🎮 Social, streams, moar Fire Emblem 📱

Sunday, April 12, 2020 :: Tagged under: blurb culture pablolife. ⏰ 6 minutes.

Hey! Thanks for reading! Just a reminder that I wrote this some years ago, and may have much more complicated feelings about this topic than I did when I wrote it. Happy to elaborate, feel free to reach out to me! 😄

🎵 The song for this post is John Wick Mode, by Le Castle Vania. 🎵

We've replaced "using my parent's cable provider to log into HBO NOW" with "using my company's Zoom subscription for my social hangout." I "went" to a birthday party on Friday hosted on a spotify.zoom.us URL, and hosted a family game night on everbody.zoom.us 😛

Karen and Pablo in late thrown-together costumes. Click for full size.

It was a costume party.

Well, I bit the bullet. Using Amado's soaring profits, I bought a month of Good Zoom, so I'll be hosting Zoom hangouts that will probably be Jackbox TV games for anyone who calls in. I've also been reading up on Suz Hinton's excellent documentation on her Twitch coding stream and will look into making that a thing I can do for anyone who wants to jump in. I'll probably live-code some OCaml (work on Fleaswallow's cache, or code organization, or adding some tests lol) or Amado 💌 (Elixir Phoenix app).

Literally anyone reading this: drop me a line if you'd like an invite to the Zoom calls 😄

Twitch, streaming

While I'm trying to be a good digital granola muncher with the tools I use and stay away from the Internet ClearChannel (e.g. moving from GMail, GitHub) it's hard to think of leaving Twitch for streaming. I bought tweetch.tv and tootch.tv in the far-off hopes of building a federated alternative (e.g. PeerTube or Mastodon) because I think there's a lot of cool tech there: besides federation and ActivityPub, PeerTube gets around bandwidth issues by using a variation of the BitTorrent protocol, so popular videos don't crash a server. Additionally, I think this kind of app with realtime chat is something Phoenix would do well (the Programming Pheonix book uses a Twitch clone as its example app lol).

But, well, time! Energy! Dedication! Will to live! All hard to get sometimes. And most "power users" of streaming production really need that ad revenue; who, on this entire Earth, will forgo it and is also someone anybody really likes to watch (and have the expertise/interest to host a complex web app)?

Incidentally, that Facebook hasn't won this game handily is also the clearest example that they're well into the "can't ship a good product anymore" phase of monopoly (Google has been there since, idk, 2011?). Twitch works well enough for top streamers, but the base of the pyramid—people like me, and hundreds of thousands of others—struggle to make it clear to people who want to watch us when we're live. When I was still on Facebook I streamed Celeste and had arguably my best stream ever: several friends came in and cheered me on, a few went on to buy the game. Because Facebook has exactly what other streamers would want: an audience of their closest friends who are already dicking around online.

FILLME. Click for full size.

Made a red lentil soup that was, frankly, a little disappointing. Needs a lot of hot sauce.

Fire Emblem thoughts

I'm a little further along in Fire Emblem, and I'm going to compare it to XCOM (first and second, neither with any expansions) and Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions. This is going to be nerdy unless you've played these or similar games.

It's not as hard as I hoped. Coming into this, I heard Fire Emblem, like XCOM (or FFT if you don't revive in the following 3 turns) made losses permanent; Three Houses makes this an opt-in game mode, and I thought I was doing something risky selecting into it. But, like… in the first 3 battles, I had some close calls. After that? I suspect I'm maximizing my "non-battle time" more than the devs intended, because I'm just walking up and clubbing everyone to death. On top of that: there's a mechanic where you can wind back the clock an arbitrary distance up to n times if you truly fuck up (I'm about… halfway through the game, and I'm allowed to do this 10 times in a battle?! Like, what are consequences?!).

Difficulty in a game is really, really hard to get right (I go into this a bit on my post on Blasphemous). I recognize the stakes to deliver a winner for AAA games is so high that most studios err on the side of making it easier than threaten to really punish you. And sometimes, occasionally, I have to think in a battle and it's fun again. But less than I thought or hoped! I was looking forward to a game where I form attachments to characters and have to make hard choices, or watch one of a few of them die, maybe. I doubt I'll have to unless I hobble myself.

The out-of-battle game is pretty fun so far, a little less my bag than XCOM but more than FFT. The struggle a lot of these games have is to give you out-of-battle activity that doesn't feel like busywork for its own sake.

The class/advancement structure of FFT (while rather opaque in a blind, casual playthrough) was fun for its discoverability, but the only thing you did outside of battle was menu around, moving items between you party members, selling, crafting, etc. XCOM has the whole ship-building component, research/engineering, side quests, and managing the "state of invasion," which I found as interesting as a second strategy game (with real stakes! you could lose at XCOM because of what went wrong out-of-battle!) than "what knobs does the game give me to make my party members sharper along this-or-that axis?"

Like I said in a previous post: Fire Emblem feels a bit like a dating sim. Almost everyone you can talk to (and there are several dozen of them) each has a relationship tracker (with you and each other) and personality traits to fiddle those knobs. There's a famous idea of the human mind (usually) only being able to store seven, plus or minus two, things at a time, and this game's out-of-battle mechanics really pushes that.

The plot moves slowly, makes little sense, and is delightful fun. You'll spend a lot of time puttering around the academy doing minor missions with definite handsome/beautiful Good Guys and evil-coded Bad Guys. I say it's a dating sim, but the existence of hundreds of "support scenes" mean you're also being convinced to watch an anime epic. I'm about 30 hours in and things just Got Real, which was a relief.

Because of the first two points (difficulty, middling out-of-combat game), I can't say this game must be played: if you really want a fun tactical game, download a GBA emulator (I went to college with the core dev of mGBA, who wrote this amazing post, so I'd suggest that one!) and play Advance Wars, or any of the other games I mentioned here (I think War of the Lions is better at GoT-like High Political Fantasy). But the last point (on plot, and "watching a fun anime"), as well as witnessing the sheer amount of production value, it's a great distraction while the world is on fire. I'm already looking forward to what I'll do differently in a second play-through.

Extremely nerdy details for folks who've played before:

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