been framed for it.  As it turns out, the number two guy at Corley is really responsible.  What was his motivation for this heinous crime?  To switch the company over to selling minivans, of course!  Shifting from classic motorcycles to ultramodern minivans might not seem particularly important in the grand scheme of things, but it’s very much a personal tale.  To the subculture that is classic motor enthusiasts a worst case scenario would be the systematic obliteration of their hobby by a soulless corporate mandate.  That might sound bizarre to a lot of folks, but, as someone who used to ride dirt bikes in their youth, I can relate.

Last up is a real oldie, Space Quest II.  No point-and-click adventuring here.  This is one of those ancient text-parser games.  You literally have to type in commands like “open door,” “pick up bucket,” and “use stone with athletic supporter.” I’m not even making up that last one.  The gameplay in Space Quest II is fairly similar to the original which is unsurprising considering that it was made by two guys (from Andromeda) about six months after the original came out.  The story, on the other hand, is considerably different.  In the original, the player was tasked with saving an utopian planet from certain doom, but in the sequel said planet is in danger from a very different kind of threat.  The inhabitants don’t face annihilation.  Instead they are at risk of constant, unabating heckling from an army of door-to-door salesmen.  Yes, you read that correctly.  The main villain’s nefarious plan is to release a legion of clean-shaven, suit-wearing, briefcase-carrying clones, who will try to sell anyone and everyone useless insurance policies 24-7.  To me, that sounds like a complete nightmare.  I would definitely want to put a stop to it, which is exactly what the player has to do…after first dealing with guards from Planet of the Apes, a big-lipped xenomorph from Aliens and a reptilian knock-off of that spinning Tasmanian devil from Bugs Bunny.  I swear this is all true!

Anyway, old referential video game humor aside, I kind of feel like the attempt to make things feel epic by putting everything at stake is severally misplaced.  When it comes to Epics in the traditional sense the heroes don’t save the world.  Take Beowulf, for example.  All he did was avail two small communities in Northern Europe from the ravages of a troll, a witch and (much later in the story) a dragon, yet his name has endured for over a millennium. Why does every hero these days have to save the entire planet/galaxy/universe from destruction?  Isn’t it enough to save a city, or a village, or dare I say the life of one person? I’d like to think so. Bonus points if they do it without using any super powers.