Category Archives: Video Games Suck

Dark Souls in Awesome: Life Lessons from Manus, Father of the Abyss

Note: How the fuck did I have sixty views yesterday? Isn’t that a new daily record? I haven’t been doing a damn thing lately on this blog. Eh, I’ll take it!

If you’d like another Dark Souls post, I talk about how good the game is here, and how shitty the game is here.

“I totally used the pendant! How the fuck I die?!” I shouted drunkenly at the TV. My death was total bullshit this time. Manus had about ⅛ of his life left and I fought him nearly perfectly only to die to some bullshit glitch or oversight in the game mechanics. He shot his black jizz-orbs and I used the magic pendant to block them but somehow a few made it through the supposedly impenetrable magic barrier to one-shot me.

So I sat the controller down and took a drink of my second or third gin and tonic, but counting was becoming difficult at the time. I was about ⅓ the way through the bottle of gin and feeling pretty damn good about life and determined. I was hell bent on beating Manus and while sore about dying for the 20th or so time didn’t let it truly get to me.

I respawned and did the minute long run back to Manus and died for the 21st or so time. And then I did it again; the long trek back to the bastard. Then I died to the shitty sorcerer guy on the way to the boss. 22. And then I ran back again and died by some stupid fucking mistake I made: I dodged his attack a fraction of a second to early and had the shit beaten out of me by his six or seven-hit combo. 23. 24. And so on to about 35. Not that I was counting anymore.

Manus, Father of the Abyss. The fucker himself. Image from here.

I talked about video games and fun before, kinda hinting at the idea that we’ve lost the idea that video games are fundamentally supposed to be enjoyable to play. So during all the bullshit dying and running back to the boss I asked myself if I was having fun. No, no I was not. It wasn’t fun or enjoyable at all. Realizing this I asked myself why I was even playing it in the first place. Wasn’t the point of relaxing after work and drinking to have fun and/or relax? Why would I deliberately force myself into having a shitty time?

The only thing keeping me going was knowledge of the fact that I’d totally stomp his ass eventually. I had beaten him two or three times years earlier and it was only a matter of time before I’d beat him again. This is what kept me tossing myself at him over and over despite little to no actual progress at GITting GUD fighting him.

And if that isn’t interesting to ponder, that despite not having fun and having a really terrible time something kept me going back. Some blind determination of a goal that I’d see through to the end no matter what. The first few times I played Dark Souls I would get really depressed — thinking ‘is this the boss that I’ll forever be stuck on?’ — would I have to quit the game and give up forever being a Dark Souls failure? I kept playing and eventually cracked the Dark Souls formula: hard work, persistence, determination, a total unwillingness to accept failure, and being emotionally detached from your failures. Dark Souls taught me to not be too hard on myself. To keep moving forward. A bland pursuit towards some shitty goal that you weren’t sure you’d even succeed at but you’d keep working at the goal anyways. Dark Souls taught me to just do whatever you want to do, suffer through the shit, and you’ll eventually get that tiny and addictive taste of victory. 

The first Dark Souls boss you beat makes you realize why the hell people play the game so obsessively; it gives you an immense sense of satisfaction when you finally win that I haven’t gotten from any other game. You used to suck, you used to get stomped by the boss instantly and you bested him through dedication and persistence. And that instance of victory when you toss the controller on the couch with shaking and sweaty hands and start jumping around the room cussing at the TV is a feeling you’ll never forget. It’s a pure adrenaline rush during the fight that fuels the glory of the eventual victory. It’s the taste of accomplishing a goal through weathering massive hardship.

But then you inevitably feel good, cocky, like you’ve finally ‘gotten it’ and won’t have any other problems for the rest of the game. Wrong. Soon you’ll run into another wall and your past victory seems like a joke. An accident. A fluke. Luck. That one was easy but now it’s not easy anymore. You try to tell yourself to remain positive and be persistent and learn (just like before, desperately trying to keep your positive mindset) but eventually that starts to wear thin. The next challenge is harder than the last and your mood deteriorates and you crave, no need, the next victory to keep you going. And if you keep at it you’ll eventually get there, but hell if it isn’t difficult to continually fail over and over again with little to no progress to show for it.

I was walking to Manus and got hit by the shitty sorcerer guy again and had to heal. Instead of 20 estus flasks (the healing item in the game) I only had 19, a seemingly minor issue that could end the successful run; you never know how the boss fight will go down and single estus might mean the difference between dying and surviving. But my drunken mind knew that even if I did fail and it wasn’t the successful run that I might learn something during the fight anyways. I might finally learn to dodge to the left instead of the right. Or I’d finally learn the perfect distance to keep him from spamming dangerous mid-ranged attacks. Even if the run was a likely going to end in failure, maybe I’d learn something along the way. Gain the tiny puzzle piece that would eventually lead to completing the puzzle that is beating Manus, Father of the Abyss.

And fuck learning is hard. True learning is hard. We’re all wired to do things a certain way and in Dark Souls it’s difficult to stop yourself from reflexively blocking certain bosses when you need to dodge. The more ingrained your habits are the harder they are to break, the more lessons you need beaten into you to fundamentally change yourself. Change and progress is slow but if you keep tossing yourself at the boss, even ten, twenty, or 100 times you’ll eventually beat it. You fail over and over, tweaking your technique slightly each time until you stumble blindly on the magical formula that somehow works. And sometimes it’s counterintuitive to what you initially though would work. Take Great Grey Wolf Sif for example: at first you want to stay as far away from him as possible — he’s a giant fucking wolf so it makes sense — but you eventually discover this technique is suicide. Sif is ultra aggressive at mid- to long-range and will beat you to a pulp. Counterintuitively, Sif is almost harmless if you stand right underneath him. You never would’ve realized this without failing countless times and trying new techniques. Eventually you realize you were doing it all wrong, but without doing it wrong you never would’ve discovered what to do right.

BEING UNDER HIM IS THE SAFEST PLACE TO BE? YOU SURE BRO?”

So lying in bed drunk trying to think of a thought provoking blog post I found myself thinking about Dark Souls and one of the final bosses I hadn’t beaten yet, Manus, Father of the Abyss. What a dickhead. What a goddamn roadblock. I was almost done with the game but he was in my way. I couldn’t end the game without beating him because that would be giving up and bitching out. Manus was my way forward and I couldn’t stop thinking about how I quit that night in failure. I was a loser. I didn’t have enough points in GIT and GUD. So now what? Nothing. I’d fight him later. I’d let my brain make a few connections and keep tossing myself at him in a few days. Manus was as good as dead, but dead in the future where the time to conquer him simply hadn’t come yet. I still had to learn. I still had to grow. I still had to deal with my personal flaws in the game. But progress is progress and I tried to not think about, to let thoughts not useless thoughts and self-hatred wither away. Then in a drunken haze it clicked why Dark Souls is such a good fucking game. It’s a perfect analogy of chasing your goals, growing as a person, and conquering the real enemy during your quest of life: yourself.

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Dark Souls Sucks: Lautrec, The Four Kings, and Farming

I’m back. A two day break is long enough after you’ve posted 34 days in a row. I’ve been bored, antsy and playing more video games, namely Dark Souls. More on being bored and antsy later. Maybe.

I seemed to have been in a honeymoon phase with Dark Souls during the last post about it. Not that it isn’t a fantastic game — I stand by every word I said about it — but now that I’m actually playing the game all the old frustrations are coming back. The game is bullshit, and in a way that’s totally bullshit. I still think this is a positive though; the fact that a game I know pretty damn well can still piss me the fuck off is amazing. I think I’ve beaten the game ten times total and I can still get pissed off about things I know are in the game. Let’s cover a few here.

Spoilers ahead if you dare to read.

Bullshit Lautrec of Carim

There’s a knight locked in the Undead Parish early on in the game. With a key (maybe) you can free him. There isn’t anything obviously wrong with the guy at first besides his mildly threatening voice, but there is nothing to hint that you shouldn’t free the bastard either. You also come across various trainers in the game, Big Hat Logan to name an example, that are locked up as well. The fact Lautrec is locked up doesn’t really mean shit in the Dark Souls world.

So you free the bastard and after triggering a certain important even he kills the Firelink Shrine’s fire keeper putting the bonfire out. This is before you gain the ability to teleport and Firelink serves as a good hub for the world except now you can’t use it as a checkpoint anymore. So you must walk to the Undead Parish, the Undead Burg, or the fucking Catacombs to use their bonfires. It’s a pain and a pain that the game barely hints at and it happens at a very inconvenient time.

Not that you can get the bonfire lit again, but it’s a massive pain. Lautrec goes to Anor Londo where you can invade him, get the firekeeper’s soul back, and relight the fire. It sounds bad already but everything about it makes it worse. When you invade, you discover Lautrec has two goons with him and one is a sorcerer who tosses soul spears at you from a distance. Also when you invade you are unable to heal. Yes, you need to kill Lautrec with two fucking goons fucking your day up when a few hits is all that it takes you kill you. I tried this recently on New Game Plus with an old tank character; I only got a single hit on the guy before I was killed. This was Sunday when I was drunk and totally threw the controller twice and quit playing that character since. Fuck that playthrough.

The Four Fucking Kings

Best Wiafu!

After my anger over Lautrec, I decided to get the dark ending and talk to Kaathe, one of the primordial serpents. No big deal, it was NG+ and I was a tank and I could summon Witch Beatrice (my Souls wiafu) to help. I was surprised to see that my fully upgraded Black Knight Axe didn’t do a fucking thing to the Kings. The bosses spawn in every thirty seconds so if you can’t kill one in that amount of time (or an little extra time) you’ll eventually have for or five kings wailing on you. They also hit really fucking hard too. Three hits and you’re dead. Witch Beatrice didn’t help much because I died so quickly.

So to hell with the dark ending on that playthrough.

More Fuck The Four Kings

I thought it’d be a fun idea to start a new playthrough with a hand-to-hand based player. I’m currently running a shitty DEX build with NEARLY FULLY UPGRADED CLAWS. It’s fun as fuck and I’m having a great time. Once again I tried to fight the Four Kings before the other three Big Bosses. (You can’t go through the red fog gates until you give the lordvessel to either Frampt or Kaathe.) The claws didn’t do shit to them and like before I quickly had three of the fuckers wailing on me before I died. Beatrice didn’t even get to fight because I was running from a horde of Darkwraiths and Ghosts and couldn’t summon her. I didn’t have any of those transient curses either. 

Frampt got the lord vessel and there wouldn’t be a dark ending on this game either. Seriously, fuck the Four Kings. I don’t remember the boss being this hard on other playthroughs.

Solaire and Farming

This is going to be a mess so bear with me here. Solaire of Astora is everyone’s favorite Dark Souls NPC. He’s cheerful, he’s helpful, and he even muses himself that you might have feelings for him. Given the rest of the dreary, bleak, and depressing NPCs in Dark Souls, Solaire really is a ray of sunlight (get it?). “Praise the Sun!” “If only I could be so grossly incandescent!” Even if you’re not the biggest fan of Solaire, you probably do have some fondness for him because he’s such a nice guy.

One thing that makes Solaire such a badass is your ability to summon him for some key boss fights in the game. The first time you can summon him is for the Bell Gargoyles and as this fight can be difficult for a new character/new player; Solaire really is a godsend here. He’s also summonable for the shitty Centipede Demon and the final boss, Gwyn. The only problem with summoning him for the Gwyn fight is that you first need to stop him from going fucking insane!

Most (maybe all?) of the NPCs have a questline that ends with them going “hollow” — insane, corrupted, and hostile towards you. Nice and friendly people you meet eventually lose their damn minds where they will attack you the next time you come near them. Solaire is no different. He’s famously on a quest to “find his own sun” and given his failure to find it during the game, eventually goes mad. His downfall is finding a group of Chaos Bugs that emit light. Since he’s lost his shit, he finds these bugs, mistakes them for “his sun”, and goes crazy. You end up putting him down like the sick dog he is and this prevents him from helping you during the last fight. It’s a really bleak game.

Here’s the bullshit part. To keep Solaire alive you need to kill these bugs before he finds them. You can’t take the normal route because this automatically triggers him to go crazy so you must find a “backpath” way to kill them. A few cheesy ways to do this are to abuse a certain pyromancy spell or some other shitty game mechanic while the most “appropriate way” is to open a shortcut door via the Chaos Servant covenant. In short, you donate thirty humanities (a certain in-game item) to a giant half-spider, half-lady NPC and the door opens.

My problem was that I didn’t have shit for humanities. I need twenty-nine of them to open the door with the sole purpose of saving Solaire. Okay. Time to farm!

Farming in any game usually consists of doing mindless runs over and over to collect items. To farm humanity, people usually go to The Depths and kill about ten rats over and over again; these are some the most reliable droppers of humanity in the game. This isn’t as easy as it sounds as their drop rate is only about 5%. So to get five humanities you need to kill about 100 damn rats. I needed thirty so consider the fact that I’d have to kill about 600 of them. With ten per each run, this means I’d have to do 60 fucking runs to collect the humanities to give to the Spider Lady to open a door to save Solaire. Okay…

Karen hard at work farming…

Luckily there is an item that boosts your item discovery rate making the rats have a higher chance of dropping humanity; this is the Covetous Gold Serpent Ring and is found in Sen’s Fortress. So, to save Solaire: go to Sen’s fortress, find Gold Serpent Ring, go to The Depths, do maybe fifty runs killing rats to collect humanities, give humanities to Spider Lady, open the shortcut (“shortcut”) door, kill the Chaos Bugs. All so I can summon Sunbro Solaire for the final boss fight with Gwyn. I hope that proved my point how shitty this game can be.

Not that I hate farming — sometimes it’s fun to mindlessly run back and forth killing the same enemies over and over — but damn does it quickly get boring. After about ten or twenty minutes farming and having only collected a few humanities, you start to think about how much time the project is really going to take. I think it took around and hour to collect thirty-five or fourty humanities (I needed a few extra to upgrade the bonfires) and I might have to go farm some more soon. Shit. And humanities aren’t the only thing you need to farm. Titanite shards and chunks, which are used to upgrade weapons and armor, are also relatively rare in-game so if you want to actually do damage with your weapon those must be farmed as well. And if you ever get stuck you need to farm for levels, also called “grinding”, which is another shitty but sometimes necessary thing to spend time doing.

That’s about all I have to bitch about with Dark Souls this time. Like I said: great goddamn game, but holy hell is it frustrating at times.

Fuck the Four Kings.

Dark Souls is Awesome

For some reason my Apex Legends post is one of my highest and most consistently viewed posts. A few other of my video game posts (Mario Jump Rope, Stardew Valley, and three Zelda posts) also rank really well: apparently people really like reading about video games and I should probably try to write more about them. One problem though: this blog is about things that suck and I try not to play games that suck. My time is precious, there are thousands of games, games take a long time to play, so why would I fuck around with playing awful games?

My five-year-old daughter somehow found my Dark Souls game a few days ago and wanted to play it. I was amused. This kid was going to totally get her ass slapped in the game. I wasn’t wrong. She didn’t know how to lock onto enemies, use the shield, or even swing the sword. She walked away from the Undead Burg bonfire and instantly died. After a few minutes she finally killed a few enemies (without assistance from locking on) and would then get murdered. Progress at least, right?

After she gave up (maybe 15 minutes after starting) I began playing my own game file that I gave up on about a year ago. I had a pyromancer build and was stuck in the Catacombs of all places. The Catacombs is one of the “easier” areas of the game and popular theory assumes it’s meant to be completed earlier than later. I tried to do this instead of going there overpowered mid- to late-game like I usually do. But holy hell was that place a nightmare of level design. I was constantly getting lost and dying by falling, especially dying to those rolly skelly motherfuckers at the bottom on the way to the boss Pinwheel. I died about ten times maybe.

After that I branched out trying to figure out where the hell I had left off. The Butterfly was dead, the Gargoyles were dead, and the second bell hadn’t been rung yet. Down to Blighttown I went, via the Master Key of course. For the first time I tanked Quelaag which was very satisfying. I recalled how much trouble she gave me on my first playthrough and contrasted this with how easy she had become.

Storytelling aside here: Dark Souls is a great game. It’s probably one of my top five favorite games, maybe even in the top three. While it isn’t a flawless game, it’s about as close to flawless as you can get. The difficulty is fulfilling, the plot isn’t forced into your face, the gameplay is varied, and the worldbuilding, level design, sound design, and atmosphere are amazing. Let’s go through each one of these and give the game a proper dick sucking like it deserves.

Difficulty

Dark Souls is notably hard. I think this is misleading though. It’s challenging in an acceptable way whereas most games around during its release seemed to be too damn easy. It’s well-known that to survive Skyrim you only need to abuse healing potions. It’s just not a hard game, not that Skyrim and Dark Souls have much in common game-wise.

Not that Dark Souls doesn’t have plenty of unfair, bullshit difficulty moments and the rolly fuckers in the Catacombs are the perfect example of this. Or the Anor Londo archers: anyone who has played the game and made it that far know exactly what I’m talking about. They’re legendary with their immense total-bullshit factor. And let’s not forget the entire Capra Demon boss fight, or Smough and Ornstein’s Pornhub-esque tag-teaming of your innocent and unprepared character with their large clubs and spears. Or the stupid fucking bridge Drake. The game is brutal in many cruel ways.

I think what makes this bullshit acceptable is that it was purposefully done on behalf of the game developers. They added plenty of these bullshit-hard moments just because they could. While the game is mostly fair, these moments are what break you. They’re what make you persevere and beat the game. Those fucking Anor Londo archers are the definition of bullshit artificial difficulty, but they never feel cheaply done. They’re not nerfed weapons or terrible game mechanics nor are they large health pools just for the sake of having large health pools. The devs want to piss you off and this is a flaw on you not the game devs. Once you figure out how to relax, calm down, and deal with the bullshit in front of you, you can easily conquer any challenge the game tosses at you. And you feel great for doing so. Many times I’ve conquered something to realize my hands were literally shaking from adrenaline. I don’t recall any other games that can do this.

Varied Gameplay

Dark Souls offers a handful of starting classes such as a sorcerer, pyromancer, healers, and your normal typical warrior classes. This immediately gives you options and adds replay value to the game. A common view is that a sorcerer/magic build playthrough is the easiest mostly because you can stand as far away from the action as possible and hurl overpowered Crystal Soul Spears at the helpless enemies. A warrior build is probably the most difficult, forcing you to close the distance and do physical damage to your enemies.

But even besides those basic options you can play the game anyway you want. Some people eschew shields in favor of two-handing weapons and dodge-rolling attacks. Some people do “Soul Level 1” playthroughs, never leveling their character up during the course of the game. Even if you start off as a certain class, you can also play however you want depending on how you spend your points as you level up. A sorcerer at the start can be a tank mid-game if you dump points into certain attributes.

Hell, even the weapons have a wide variety to them. You can use a basic one-handed sword, or use some massive two-handed weapon like the Dragon’s Tooth or the Zweihander. Or you can use a spear/halberd/axe/whatever-the-fuck-else you want to use. Mix and match as you please. Wear whatever armor you want, use whatever spells/magic you want, and use whatever weapon you want. Play the game as you see fit. This creativity makes subsequent playthroughs of Dark Souls nearly always interesting and different.

The Plot

Differing with every other game ever made (mostly) Dark Souls has a plot that isn’t tossed into your face forcefully. In fact, Dark Souls doesn’t seem to give a fuck if you care about the plot at all, and this almost plays into the games favor. Ignoring the plot makes you a tool who simply walks around and kills shit blindly, so when you finish the game as an unknowing death machine it’s fitting in a way. Not to give away the ending, but completing it as a tool who doesn’t think is fitting with what you accomplish.

And if you care to learn about the plot you better enjoy puzzles because the plot is a puzzle. The only clues you get are item descriptions and sparse dialogue. The cutscenes in-game (besides the boss intro cutscenes) probably total three or four minutes at most. The dialogue in-game is probably at most two-pages long if you decided to type it all out. The item descriptions are just as vague and seemingly meaningless as everything else, but someone with a creative mind and attention to details can piece some things together which is massively fulfilling. Solaire’s fascination with the sun. The inscription on the Ring of the Sun’s Firstborn. The fact that the statue next to Lord Gwyn in Anor Londo is strangely missing points to a strange in-game fact and popular theory: Solaire is probably Lord Gwyn’s lost son. Why this is, who the hell knows, but even that jumping off point gives you many leads to ponder.

This is how nearly everything is in the game — vague, hidden, and uncertain — but how else would roaming around a dying decaying world be? It feels like you’re part of some massive story playing some important role and even you don’t know what that role is.

The Atmosphere

The subtle plot plays directly into the atmosphere of the game. The world is large, complex, and has a fascinating history but there are no clear signs of this history. No one is around to tell you what it all means. Only strange enemies in the woods, deformed people turned into spiders and other monstrosities, and crumbling (and strangely large) buildings scattered throughout the world. What does all of this mean, if anything?

You feel utterly alone in the world with few friends to talk to. The music is mostly non-existent except for a few key areas. Firelink Shrine and the Anor Londo Throne Room come to mind and they contrast well with the silence in the rest of the game. The bosses command their own impressive scores that raise your anxiety to hand-shaking and adrenaline-inducing levels. Playing for hours with no music and strolling through a fog gate to find a terrifying music track backing the boss charging at you is intense. Not all areas are quiet though: New Londo has a track that is so silent and subtle that you don’t notice it being there; if anything it makes you unconsciously even more terrified of the ghosts that appear out of nowhere and slit your throat or slice your character to pieces.

The stiffness of your character, the slowness with which they move, and the clunking of their armor all make you feel like an incapable and worthless person in some massive and harsh world. You’re not some superhero meant to save the world; you’re just another Undead trying to do whatever it is that you’re supposed to do. The world is cruel and doesn’t give a fuck about you. You feel alone, isolated, and nearly always in danger. The game is terrifying, depressing, oppressive and isolating, but sometimes it almost takes on a peaceful quality to it. A sort of resignation and acceptance with how dismal the in-game world truly is.

The Level Design

The level design of Dark Souls is where I think the game really shines. While the game does become rather linear later on, the first half of the game is immensely complex and interconnected.

I think this was mostly driven by the lack of teleporting/warping/fast travel until you get far enough into the game. This helps the game feel massive by requiring you to walk anywhere you need to go. Shortcuts are numerous and countless times I’d explore a certain direction only to discover it linking to a part of the world I never expected it to. The Undead Parish and Firelink shortcut is the best example I can think of. You start in Firelink, and walk all the way to the Undead Burg, fight the imposing Taurus Demon, and make your way to the Undead Parish in a long and arduous journey, especially for new players. In the Parish you find an elevator that appears to lead to a totally new and dangerous area and find yourself pleasantly surprised to discover you’re back at the Firelink Shrine. “Oh, I’m here?!” I clearly remember thinking the first time I discovered this. New London and Darkroot Basin via Valley of the Drakes. Blighttown to Firelink shrine. Darkroot Basin and the Undead Burg: everything is always closer than what you expect.

Take a look at this picture. I think it was created from actual Dark Soul’s game files on PC. The first time I saw it, it blew my mind away. I stole it from here, and while this person didn’t make the map himself (or the program) he does give credit where it’s due.

It’s a map of the entire game. Everything is interconnected and wraps around itself like a maze. You start the game in the red central area, and as you can see everything branches out from there. Some of the large branches are late-game areas which suffer from poor level design, but the entire early- mid-game levels are wonderfully interconnected and complex. Take a look at this map of the depths — one of the shittier areas of the game — and you can see the level design is still delightfully complex.

It’s a fucking maze! This design really makes you feel utterly and hopelessly lost. Stolen with love from here.

Dark Souls does have its flaws, notably the clunky gameplay at times, or the shitty framerate in Blighttown (which may have been fixed in the remastered version?), or the shitty late-game areas and bosses (Bed of Chaos, anyone?!?), or the fact that it’s really hard to get into initially, but I really think these don’t make the game bad at all. There’s so many positives that any flaws Dark Souls has can easily be overlooked. It’s a fantastic game and if you haven’t played it, well, get the fuck out there and play it!

Like this post and want more Dark Souls inspired posts? Here’s one about how Manus is a pain in the ass, and this one about some of the stupid shit about Dark Souls.

Video Game Endings Suck: The In-Game Existential Crisis

I can think of three general ways to end a video game. Firstly, there are games that don’t have a plot or a story to even end: think of multiplayer first-person shooter/battle royale games like Fortnite, Apex, or Black Ops IV. You can probably toss simulation and puzzle games into this category too; Microsoft Flight Simulator doesn’t have a plot or an ending. You just fly around and when you’re done you’re done. The same is true for Tetris. The second way to end a game is to, well, end it. These games have a plot and story and obviously the developers have to wrap it up somehow. There are a few ways to do this as well. They can end the game in a “harsh” where you can no longer play the game. Think of Dark Souls or Bioshock Infinite. When the game is over, the game’s over. There’s also the “open-ended” endings in this category where despite beating the main quest you are still able to play the game. Skyrim is a great example here. You kill Alduin, save the world, yet you can still wander around and do shit afterwards. These games have a clear ending to the main quest. There is a point where you’ve clearly beaten the game.

By far the worst way to end a game is to have no ending. I’m not talking about the plotless multiplayer games from above either: I’m talking narrative and story-driven open world games that are so open ended there is no ending. The Sims, Kerbal Space Program, Minecraft, and Stardew Valley are all great examples of games with no endings.

On the surface this all sounds like a great idea: with a game that is open and neverending you can play forever, right? No. These games do have endings even if they’re not explicitly stated; their endings are much more depressing when you think about them too much. These games end in the in-game equivalent of existential depression: the eventual realization that there is nothing else to do in the game. After the challenge is over, you have everything you could ever want or need, accomplished everything you’ve wanted to do, what option do you have besides giving up?

Not that these games lack story or gameplay progression which is usually in the form of crafting progression and/or unlocking items. The whole point of Minecraft survival mode seems to be unlocking items and finding materials. A good example are nether portals. To create these you usually need to craft a diamond pickaxe and diamond is one of the rarest things to find in the game. You need to bury deep within the ground to even find diamond, so unlocking a nether portal (to unlock all of the nether-unique items) takes some work. It gives you something to progress towards. Even if there is no actual narrative story, you have something to drive you further into the game.

Stardew Valley — the main inspiration of this post because it depicts a relatively believable story, farming — uses items to drive progression. The requirement to water your crops everyday adds a huge incentive to upgrade the watering can, which costs money and ores, which in turn requires a large farm, which itself requires an upgraded watering can, which requires exploring the mines, which requires the item to smelt ore. This singular goal — upgrade the watering can — is one of the primary struggles in Stardew Valley. As I hope you can understand now, upgrading the watering can involves hours of gameplay and progression. Carrying the watering mechanic to its limit are the sprinklers; items that automatically water crops daily without you doing a damn thing. Obviously they are a massively sought after item. The best sprinkler requires iridum, a ridiculously rare crafting ingredient that is most easily found in the Skull Cavern. Stardew Valley is fantastic by giving you natural gameplay incentive to progress throughout the game. Most items you unlock make the game easier or your farm more efficient. Progressing through the game is just a struggle to make your life easier!

These games work amazingly well until you run out of incentives to progress. Minecraft is especially terrible because once you’ve built yourself three golden castles towering into the sky, then what? You literally have everything you can even need or want in the game, so what do you do? The same is true in Stardew Valley as it’s another one of the “endless games” that you can play for literal years in-game with no completion. Once you’ve developed the community center and have millions of dollars, then what? When you have a massive farm that prints money all by itself with minimal effort and input from you, then what? After you’re married and had a few kids, then what? Eventually Stardew, and all games like this, reach a point where there is no incentive to play anymore. You’re bored with your in-game life and there isn’t anything else to drive you forward. Your in-game life literally becomes pointless and eventually you simply stop playing. It’s an in-game existential crisis. You question your purpose and what the meaning of all your progress even was. Sure you had fun playing the game, but now what?

It isn’t difficult to allow this dreaded outlook to bleed into your view of life in general. Usually success IRL is a lot more difficult than success in Stardew Valley (imagine trying to have a successful farm on your own IRL), Minecraft (imagine trying to live in the woods and survive for years with absolutely nothing except what you can personally create), or in any other “neverending” game, but the slight and ever-present sense of nihilism depicted in the end of these games always seems to underscore life itself. I just don’t think we ever get to that point in life where you can ask yourself “now what?” Life is so difficult, complicated, and multifaceted that I don’t think anyone can ever feel like they’ve “beaten life” like you can in a video game. There’s always something else to challenge you. But still, some part of me imagines this happening someday especially to certain people. Those who have a nice house, so much money that they don’t know what else to spend it on, and where life appears to have been beaten. I’m imagining this is how Olympic athletes and sports stars feel: their lives are so one-dimensional and filled with a singular goal that once it’s achieved — they win the gold medal or the Superbowl or whatever — that they might feel this crushing and final question of “now what?” that I always feel at the end of certain video games. I feel really sorry for these people and I don’t know if I’m lucky or not by thinking that I’ll never reach the end of what I want to accomplish in life. I don’t think I’ll ever be asking myself “now what,” but what if that means I never reached the end of the game? Like I hadn’t properly beaten it? What if that means I’ve failed?

Depression in Stardew Valley Sucks

A few days ago I became legitimately depressed while playing Stardew Valley. It was both kinda funny and sad at how awful I felt over the game; I didn’t know whether I should laugh about it or feel depressed by being depressed by a video game, let alone Stardew Valley. This incident also shined some light on my own personality and the lack of self confidence I have in life. This post will probably be deeper than you might expect from a Stardew Valley inspired post, but here goes.

Here’s where I give a shitty overview of the game in case people don’t know what I’m talking about: Stardew Valley is a game where you farm stuff and live in a tiny village. You can talk to, befriend, and even marry some of the residents in the town. I don’t know how important all of that is to the main story of the game, but the game does stress the aspect of community, which freshens it up from being only a farming simulator. Anyway, it’s also a cutesy, 2D top down, “kiddie game” as one of my friends described it. This almost makes the incident worse because as stated it’s a kids game: It shouldn’t punch me right in the feels, especially as directly as it did.

In-game Jeremy wandering the fuck around.

There’s a community dance (The Flower Dance) that happens in the forest around day 25. It’s an optional thing to do so whatever, no big deal. I went to the dance because I’m trying to be the friendly new guy in town who is trying his damndest to fit in and be accepted in the community. I should also say that up to this point in the game I’ve been a very diligent and socially-isolated farmer: I’m toiling away in my fields every single day either chopping wood for fertilizer, planting/harvesting/watering the crops, or running into town to buy more seeds. While some people might be fucking around socializing in town all day, I’m trying to turn my farm into the most fantastic farm ever and give the community something to be proud of. Because fuck the JoJa Corporation and Capitalism in general. I’m all about seizing the means of production, even if I haven’t told Mayor Lewis any of my intentions yet…

Pam is a beauty…

So Jeremy who is the new resident of Stardew Valley — let’s call him in-game Jeremy — shows up to the dance and starts talking to people. Some of the townsfolk he sort of knowns, and others appear to be new faces. Mayor Lewis allows in-game Jeremy to decide when the dance should actually start (since the game sort of revolves around in-game Jeremy for some terrible reason. Unbeknownst to in-game Jeremy he is, in fact, the player character. The story literally revolves around him). After talking to most of the people, in-game Jeremy realizes that he can ask people to dance with him. Oh shit! He accidentally discovered this when he asked the emo gothic guy to dance with him. Luckily he said no but it was still awkward. (“Hey bro, you want to dance with me? No homo tho, I just think those skinny jeans look really good on you. Your ass is…wow.”) In-game Jeremy then proceeds to confidently ask the females, being picky at first but then growing desperate and asking anyoneeven the trashy, alcoholic Pam but you can’t actually ask her — if they would like to dance. They usually replied with something like this:

“Oh! Oh! I’m sorry…I, er…have plans to ask someone else.”

“I’m flattered! But…no.”

“That’s flattering…but I’m gonna have to say no. Sorry.”

“I’ll be honest. I don’t want to dance with you.”

“Eww…No.”

Holy fuck game, thanks for the hefty dose of rejection. So in-game Jeremy, with no one to dance with, finally walks up to Mayor Lewis and gives him the go-ahead to start the dance. In game Jeremy wants to just get the stupid-ass dance over with so he can head back home and go to sleep. He’s sick of these people, their rejection, and their unappreciation of him, his hard work, and his farm.

After the dance in-game Jeremy goes to his house and goes to bed. It’s night and there’s nothing to do. He almost thought about watering the crops before bed, but fuck the plants too, they can wait. In the morning, in-game Jeremy stares at the crops and doesn’t actually want to do any work, but he sure as fuck isn’t going to town today to socialize with those assholes. He doesn’t want to work on the crops but there’s nothing else to do with his life so he begrudgingly gets to work. Watering. Weeding. Planting. Harvesting. Urgh. Not that anyone appreciates it. “Fuck this place,” In-game Jeremy says as he toils in the fields the day after the dance.

A few days later, still feeling shitty but not quite as shitty, in-game Jeremy realizes that it’s Emily’s birthday, and that he should give her a gift. Maybe a flower? After he picks a few flowers and heads into town he stops and thinks, “Is she even going to like this? She probably won’t even give a shit if I give her a gift or not. If anything it’ll be the wrong gift and she’ll hate me.” In-game Jeremy goes up to the “shipping bin” where you place products your farm has created, and chucks the flowers into that. Emily has no idea in-game Jeremy was even going to give her a gift and goes about her day knowing nothing of the conflict that occured in in-game Jeremy’s head or the gift that she almost received. In-game Jeremy continues to sulk and overthink things as he tends to his garden daily. “Pretty sure all those fuckers hate me,” he thinks to himself.

The next day in-game Jeremy finally drags his ass into town. He ran into Haley, a young and beautiful blonde lady who lives in town. He tries talking to her, just to say “Hi” or “How’s your day going?” The game informed in-game Jeremy that: 

HALEY IS IGNORING YOU

“Maybe you should, like, kill yourself? No one likes you or your stupid farm!”

Jesus Christ, Stardew Valley is depressing as fuck.

In-game Jeremy then stops into Pierre’s store to find some rope for a noose, but sadly Pierre doesn’t sell rope. Not that in-game Jeremy has unlocked the noose-crafting recipe anyways. In-game Jeremy, as depressed as he is, is hopelessly stuck in the world with no way to escape.

While I was trying to strike a clear difference between me — IRL Jeremy — and my avatar in-game (in-game Jeremy) I found it kinda difficult to do in practice. When you play a game that is as absorbing as Stardew you kinda become the player character and this is a good thing. (“This game really makes you feel like Spiderman!”) While in-game Jeremy felt like shit over being rejected by everyone in town, it also became difficult for IRL Jeremy to also not feel rejected, even if there was no reason to feel that way. While IRL Jeremy was laughing at the brutal and consistent nature of in-game Jeremy’s rejection something inside was also being stirred around. The vague shadow of repressed memories, fears of total social rejection, and loneliness from high school/college swam at the corners of my IRL consciousness. What if everyone I know actually hates me? What do people say about me when I’m not around? Am I really as awkward as I think I am? Does anyone actually appreciate me? It was kinda scary. Faced with the “fun, kid-friendly” story and graphics of Stardew Valley, it almost seemed surreal in a way. This game was making me feel like shit about my own life and had me questioning all my real relationships and my worth in the world.

I also felt bitter and angry towards the damn in-game townsfolk; these people aren’t even real and I was pissed at them! Logically it made sense that no one wanted to dance with in-game Jeremy because he was the new guy in town who has only been around for 25 days (or like 2.5 months if you take Stardew time in terms of a year) and who wasn’t being social at all and made zero effort to interact with anyone. The townsfolk basically saw in-game Jeremy as a recluse farmer who never talks to people but then shows up and creepily asks every person available to dance. No shit they said no! If I was a video game NPC like these people I’d also say no too! In-game Jeremy — you socially-inept idiot — you have to make actual effort in relationships for them to work. And if that isn’t hitting things a bit close for IRL Jeremy as well. I found myself questioning how much effort I put into friendships and if I expect other people to do all the work. Or do I just show up and expect people to like me when I do nothing likeable at all? Do I show enough interest in other people? Or am I self-centered asshole that metaphorically is a recluse farmer who tends his fields all day? Once again I wasn’t expecting goddamn life lessons from Stardew but here we are.

One of the highlights of the game so far. I was pissed and fishing off this bridge just because, and Abigail walked up and stood next to me. She stood there for hours watching me fish and neither of us said anything. In-game Jeremy was utterly focused on catching those damn fish and gave no outward sign of his appreciation, but he loved her for being there keeping him company.

I’m complaining here but you have to give the game credit: usually people play video games just to kill time, to have fun, or to escape the real world for a little bit. To feel some progress in a game world to counteract the utter difficulty and lack of progress in the real world. It’s a rare game that somehow acts as a mirror and puts yourself up there on display for you to analyze, especially if said game is usually viewed as a “kids game.” This allows you to lower your defenses and to be vulnerable without you being aware that it’s happening, and not realizing that you’re about to get utterly punched in the feels so aggressively that it resonates with your actual self. Stardew Valley made in-game Jeremy feel like a loser who would never properly fit in with the townsfolk even if he really wanted to, and that made IRL Jeremy also feel the same way, constantly searching for approval, community, and appreciation. The depressive mood didn’t last for long, maybe twenty minutes or so, but it was twenty minutes that I was not prepared for at all. It was an eye-opening experience that I wasn’t at all ready for. Fuck you Stardew Valley for being such a good game.

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Goofing Around (In Video Games) Sucks

In my last post I mentioned that I 100%ed Super Mario 64. This is a heavily nostalgic game for me and countless others and while it hasn’t aged magnificently over the years it still remains a classic. It retains its charm and is still an enjoyable game to play if you can look past the shitty grafix from the late 90s. But I realized something upon completing the game that I didn’t realize before: Mario 64 is a really short game. Surely part of this is due to me having played it before, but I don’t think this has much to do with why it feels so short. It’s been so long since I played Mario 64 to completion I had almost forgotten where most of the stars were and had to “rediscover them” even if I had a vague hint of a memory where the star was. (I still remember the Turok master cheat code though: nthgthdgdcrtdtrk. Looks like something out of a Lovecraft story.) So while the game was easier than it was when I first played it, it wasn’t just a feat in repetition; I really had to discover the game all over again.

I found myself wondering how, as a kid, I was able to pour so much time into this game as I did. I was able to knock out all 120 stars within a week as an adult, and even if I had played the game before, I assume a new player could still beat the game quickly. It’s just not a long or complicated game. How did my childhood-self find this game so massive and consuming that I could literally play it for hours after school, day-after-day for months on end? Bowser had his ass kicked and I had all 120 stars, so what was I doing endlessly playing the game?

Outside of a few other minor things (being a bored kid, no internet, etc.), I assume it was because I dicked around in the game. I should explain that a bit more. This means that outside of the actual game-dictated challenges I would find other bullshit challenges to set for myself. It was total immersion in the world where you’re just playing around and having fun with the game itself. Grabbing the stars is what you’re supposed to do but dicking around is ignoring what you’re supposed to do to do random bullshit. Somehow kid-me excelled at this while adult-me is pretty terrible at it.

Bob-omb Battlefield

The first level, the iconic Bob-omb Battlefield, had a turtle whose shell you could ride like a skateboard. It was fun as hell to grab his shell and challenge yourself to do stupid shit with it: could you surf up to the top of the mountain without hitting anything and losing his shell? Could you use the shell to race Koopa the Quick? You could also grab the Wing Cap, jump into cannons, and fly around for the hell of it. Each level offered so much to do but only if you’re creative enough to play around with the game. This was even better if you had friends to play with. You could all take turns having races to the top of the Bob-omb mountain, or see who could get Baby Penguin to his mom is the fastest time possible (or who could drop him off the cliff in the most cruel/hilarious way). Your imagination was the only limit to the fun you could have in Mario 64 as well as any other game.

Shell surfin’. I crashed a few seconds after this attempting to make it to the top of the mountain.

Something changed because now I don’t have the time or patience to fuck around in video games. I don’t know if it’s adulthood itself or aspects of adulthood like having a job and a tighter schedule that changed things, but I find myself being very “goal oriented” when I play video games. It does take all the fun out of them too. I view the game as just that: a game. Games are now just a big and sometimes complex puzzle: you figure out what you need to do to achieve a goal and you do that. Find key, go to the next room. Kill enemies, get to the end of the level. Find enough moons to fight Bowser. Etc. It’s basic problem solving now: discover problem, research the problem, conquer the problem. Complete the quest and beat the game. And then onto the next game. It’s depressing.

Flyin’.

As I was writing this post, the word playing popped into my head. Dicking around in video games, as I’ve been explaining it, sounds a lot like playing. Kids will grab toys and play with them not for a purpose but just because. I even looked up the definition of the word play and guess what it is?

Engage in activity for enjoyment and recreation rather than a serious or practical purpose.”

-The Damn Dictionary

So, fuck, it’s not that adult-me is overly goal-oriented or that kid-me was better at making up random shit to do, kid me was better at playing while adult me fucking sucks at it. Making this even worse is that when adult-me is “playing” video games, I’m probably not actually playing them. I’m always chasing a set of goals or in-game challenges and am not playing for the pure enjoyment or recreation of it. Or my personal enjoyment and recreation while playing a video game is in beating the game and not playing the game. Holy fuck, I didn’t think there’d be an epiphany in this post, but there it is. Kid-me played video games and adult-me beats video games.

This entire post reflects back on the last post about 100%ing Nintendo games. In that post I argued that Nintendo is kinda badass by not giving you any real rewards for going above-and-beyond in your video gaming duties. They rely on your own self-motivation to accomplish all of the extra bullshit you need to 100% one of their games. They’re going to give you the shit to do but not reward you for it. This post is sort of the same thing: to properly play a video game you also need to go outside of what the game itself gives you for goals/accomplishments and find your own way towards fun. This is the essence of playing — doing something for your own enjoyment with zero practical reason to motivate you — and is a huge reason why I enjoyed video games and could pour hours into them as a kid. I was playing and not simply trying to chase goals. As adult gamers we might become overly “goal-oriented” and miss the whole reason for playing a game: to have fun! But to have fun you need to be creative and do something for the sake of doing it, just like 100% video games entails. So the next time I play a video game I’m going to try to sit back, relax, and actually enjoy the experience instead of checking off a list of items that the game wants me to do. Being an adult is kinda shitty in case you didn’t know that yet.

100%ing Nintendo Games Sucks

“Thanks for playing Super Mario 64! This is the end of the game, but not the end of the fun.”

-Yoshi

I said in this post how Nintendo games have a deep and rich history of having “collectible” items that tempt the dedicated/addicted/completionist player to obsessively play the game until they find everything there is to find. This is always after the main game/quest has been beaten and is always optional to do. For me this started with Super Mario 64 with its 120 total collectible stars (with only 70 needed to complete the game) and seemed to hit its absurd peak with Wind Waker’s picture figurine quest. Famously, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild turned it up even more by giving you its own picture quest (Hyrule Compendium: 350+ entries), beating all 120 shrines, and — heaven forbid — getting all the Korok seeds (of which there are 900 of!) which is probably the worst and most anticlimactic completionist quest in any video game ever.

You have to admit this is really cute.

The “problem” with these 100% quests is that they occur after beating the game where there is no real incentive for doing them. Nintendo doesn’t wave shiny rewards, fancy weapons, new endings, or even shitty achievement badges in front of you. Even if Nintendo has started to plop “rewards” into their games for 100% completion, they’re pretty shitty.

Let’s give some examples of these “rewards.” Mario Odyssey puts a hat on top of Peach’s Castle and gives you a firework display! Breath of the Wild’s shrine completion quest gives you Link’s classical tunic (which doesn’t offer anything unique and is a bitch to upgrade). BotW’s compendium gives you…uh…idk? Pride? And the Korok seeds? Fuck that: you are rewarded with literally a piece of shit for finding each seed. It has no use or purpose and is, well, a piece of shit.

Yay. 999 moons.

No one can plead ignorance of these shitty rewards because it’s 2019. The internet exists. Before any sane person actually attempts any 100% challenge they’ve certainly researched what they were about to get themselves into. They’re undertaking the quest all on their own knowing well there is no actual reward. But there is some reward because people still 100% these games: the reward is accomplishing something you’ve set out to do, with zero outside influence or persuasion, with no rewards or shiny things dangled in front of you. Nintendo 100% completions are something to note because, outside of there being shitty “rewards,” there is nothing to actually motivate you. You know that you’re doing something for zero reward outside of your own fulfillment, you do it, and that’s the end of the story. You get a star next to your save file. You get a speech by Cappy. You get a shitty suit of armor. You get a golden piece of poop. You get a gold-colored sail. Or a fucking hat on top of a castle. Nintendo 100% completions are kinda admirable in a way because of how anticlimactic they are and how people still chase after them.

100%ing Mario 64 was one of the highlights of my childhood (yeah, no joke). I’ve kept that memory and accomplishment with me over the past 20 years! I’ve also sort of 100%’d Goldeneye but this achievement is tarnished by cheating. That game was fucking difficult to 100%. (Go check the par time for the Facility level to unlock the cheat: 2 minutes on the hardest difficulty. Fuck you.) But the Mario 64 100% was 100% legit and 11 or 12-year-old me pulled that shit off with no guide, no cheats, no internet, or anything. It was pure dedication and skill, a genuine display of video gaming prowess, even if there wasn’t much else to do after school.

Today I 100%’d Mario 64 on a PC emulator and was looking forward to the moment greatly. This was what 12-year-old me experienced years ago as my first 100% Nintendo completion, so how would it hold up? It was even worse than I remembered! The last star I got was the infernal Rainbow Ride 100-coin star: the level branches like a tree and has no obvious route that is better to find coins on (outside of the group of blue coins that is). If you fuck up and fall you need to start over. There is no saving mid-level in the game. Making this even more fitting is, while I don’t remember certainly, I’m confident this was the last star I got back in the late 90s as well. It’s such a bullshit star to get that I know 12-year-old me also procrastinated the star as long as possible.

Once you get the 120th star, you’ve beaten the game 100%. There isn’t anything left to do. What surprised me was how nothing actually happened in the game to signal the Grand Feat: no notifications popped up, no music played, and the unknowing player wouldn’t even realize that they’ve just found every star in the game. Nothing obvious changes at all. Since I’ve done this before I knew where to go: outside the castle and near the pond is a cannon that is now accessible. You naturally shoot yourself to the top of the castle (there’s nowhere else to shoot Mario to) and find a very low-polygon Yoshi. You talk to him and he says some uplifting shit and jumps of the castle. I screencapped some of the moment, grabbed the wing cap, triple-jumped off the castle, and flew around the castle. And that was it: game complete. Mission Accomplished! You’ve won.

“Hey, Yoshi! So, uh, is this it? Not that I’m complaining or anything, but it was a lot of work to get all of these 120 stars…”

So now what? As a kid I would make up shit to do and just dick around in the game, playing for hours and hours doing nothing, but as a goal-oriented adult my goal was to get 120 stars. I did that and I’m done with the game. It’s nice to see Nintendo being consistent with the existential crises that arise anytime you 100% one of their games. You get no reward outside of the pride of accomplishing it, and while that’s good because you only have yourself to motivate you, it still is a hollow sort of victory. What’s surprising is how Nintendo has even improved the rewards over the past few decades as Mario 64 gave you almost no pat-on-the-back for completing the game. It was pretty shitty and I’m surprised my 12-year-old self kept the pride of 100%ing the game in his mind as long as he did.

So as stupid as 100%ing Nintendo games is as there is no reward, you gotta give Nintendo credit. They don’t give a fuck if you want to complete their games or not: that’s up for you to decide. They’re not going to give you a reward or a participation trophy to plop on your xXxGamerDood69xXx profile so your friends can see. No, Nintendo gives you jack shit to show for it except pride in accomplishing something without being forced to do it. It’s fucking free will. While it sucks, it’s kinda badass in the way. Like Nintendo, the friendly kiddy video game company, is trying to teach you some deep life lesson about goals, rewards, achievements, and enjoying life.

The Mario Jump Rope Challenge Sucks: The Hardest Moon in the Game

I played Super Mario 64 when it was released in like 1996 or something. Yeah, I’m kinda old. In case you didn’t know, the main plot of the game involves you collecting power stars to open up locked areas of the castle in an effort to — wait for it — save Princess Peach from Bowser. The thing is you only need 70 moons to actually beat the game while the game offers a total of 120 stars. This might be the first Mario game where there is this idea of collectable items. It’s a natural tendency for us OCD-prone people to need all 120 of those damn stars to finally 100% complete the game. The leads directly to my current problem…

Super Mario Odyssey — the newest and possibly greatest game in the Mario series — has the very same DNA as Mario 64 except things are turned up to 11 this time. Instead of needing 70 stars to beat the game you need like 120 stars moons. There’s a second ending and more levels that are unlocked when you obtain 500 stars moons while the game holds a total of an amazing 880 unique stars moons! (Really it’s like 830 unique moons as some of these are “multi-moons” that count as three.) Compare this to Mario 64 where you need about 60% of the moons to beat the game. Odyssey requires only 124 moons — or about 15% of the total moons — to beat the game. More levels are unlocked at 250 and 500 moons: 30% and 60% of the total, respectively. My point is Odyssey requires a smaller percentage of moons to actually progress the game leaving a goddamn mountain of moons to find if you want to 100% it.

And of course you want to 100% the game because you have such fond memories of meeting Yoshi on top of Peach’s Castle after getting the 120 stars in Mario 64. It was the crowning achievement of your elementary school days so, naturally, wouldn’t it be cool to 100% Mario Odyssey as well? Mario 64 ingrained us with that drive to 100% Mario games and it isn’t any different in Odyssey. There’s only one problem with that: Odyssey is hard.

I laugh when people think Mario is a kids game. Mario is a kids game but it’s also a cruel and harsh Nintendo game and sometimes Nintendo simply doesn’t fuck around. Sometimes Nintendo makes a game that’s very cute and friendly towards kids but totally fucks people up that push the game to its limit. And that’s exactly what happens when you want to 100% the game. The game asks — no requires — a precise level of platforming if you want that 100%.

There are certain stars moons in this game that are total bullshit to obtain. Some final levels are basically repeats of earlier levels where the devs take out (or insert) some really cruel mechanic. One level requires you to dodge poison plants (as you’ve done previously) but they make the walkway above the poison lake invisible (“Invisible Road: Rush!” moon). In one final level you repeat a timed level that features the motor scooter except they remove the scooter and you have to roll as fast as possible (“Vanishing Road Rush”). The margin of error on that level is only like a second or so. Another level requires you to do like 12 perfectly timed long jumps in a row (“Breakdown Road” moons) where a single mistake or slightly mistimed jump means you fail the level.

There’s also the volleyball challenge where you must hit a ball 100 times (“Hero of the Beach!”). This sounds really trivial except you get to start over at the beginning if you fuck up. Making it up to 50 isn’t hard so replaying the entire first half is torture. I think it took me 2 or 3 tries so it wasn’t too bad I guess. It was one of those challenges that is kinda a cheap sort of challenge. It just takes time smacking a ball back and forth. It’s monotonous.

But the crowning achievement of Odyssey’s bullshit-moons is the infernal jump rope challenge moon (“Jump Rope Genius”). The first moon of this challenge in New Donk City is easy enough and triggers after only 20 jumps; it’s the second moon that is impossible to get. You need 100 perfectly timed jumps to unlock this moon and it seems to be nearly impossible even if it does seem stupidly trivial at first.

A good example of the rope moving fast enough to display individual frames with Cappy looking kinda surprised.

As with the volleyball challenge, as you progress the speed of the rope increases to insane levels. I’ve personally made it up to about 60 jumps and by this time the rope is moving so fast I can’t physically hit the jump button fast enough. Mario doesn’t make it down to the ground quickly enough to start another jump! Gravity isn’t strong enough for me to make these jumps! The A button physically cant be hit fast enough by my finger to jump over the rope! You can literally see the single frames of the rope as it flashes across the screen as quickly as it does: it ceases to be a smooth motion at that rate. 30 frames-per-second doesn’t even survive the jump rope challenge. But Nintendo, a friendly game company that makes easy kid bullshit, forces this onto you if you’re crazy enough to 100% Mario Odyssey. It’s insane and I suppose I’m insaner by trying to 100% a Nintendo game in the first place. Remember taking pictures in Wind Waker? That is what purgatory would be like.

I’m pretty sure this will be the last thing I do in the game as I just can’t make any progress on it and quickly give up to find other moons. The bullshit challenges I mentioned earlier are easier (mostly because they’re real challenges) and I think I’ve beaten the invisible plant poison level already. Hell, I even think the marathon Darker Side of the Moon level will be easier (and more cheeseable) than the stupid jump rope moon is; at least you can use Assist Mode it if you really want to. But Rope? Rope isn’t having none of that shit.

The real technique to getting this goddamn moon.

In all honesty there is a way to glitch the game by using the MARIO letters in New Donk City, but even that appears to be quite a challenge. What you do is clip a letter outside of its boundary and simply sit on it while the rope clips through the letter. With you on top of the letter or hanging on the side the game registers you “jumping over” the rope and this is why all the high scores for the jump rope challenge are all 99999: people cheesed the game with a glitch. But in all honesty getting the moon via glitch seems more rewarding and satisfying than trying to jump that fucking rope 100 times. Let’s just pretend the moon jump rope champion really is titled “MARIO Letters Out-of-Bounds CLIP CHAMPION!” because that’s much more fitting. Fuck jump rope.

Mario basking in the glory of his newly-acquired moon as the rope clips through his foot.

Note: If you read the post on my birthday you know that I actually beat this horrible challenge via the MARIO letter glitch. Truthfully, I don’t even feel guilty about it because glitching the letters out of bounds was way more fun and fulfilling than tapping a perfectly 100+ times would’ve been. I have no guilt and you shouldn’t either if you try to 100% the game.

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Birthdays Suck: Part One

Note: I was in a strange mood when I wrote this; namely I was sleep-deprived and fairly drunk. So it’s a bit different from my most posts that are a bit more “thoughtful.” In fact this post seems to just be a trainwreck of bitching. But in the spirit of just doing whatever the hell I want though, I’ll post it anyways.

To start this post off let me state that I’m typing this on my phone. Yeah. I’m typing this on a Samsung Galaxy S7. Why? you might ask. Well, it isn’t because I feel like doing it, that’s for sure. I’ve written a few blog posts on my phone when I’ve been struck by inspiration and unable to make it to my laptop, but I always sit down, get comfy and in the zone to edit and post them from a real electronic device meant for doing work. Ya know, a proper keyboard and sometimes a USB mouse if I really need to get shit done. Working on a phone isn’t a choice here though: it’s a necessity. Hell, I don’t even know if I’ll make it to posting this from my phone/tablet. But we’ll see. If you read this on June 23 or the 24 I probably persevered and posted it totally from Android products. But I wasn’t happy about it that’s for sure. 

(Spoiler: My computer did start working so I am editing this on a proper device. But the original draft was written on a shitty S7.)

What led to this was my son (a two-year-old) spilled one of my birthday-beers all over my laptop. This didn’t seem to be a problem at first as it still typed okay but after about 20 minutes the keyboard ceased to work at all. This sort of spurred me on with this blog post because I wanted to write about how shitty birthdays are and as the actual day went on I just got more and more fuel to dump on the fire so to say. This event was the final “holy fuck birthdays do suck” event and solidified my will to write a post about it. So to android it was even though I fucking hate typing something on a phone while plopped down on a goddamn couch.

What started the idea of a birthday sucks post was basically me whining and bitching to a coworker a few hours before my birthday actually began. I’ll cover it in a little bit a separate post but it was basically the typical stuff I cry about most of the time: the arbitrariness of how we measure time, how as you age it makes birthdays sucks even more, the (useless) self-reflection that comes with the day, all mixed in with some fairly moderate self-loathing. Some of these themes are already featured on my New Years’ post and my Daylight Savings post. What was a surprise was the fact that I didn’t even have to make it to my birthday for things to start falling apart.

The downward trend started when I was told I needed to take one of the kids to Drive-Right (a driver training school in case they have a different name in your area) at 9 a.m. My birthday was on a Saturday so it should’ve been a relatively carefree day: no school, no work, no doctor appointments, no dentist appointments. There was no reason to have to worry about anything! It’s Saturday after all. This early job of mine kinda threw me off before I even went to bed. I famously need my sleep and anything less than 10 hours fucking destroys me. I also can’t fall asleep unless I lay in bed for 3 or 4 hours. Realistically I think I’m a cat or something. I’ve tried my damndest to change these habits but they seem to be as a belligerent part of me as my DNA is. Me trying to wake up early is like me trying to be taller or something.

What happened around 2 or 3 a.m. was the dread that I wouldn’t get enough sleep. I’d eventually fall asleep and instantly be awakened by an alarm, miserable, tired, and groggy at 8 a.m. or so. That’s only 5 hours of sleep and with every minute that passed that number became less! What happens is you get hit with the anxiety about not being able to sleep. Even while I was physically tired my mind was awake, alert, and dreading the early alarm and the certainty of being tired and miserable. This creates a terrible feedback loop where you can’t sleep and are stressed out about the fact that you can’t sleep and this makes it even less likely you’ll be able to sleep! Around 5 a.m. I quit trying to sleep and got up to play some video games.

So right away my birthday was starting with me suffering from insomnia listening to the birds chirping at 5 a.m. as I groggily played Twilight Princess. I’m not even fond of the game and bitched about it here but it was something to do. Fuck, I even did the Princess Agitha bug quest because there is nothing else to do that early in the morning. I had to pass the time somehow and even though I wasn’t exactly having fun I toiled away finding those infernal golden bugs.

Proof.

From that point on things got really foggy and my past days blended together. I wasn’t sure exactly of the flow of time and the hours seem to both crawl along and jump ahead at the same time. It would be 11:05 and then 11:07 and then 12:15. What the hell was going on? i was able to complete the trip to Drive-Right and from then on I tried to pass the time as quickly as possible. The main goal then on for my birthday was to make it until 110 or 11 p.m. where I could actually get some fucking sleep.

Somewhere in the uncertain flow of time I got that stupid ass moon in Super Mario Odyssey: the infamous jump rope moon. As I mentioned in an unpublished post I had to glitch out the R of the MARIO letters in New Donk City and cheese the fuck out of the game. This isn’t a really important matter but it was seriously one of the highlights of my miserable day. I’ve been utterly dreading this moon for the past half year, and today I got it! On my insomnia ridden hell of a 33rd birthday I got that goddamn moon. Finally.

There’s no way in hell that I was doing that the proper way.

I took about a three hour nap between 12:30 and 3:30 thinking it would help my condition — and it did somewhat — but it didn’t get rid of it completely. I still felt miserable: sleep deprived, jittery, anxiety-ridden and feeling like a bum by “sleeping” until almost 4 in the afternoon. I couldn’t explain it any clearer than by saying that I felt “dirty,” whatever that means. Like my sink felt grimy, my hair felt greasy, and my brain was covered in a toxic fog. My sister mentioned that I sounded like I just came off a cocaine binge and I’d imagine it would feel about the same. The only problem is that I didn’t get the high from actually doing cocaine. I just felt like shit with no upside at all.

So that’s where I am right now, or sort of am. We went out to eat and I had some beers and even though they’re a depressant they seemed to wake me up a bit somehow. About 4 or 5 beers in I almost feel normal. They gave me some focus and motivation towards my goals such as writing a blog post about how shitty birthdays are. But even after the day started to look up the entire beer incident happened and the day went to shit immediately before it almost ended on a high note. On top of birthdays sucking for some higher-up, cerebral matter I’m dealing with the fact they my birthday has been total bullshit for totally mundane matters. This still doesn’t change the fact that birthdays suck for legitimate reasons: it just means I’ll write about it in another post. This one has been rambling and Thompson-inspired enough that it should end sooner than later. Birthdays suck and more on that in a few days.

Apex Legends Sucks

The name of this blog is Everything Sucks so everything has to begin this way. But a full disclaimer on this post right away: I actually like Apex Legends to the extent that I play the game all the time and I think I enjoy myself (mostly) while playing it. I suppose I’m trying to say that I have nothing to fault the actual game for, but the type of game it is has some glaring fucking problems that make the experience less than enjoyable sometimes most of the fucking time. You’ll see what I’m getting at in a bit.

Apex Legends is another one of these battle royale games that has became immensely popular in the previous year or two with games like Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds — affectionately known as “PUB-G” — and Fortnite being, well, immensely popular. Since they’re so popular it’s no surprise that EA, the infamous video game company, also had to jump on board with its own battle royale game called Apex Legends. Another disclaimer is in order here: I’ve never played a battle royale game before Apex so my gripes are probably applicable to other games as well only this is the first time that I’ve experienced them personally. Let’s get into it!

Being the Jumpmaster

The first way this game suck is that it forces one of your three members to be something called “the jumpmaster.” It’s exactly what it sounds like: you’re the one in charge of deciding when and where to jump into the game world which isn’t a trivial thing. Really it isn’t too big of a deal as any good player can make any location they land at work, but to the inexperienced person this seems like a huge fucking deal. It’s anxiety-inducing if you’re new to the game and find yourself as the one to decide where in the world to land your team and how they’re at the mercy of any shitty choice you make in the matter. Like I said it isn’t too big of a deal but this also plays into the next part a bit.

The Butterfly Effect

The butterfly effect (roughly) means that any small choice or action can have huge ramifications in the future. Apex is a perfect example of this in a tiny, “fun”, and easy to understand fashion. For example, think of the jumpmaster from the previous section. If you land in a good location you might find good armor, fewer enemy teams, and this might set you up in a small but decisive way that allows your team to win the game. Conversely, if you make the choice to “hot drop” into a zone where half the other teams also drop there will be a bloodbath and you most likely will die in a few minutes. This is why being the jumpmaster really sucks because where you decide to land could actually determine if you win the game or die within 30 seconds.

That was just one example but these “small choices are a big deal” difficulties are all over the game. Like going into one door could mean you find an enemy squad and get shot in the face and die while another door could mean you find the best armor ever that allows you to barely not die when you do face that enemy squad. The tiny percentage of health that you don’t restore could be the tiny but deciding factor in you and your squad’s demise. I’ve had so many games where I didn’t do anything useful at all only to revive the one person on my team that wins the game for us making me, in retrospect, immensely important to winning the match. Each game you play leaves you wondering “what if?” with every little choice you make having huge implications for the rest of the match.

Randomness and Luck

The weapon, armor, and item spawns are random (more or less I guess) so luck plays a big part in the game. This is nice for inexperienced players as they could accidentally stumble upon an amazing weapon and this helps cut down on the edge good players have. (They can’t just drop where their favorite weapon is every game and dominate.) But it is frustrating when you hot drop into a death zone and upon running into a building to find a weapon — ANY WEAPON AT ALL! — you find two or three totally useless sniper stocks so when you see an enemy in the next 5 seconds you have no way to defend yourself and are instantly dead. This plays into the butterfly effect thing above, and I suppose randomness really drives it, but sometimes the spaws just suck, you find yourself with zero luck, and you die.

I Just Can’t Quit

I’ve had more “Just one more game” syndrome in this game than I’ve had in any other game, including Don’t Starve with the similar “Just one more day” syndrome. It’s so hard to quit when playing this game. This is due to the majority of the games — like 90% — you play being total shit where you die in the first minute due to the reasons mentioned above and below. It’s so hard for a game to be satisfying to ever call it “the last game” where you quit and go about your day. You just can’t end on a low note or even worse an average note. Some games you die before finding a gun, sometimes someone sneaks up behind you and kills you, sometimes your teammates are brand new and are worthless, sometimes your teammates run off and leave you or even exit the game leaving you alone; so much can go wrong that it’s hard to have a game that is decent and an acceptable “last game.” Speaking of others in the game…

I’m Really Bad/Others are Really Good

Part of the addictiveness of the game is the fact that I’m terrible at it. I should say that I’m not terrible at it but I’m not really good at it. I can sort of hold my own and support my teammates but I certainly can’t carry a team with two shitty players.

On the opposite side of the same coin is the fact that there are some really good players out there. It’s one thing to be good against single-player AI in games but it’s a whole other deal playing against actual people who have brains and can think more swiftly than you can about how to surprise and kill their opponents. I’m kinda busy with kids and a job so I can’t play very much but imagine that 12-year-old kid who every damn day gets home from school and plays Apex for six hours straight. Everyday. And this kid has also been playing Fortnite, Call of Duty, PUB-G, or Overwatch for the past five years nonstop. He’s going to be fucking amazing and at the very least way better than most people. It’s these type of people that can and will kill you in less than a second and leave you feeling like dogshit with your playing abilities.

It is pretty amusing when a 10-year-old kid carries your team to victory though.

Awful Teammates

By far the deciding factor in any Apex game is your teammates. If you play with friends you’re probably fine as you most likely have good team chemistry and know what the others are going to do, but if you play with random people you will most likely have a shitty game. I’d say 60% of the games I play are straight-up bullshit, 20% are average, and 10% are decent. This is mostly due to who you get stuck playing with.

The game pairs you up with two other people and just imagine how that can go? Like think of your coworkers and choose two at random that you have to work closely with as a team. You have to protect each other, stick together, and travel together while every other group in the world is trying to fucking kill you. Most of your randomly chosen coworkers will fucking suck; even if you have a few that you think you could work with the majority of them are asshats that do everything wrong. This is exactly how teams in Apex Legends are.

Sometimes you have an inexperienced group that insists on hot dropping and dying instantly because none of them can barely aim a weapon or run but somehow think they can solo 6 other 3-man teams. And then there’s the one guy in the group that thinks he’s a total badass and flies halfway across the map leaving you and your other member just shit out of luck when you get attacked. It’s possible to survive that situation if you’re really fucking good but in a battle royale game like this sticking together is one of the best things you can do to stay alive. Usually the person that goes rouge-solo is either actually really good or really fucking bad but really selfish. Either way it does nothing for the well-being of the group and everyone loses.

I’m not good at the game but I know I’m not as awful as some of these other players are. If I see my squad has shitty armor I’ll point some better stuff out to them and sometimes they just ignore it! Sometimes I’ll point out enemies to my squad and — especially if they’re new — they’ll just run across open ground in view of everyone and just start shooting! This inevitably leads to the entire team’s death in less than a minute because everyone knows where we are and can fish-in-a-barrel us from everywhere. And let’s not forget the people that just ignore you if you’re fallen or dead and give zero fucks about trying to revive you or to save you. Fuck you guys, you’re the worst.

People are usually the main reason anything sucks as we’re a varied species. For every person you get along with that isn’t an asshat there are at least 10 others that fucking suck. We’re talking drivers, workers, people at the store…shitty people are everywhere and Apex is no fucking exception. Most games I play I have average or sub-par teammates that can and will utterly fuck the game up for the team. But sometimes, rarely, you get a good team where everyone has complimentary play styles and everything fits together like a puzzle or a well-oiled and tuned machine. Sometimes everything just works and it’s amazingly fun.

And that’s what makes this game enjoyable to play: searching for that good damn game. Because when the stars do line up and everything works — your teammates are good and take care of each other, you get a good drop, a good weapon, come out on top in an early fire fight, find good loot, and just get plain fucking lucky — the game is fun as hell and amazing. You feel like you’re on top of the world. It’s the fact that so much can, will, and does go wrong that when everything goes right it’s an amazing feeling. Having that game where you and your three-man team comes out on top of 57 other people is a great feeling and leaves you playing over and over again. Apex Legends doesn’t really suck, or maybe it does and that’s why it’s such a fun game to play.

Check out my Instagram where I post pointless artistic pics every whenever I get around to it.

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