January 24, 2012

Orks - kan-did kamera

Say hello to Larry, Curly, and Shemp.



I don't know which one Shemp is, either.



These things took entirely too long. Part of it's just pure motivation to work on them, as plenty of games came out in the last few months, and I've been working 50-60 pretty much every week. Part of it is that I kept trying new stuff. For example, I'm pretty happy with the paint wear, which I applied with a sponge - gives a nice worn effect in a way that would be really hard with an ordinary brush. New grass too, and the tuft-type is a lot more fun to put on than the loose static grass. Looks a lot nicer too, I think.



I'm happy with how this came out (frankly, a lot happier than I am with my photography!) The shoulder icon was one of those things where I kept changing my mind on what I wanted to do with it, but it worked out extremely well in the end.



My tusk technique just plain needs work. I'm trying something that's fairly advanced, but to pull it off you have to have a rock-steady hand, and I just haven't developed it yet. That said, even this doesn't look half-bad on the tabletop, so it'll do until I get a little better. (Turns out that lots of orks mount a horn or tusk somewhere, so I'll need to get this down eventually...)



Remind me to be nice to this guy.

The models for these killa kans were redone after I started playing. The original ones were very plain, basically a garbage can with a visor and a claw of some type tacked on. The new ones have a lot more character. There's something to be said for getting models that are good in the game (and these don't do too badly there either), but there are a few where I look at it and go "ugh, that's just not very nice." These went from that to "get a box!" For that matter, I've got another one I haven't even put together yet...



I was worried about the rokkits on this one. Initially I didn't want to do anything fancy with them, but with just the red they were kind of flat and uninteresting. One of the guys from the 3++ chat suggested I try the bullseye effect on one of them. My freehand painting is, well... just barely adequate to the task, but that's better than the ugly mess I was expecting. Again, looks a little better in real life - this photo is about 200% life size.

Next up, I think, will be another unit of shoota boyz. I like playing with the painted models, and orks work a lot better in bigger groups; really I need 100 or more to put on the table, but I only have 30 regular boyz painted and 20 of those are the choppa-and-pistol-armed variety. It's like they say, you can never have enuff dakka...

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January 19, 2012

Katawa Shoujo - 4/5 paths complete

Still good, with everything but Emi's path complete (not going for 100% completion or anything, just going through each one). Spoilers for the non-Rin, non-Emi routes below.



I'll probably play through Emi's route just for the humor (I'm told there's some comedy gold there) - not really interested in the character archetype. But with three out of five really good paths and one that at least wasn't terrible, the odds are pretty good here...

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January 13, 2012

Katawa Shoujo - Rin finale

Finished the Rin route, good ending. Very satisfying. I misted up a little, even.

One of the reasons it worked is that it isn't a story about the two of them conquering their own disabilities. I mean, yes, Rin has no arms, but that's not what the story is about; it's never about Rin not having arms. You could have completely rewritten it with Rin being completely hale and healthy (but still, well, y'know, Rin, which is to say "if she was actually hale and healthy I'd suspect she might have a mild mental disorder"), and the story would still have been good, and hardly changed to boot.

I'm almost hesitant to start one of the other paths, because I don't think you CAN tell a story about Hisao and Shizune, or Hisao and Lily, that doesn't revolve around their disabilities. But I didn't really expect Rin's story to turn out like that either, so maybe I'll get another pleasant surprise.

I'm astonished that something with the origins of this game could have come out so well. It's like looking in a run-down, condemned shack, and finding a perfect, flawless rose framed in a shaft of golden sunlight. It makes me wonder if the world isn't all right after all.

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January 12, 2012

Katawa Shoujo - Rin for the win



I have a friend who's just like this. Not the arms. She's got arms. But she's very Rin in all other respects.

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December 30, 2011

Star Wars: The good old republic

So! A couple days in and very enjoyable so far. Things it's doing right:

-KOTOR-style story. This game plays quite differently from most MMOs in that you're much more of a role-player than in Warcraft or most other MMOs. The interactive cut scenes mean that your character is much more well-defined, with an actual personality rather than just "I went to place X and did quest Y, give me my shiny". This means it runs at a significantly slower pace, mind you - all those voiced cutscenes take time to play out - but it means that you're building a character based on more than just a min-max analysis of the rewards at stake. For that matter, the game mechanics can bump into each other there - sometimes there's a conflict between what my character would want to do and what gets me light/dark side points, not that I'm trying to optimize exactly. At the same time, they can compliment each other as well - I started playing as a fairly tight-assed Imperial agent but have loosened up considerably under the influence of my irreverent companion, which is actually a pretty clever bit of role-play if you think about it that way.

Downside of that is that it only holds up as long as the quests do - once I run out of stuff to do, that advantage goes away completely. So I don't know that I'll be playing this game for years and years. On the other hand, that's kind of an advantage too...

-Combat. Doesn't feel like WOW, mostly because fights are a lot more oriented toward gunplay and groups. There's still a certain element of "swing at the other guy until someone falls over", but being able to duck behind cover helps a lot. Playing an agent is weird - I'm a stealthy shooty healer class with some crowd control and a backstab?

-A rail-shooter-type space combat minigame I can do for EXP? With daily quest bonuses? And it's optional if I don't feel like it? Heck yeah.

-Upgradeable equipment. Not all of it, but there are a lot of pieces where you can stick with the same look and just upgrade modules as you get higher in level. This gives you a lot more control over your "look" than you usually have in an MMO, and should prevent the problem that a lot of them develop at the endgame (where most of your good players are swanning around in identical outfits), assuming it's balanced right, which who knows at this point.

The big downside is that I have no idea what I'm doing. I was... pretty good at WOW, if we ignore PVP arenas and the like; I generally knew what I was doing and where to look something up if I got lost or confused. The generally-pretty-good-interface here means I'm not getting lost or confused much, but I have a much poorer idea of what sort of things I ought to be doing, or even what's possible TO be doing at a given point.

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December 25, 2011

Christmas cheer for everyone

Visiting the family for the holidays.

One of my brothers got the wrong sort of present. He'd just landed a job with a new employer, and was working his last day with the juvenile corrections department here (and his stories about that rapidly hit "horrific" and don't really get better from there). He got a call from the new employer... who informed him that he'd failed their psych exam and was not going to be hired after all. So now he has no new job, and no old job. Hell of a Christmas present... and not much better as a birthday present, which he celebrated (using the term loosely) on the 24th.

He's taking it pretty well, all things considered. And financially he oughta be okay (still lives with the folks, so not much in the way of bills...)

Mom got a new television for her bedroom (now, I have purchased every television in this house). Dad got a new laptop, since he's losing his work one with his impending retirement. Jeff got his Mosin-Nagant, now just leaving us with the problem of how to get it back to his house in Berkeley. My own take was pretty modest, some books, some odds and ends, and a very nice jacket.

Got talked into trying out the new Star Wars MMO (more like, watched a guy playing it and thought "yeah, okay, I'll try this"), at least once I get back to Dallas. Won't be leaving until Tuesday, though. Mom's got a plan for a family picture tomorrow morning (9 AM, gawd...), but she's got a fairly terrible cold, so...

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December 12, 2011

Anime this season

Not following a whole lot, honestly, though Fate/Zero is on the "watch it all in one shot" list for later. Haganai and Mirai Nikki follow...

more...

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December 05, 2011

Skyrim: ending complaint

Ending of Skyrim spoilers below, relating to the Thieves' Guild quest series not meshing well with the rest of the story:
more...

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November 28, 2011

Cut it out, Robert

I've ordered from Robert's Anime Corner Store before and been satisfied with the service and the price. I know plenty of people who swear by him and plenty who just swear at him. I can understand his taking the occasional verbal swipe at Right Stuf, which occasionally uses it's "we're the warehouse operation for all the little studios" position to give its retail arm an advantage. I've ordered from Right Stuf before and been completely satisfied, and at other times somewhat less than satisfied (thinking of one particular figure order which sat for two or three months past release without anything beyond the regular "we don't have it in stock" e-mail, then shipped... obviously it came over by slow boat, which means they ought to have had a pretty good estimate for when they could actually deliver it, and it would have been nice to have shared that information with me!)

I saw that they were running a special on figures, and was browsing through the lists, where I saw a few Lucky Star figures. I don't actually have a lot of desire for a Yutaka or Miyuki in gym uniform, thanks all the same, which is a damn good thing when I looked at the "sale price"... of $150, discounted from the "regular price" of $200.

What.

Look, I appreciate that RACS occasionally finds itself with stock on hand for items which have been discontinued, and I know that they will sometimes mark those items up - after all, if that's the only one there's ever going to be, maybe it's worth it. I know that's something that puts a bee in some people's bonnets, but eh, it's not unreasonable.

But if you then decide to put that item on sale? The jacked-up price is NOT the regular price of that item. Running a sale and claiming it as the "regular price" isn't any more ethical than Best Buy taking a TV selling for $800, then putting it on 50% sale for $799 from the "normal price" of $1,600. Hell, the "sale price" for some of those models is their original price, give or take a few yen... and that's taking into account that some of these were probably purchased at a more favorable exchange rate than what we're looking at now, too.

I get that having "multiple" retail prices might be more than what the RACS web site can accommodate, but still, this sort of thing stinks. If they're not moving at the inflated price and it's time to come down to normal, okay, I don't blame Robert for trying for more. But a sale based on a retail price the item never sold for? Come on, your customers deserve better than that.

No links since I'm complaining... probably I ought to send an e-mail directly, huh?

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Givin' thanks

Had a good holiday, spent most of the week in Houston with my parents. Turkey was consumed, dressing took one for the team, mass quantities of my favorite fruit salad disappeared down the ravening maw, and so on. It's nice that I'm still living close enough that I can drop in every so often and spend some time.

Was a pretty good weekend on the acquisition front too. Finally stepped into something approximating the 21st century with respect to phones, dropping the old dumbphone for a Galaxy S2. So now I have an Android device which seems to want "apps", which is great except that I don't actually know what apps I could actually use. No, I'm not playing Angry Birds until some day when I'm REALLY bored. Anyone got any other ideas?

The other big purchase was a Mosin-Nagant rifle. Found a dealer who had them in stock for $109, and thought "hey, I don't actually own a rifle..." Obviously it's not a good rifle in the sense that it lacks a lot of modern bells and whistles, and it is literally older than my father (armory markings from '42!), but it's dirt cheap and in pretty good shape once all the Cosmoline came off, and Russkie ammo isn't too expensive either. And at the end of the day, it's perfectly good for putting a (fairly big) hole in a piece of paper, or a varmint of up to bear size, or for manning the barricade etc. Picked up a case and a cleaning kit, while I've got a recoil pad and stripper clips on the Christmas list for the family. I'll get some pics up later.

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On Orky goodness

Wonderduck asks:

You know, I've been reading Ciaphas Cain: Hero of the Imperium, and I'm struck by one question: why would anybody play as anything OTHER than the Orks? They appear to be the one bright spot in an otherwise craptacular galaxy.

It's true that orks have more fun; in fact, in the generally ghastly environment of 40k, where In The Grim Darkness Of The Future, There Is Only War (tm), they're pretty much the only ones having fun. But they're still pretty hideous!

Orks aren't really creatures of reason. They're programmed to be the way they are, genetically; in the ol' "nature vs nurture" debate, orks are 99.9% nature. Sure, for some of them that includes the knowledge of how to build spacecraft out of rusty scraps... And it's not that it's impossible for an ork to self-reflect or to appreciate a philosophical argument, but any ork that actually does is pretty much by definition insane. As far as other orks are concerned, it's more rational to wear your pants on your head than it is to ask "why are we here?" Orks don't ever, ever suffer from anomie.

Ork society is brutal beyond anything Hobbes ever envisioned. There are only two reasons that it works, to the degree that it works at all - orks are instinctively submissive (to a degree) to bigger orks, and the ork/grot/squig/snotling/fungi ecosystem is incredibly, unreasonably, what-the-zog robust. Pretty much everything is settled through violence, without even the benefit of ritual. That puts something of an upper limit on the size of an ork empire, simply because beyond a certain point a big ork boss doesn't have to worry about a bigger ork boss showing up with all his forces and kicking the crap out of him. Orks can't conquer the galaxy.

Wouldn't even want to, for that matter. Who would they fight? Each other? Well, of course they do that all the time, and if all the other factions died out, orks would happily fight orks until the heat death of the universe (that's as close to a victory scenario as orks get!) But they're also quite happy to have other species to kick around, get into scraps with, enslave and work to death in their happy-go-lucky, slapdash way. It's quite horrible if you think about it - orks are quite capable of being just as horrible as Nazis, though instead of by malice, they get there from sheer short-sightedness and impatience.

There are no "good guy" orks. There aren't noble orks. Their admirable qualities are limited to tenacity, and a kind of honesty when it comes to motivations. They're out to fight, and the only thing that will stop them from fighting is the promise of a bigger, better fight to come (and at that, they'll still scuffle, raid, and pillage on the way to that other fight!) But even those orks would still happily murder their mothers in their sleep, if they ever had mothers.

As for real-world reasons why they're not the most popular faction, the rules (especially in their current edition) favor small, resilient units in a mechanized-infantry setup. Orks generally get fielded in large packs of infantry with little armor and relatively little anti-tank capability. Their rule set is a little old and not really balanced to be competitive with the newer sets of army rules; unlike a couple of the older army books, orks are still a little competitive, mostly because they're generally pretty cheap when it comes to point values. (That doesn't necessarily dissuade people who like playing orks, because you can lose a game with orks and still have a lot of fun doing it. But not many people are drawn to orks because of their overwhelming rules advantages...)

Another real-world factor is, well, they aren't cheap when it comes to cash value. The average army for space marines might come to fifty models and a handful of tanks, with some variants having as little as a dozen figures on the table. Ork armies that go for a small number of elite models tend to suck; to take advantage of their strengths, you need a lot of orks, so 50 is miniscule and 100 is still on the low side.

Finally, there's the logistics aspect. I don't actually play 40K that often, simply because rounding up the various models and getting them down to the store is a real chore, especially when you start factoring in the large-size models such as trukks, deffkoptas, battlewagons, and what have you. And in tournaments, having a horde army is a disadvantage all by itself - it takes a lot longer to move all those models, which means you rarely finish games in the allotted time window. Finally, if you like having a nice painted army, orks are kind of a worst-case scenario - tremendous numbers of models, but complicated enough that speed-painting techniques such as dipping don't work terribly well for them.

Don't get me wrong, they've got advantages too, else why do I have so many of 'em? But it's very much a thing of attitude. If you're going to like orks, you don't need someone to tell you why orks are awesome.

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November 22, 2011

Why, hoi-llo



This HoiHoi-san brought to you courtesy of Steven Den Beste, who ordered it and then discovered it was a model kit and not a completed model. I said I'd have pics, though I didn't quite anticipate them coming together THIS quickly. But the model kit was so well-made (mostly!) that it was quite pleasant to put together.

It's not QUITE done. The model is made out of colored plastic but the various weapons are not, nor is the USB plug dust cover in back behind her hair, so I've a little painting yet to do. Further, there's some touch-up work that I could profit from, mostly covering up places where I had to sand down the scar left from removing bits of plastic from the sprue. (Overall there's very little of this - the white, skin, and peach colors are hardly visible at all - but the scars on the earpieces and black skirt stand out quite a bit more, even if they don't show up in this shot.)

There are a couple places where I could fill small gaps, but the problem with that would be that I would have to paint over the material I fill them with (it's green). That would mean either matching colors VERY exactly or just painting over that color everywhere. The figure was clearly designed with this capability in mind (there's spare transfers for the details like the eyebrows, lashes, and apron logo), but it's also a lot of work for something that wouldn't be a huge improvement. Given that we're talking a little robot maid-assassin here, it doesn't have to look completely lifelike. And there's a limit to my skill when it comes to that sort of thing, of course.

I'll put some finished pics up once I've painted up the sword and plug and patched up the scars. Honestly, I was expecting the whole process to take a lot longer, but it went together pretty easily. Unfortunately I'm leaving in the morning for a few days in Houston, so it'll be at least next weekend before I'm completely done...

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November 18, 2011

Skyrim, and breaking Elder Scrolls games

The original Morrowind was fairly easy to break. There were several pieces of near-max-level gear lying around where enterprising low-level characters could sneak up and take them. You could also custom-craft spells, which were assigned costs based on their power... and their duration. So even a middling-good magic user could cast a spell that would raise their Intelligence 50 points for, say, two seconds. Pretty worthless, except... crafting takes place in a menu and not in real time. So you cast the spell, and suddenly you're whipping up much more effective potions. But the real game-breaker was when you would do that, then make a few potions of Fortify Intelligence... then down them all at once. Then you do it again. Then you do it again. Eventually your intelligence stat was ridiculous, and you could then make the potions you were really wanting... which would make a level 1 wimp able to one-shot the end bosses, at least for a minute or so.

Oblivion was a little more streamlined, in that you couldn't endlessly stack potion bonuses, and you couldn't make tiny-duration-huge-magnitude spells. The most broken thing I encountered in that was the dreaded homemade demon-slaying lightning bazooka - a staff enchanted with a whopping lightning attack and a soul trap spell. Shoot monster, monster dies, monster's soul gets sucked into handy-dandy Azura's Star (a reusable soul gem), monster's soul gets used as mana battery... so long as you're just fighting monsters, you've got a doom-broom with infinite ammo. You had to have some decent skills to get it built in the first place, though.

Skyrim's even more limited in many respects - a lot of the game-breaking stats aren't even there to modify anymore. But it turns out that there's good synergy between the three crafting skills, Smithing, Alchemy, and Enchanting. Having a higher alchemy skill lets you make better potions, while a higher enchanting skill lets you make items with stronger enchantments. You can make potions of Fortify Alchemy or Fortify Enchanting... and you can enchant equipment with the same stats. Furthermore, leveling Alchemy is just a matter of hammering away at making potions. Enchanting is a little more difficult as you need filled soul gems, but you can always level off of junk (you find lots of petty soul gems in your travels). Smithing isn't really hard to level up either - there are lots of places to mine iron ore, or you can just buy it, or you can just hunt deer and make stuff out of the resulting leather.

So a character can focus almost wholly on crafting and get those skills up quite high. Then you make your best alchemy-bonus gear and potions, and then use them to make your best enchanting-bonus gear and potions. The goal is an extremely good set of smithing-bonus gear and potions. You can then bang out the best possible gear that you can create and improve it as high as possible - which, if you overdo it enough, will get you to the highest possible damage reduction even against warhammer-wielding enemies with the maximum armor-ignoring ability. A little scary...

You can't really do that as a low-level character in Skyrim - especially because getting the necessary skill in enchanting, smithing, and alchemy will level you up a few times all by itself. But even so, with some effort you can get far enough in front of the game's difficulty curve that you can trivialize it - we're talking one-shotting dragons here.

I'm not playing anything like that - my smithing, alchemy, and enchanting are in the comfortable mid-50s, on a level 36 character (so about 3/4 of the way up to the soft level cap, or half the theoretical I-leveled-everything-to-max value, not that I could possibly be arsed to work on my pickpocketing or light armor...) Still, it's a fun intellectual exercise, and a good example of a positive feedback loop.

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November 11, 2011

Skyrim!

Put about three hours into it so far. Just plain good-looking, nothing else to it. I need to find the screen shot key, some of these outlooks are just pretty. (And others are almost completely white-out blizzards - I mean, night in the frozen northlands is not known for its sultry breezes - but they're well-done blizzards.)

They've kept most of the skills around but changed up the stats pretty strongly (or rather, as near as I can tell, they got rid of them altogether?) No classes this time around either. Every skill I've leveled up has taken me closer to gaining a character level, and I've picked up five or so of those just doing the local gadabout near the beginning. Feels like a bit of a sprint, I do hope that it levels off somewhat. Skills do the normal go-up-with-use, or training, same as usual. Level customization comes in "perks" - you get one per level, and each skill has an associated tree of perks. Some of the effects look distinctly meh, some look brokenly powerful. So far I've just sank a couple into Heavy Armor... upping my armor's effectiveness by 40% early on has made my character into a bit of a juggernaut. Saving the others until later.

I'll be playing this one juuuuust a little, I think...

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November 02, 2011

Disgaea 4 - making a dent

Starting to bog down a little, honestly, though there's plenty of content yet.

Disgaea has always let you play around with a big party... but at the same time, it's far easier to deal with a small number of characters. It's all a matter of equipment. Each piece of gear (more or less) comes in 40 different, mostly-humorously-named varieties of various strength, and then modified again for rarity. Going into the item world lets you level up an item and increase its statistics... and it also means playing through random levels, so you'll get equipment rewards too, not to mention experience from killing enemies. It's not uncommon to go into an item world for, say, a Mad Cleaver and to get two more Mad Cleavers as rewards...

That said, the game definitely rewards you for having characters that are significantly tougher than the enemies they're fighting. If your SPD stat is a lot higher than their HIT, they won't be able to lay a finger on you. If your RES is a lot higher than their INT, their magic will fizzle. If your DEF is a lot higher than their ATK, well, you just won't take damage. Against a dozen or so level 100 characters, it's far better to have a couple of level 200 characters with higher stats, rather than your own ten level 100 characters. This is magnified by the story characters generally having special attacks with wider areas of effect, and other little bonuses to boot. Each character can have a weapon and three pieces of armor, so there's a LOT more work (read: grinding) involved in keeping up with a large party.

That said, there are disadvantages when playing with only one or two bone-breakers. If your Valvatorez is head and shoulders above the rest of your party (mine's about 470 at the moment, with Fuka, Flonne, and my fire mage around 220-230), then you'll do great so long as you're beating up on stuff Val can one-shot and wade through without taking damage. But when you reach the point where he CAN'T do that, you've just hit a wall. You can bring out your other characters to support and reinforce him... but they're a lot weaker than he is, and the AI is good enough to smell blood in the water, and if they're able to scratch Val they will -wreck- someone 300 levels lower. So your runners-up buy it in one or two floors, leaving you with a wounded Val and a bunch of characters that aren't any higher than 100 or 120... generally a good time to use Mr. Gency's Exit.

It's not all doom and gloom. It's relatively easier for you to fling characters around, and easier to augment their speed, than it was in past games. This means you can win a lot of item world levels by ignoring all the enemies and just tossing someone into the exit gate on turn 1. Even better, you can do this with relatively weak characters, since nobody's going to damage you on your own turn when you're not attacking them. Have a Gunner pick up Fenrich, have an Armor Knight pick them both up, fling the Gunner, fling Fenrich, and have him run for the gate, and you've got a striking range of something like 15-16 squares (gets you across many levels). Of course, that doesn't work so well if there's an enemy gatekeeper sitting in the exit gate...

It can be tough to catch up with characters you don't use much, too. You can make an effort to use them more, but since their stats are low, they aren't very effective. I need to explore some of the things you can do to bulk up your rookies aside from just pouring EXP into them with the Evil Symbols (for example, you can use Magichange to arm them with Desco - they split EXP with her, but get a lot stronger, as you would expect if they are wielding a sword which is also Cthulhu's kid sister.)



Alas, no maids so far.

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October 18, 2011

Trukk complete!

Finally!



Not actually any good at this stuff yet, but perseverance and thin paints help a lot.



Did some things on this one that I hadn't tried before (drybrushing the dirt and some of the paint wear in the trukk bed, for example), and I'm generally pleased with how everything came out. Last, a pic of the krew, before I glued the "windshield" in place:



Think I'll see about painting up a squadron of killa kans next. They're orky as all get out, and pretty good in game terms, so I'm likely to end up using them in most of the games I play. Also should let me try out some stuff with the bases and that shipment of buffalo grass tufts I got in...

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October 11, 2011

Disgaea 4 - movin' on up

It's not like I'm doing nothing but Disgaea lately, just that most of the rest is painting, and I want to finish the trukk before I bother taking more pictures of it.

Got the main quest out of the way. Was definitely tougher than in some of the previous games... a level 200 Laharl could breeze through the finale of the first game, but even at 250 and with a fairly nice weapon, Valvatorez wouldn't have been able to solo the last chapter.

In some ways, D4 has enough features that they occasionally get in the way of making good use of other features. The accumulation of named characters is definitely one of those. You start off with Valvatorez and his trusty sidekick Fenrich, and Fuka and Desco both follow along shortly thereafter; now that I've closed out the main quest, I've got no fewer than seven named characters along, five of which are darned good. Val is just a solid bonebreaker, Fuka has decent flexibility and high damage output, Desco has good wide-area attacks and lots of 'em, and without spoiling anything, there's one support caster who's as good as a Magic Knight and another healer-support with some good points too. (Ironically, Fenrich has been out of my rotation for so long that he's not even level 50 yet - his damage output wasn't keeping up even with good equipment.)

That said, some of my random characters are quite powerful too - Valentine the Star Skull (i.e. second-rank male caster, who was a Red Skull back before his reincarnation) has my biggest single-target damage in the game, literally able to summon the mascot from Animate to burn the enemy with his fiery passion.


(Most of the attacks aren't anime cameos, but for some reason all the Omega-level spells are. Horo for wind, Index for healing, Lotte as a good reason not to bother with ice, and... Shin Bikkuriman for non-elemental? I wondered if I had been dropping bad acid when that first showed up...)

Still at something of an awkward stage, though. I'm getting to the point where I'd benefit from reincarnating some of these guys, but before I do a lot of that, I'd like to spend some time in Chara World to expand the Evil Symbols for sharing mana and experience... which is a lot easier if you FIRST reincarnate a couple characters, of course. Heh...

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September 26, 2011

Disgaea 4 - baby steps

Coming straight out of the gate, Disgaea 4 is much more like a regular strategy RPG. Your characters all have easily-defined roles, and those roles are basically "beat face" or "cast heal". It's important to surround individual enemies and attack in sequence to take advantage of the combo bonus. You have very little ability to move enemies around the map, and while you can stack up three or four people to throw a character a long way, you'll likely lose most of the participants as they get mobbed by enemies on their turn.

Once you've got twenty levels or so under your belt, you'll start adding other features. You'll be tough enough that ten levels in an item world is something you can make it through - and a level 10 Imperial Seal can be a big boon to a starting character. You'll have enough mana (not magic points, but the currency you get by beating enemies - widely useful and perennially in short supply) to buy your first special attacks, and to unlock some of the basic Evil Symbols on the map. Generally you're better off focusing on a small number of characters - it's more effective to level up Valvatorez and Fuka, or some of the other hard-hitters, as they'll let you move further into the game, where you can get much nicer items for everyone.

On the down side, mana only goes to characters who get kills, which means that characters which are significantly under-leveled will be very hard to upgrade. Fortunately the use of Evil Symbols can help here - one shares out experience earned, another shares out mana, and so you can throw one of your "good" characters into a group with some of your back-benchers and let them leech EXP and mana. (The shape of the Evil Symbols means you probably can't do both at the same time, and it'll be a while before you get to expand your symbols...)

Eventually you'll get to the point where you're ready to experiment with transmigration - you can reincarnate a character, who will become a level 1 character of whatever class you choose (excepting your story characters, who just come back as better versions of themselves). Fortunately it's not too hard to make up your lost levels, and you get a bonus to your level-up stat boosts based on how many levels you sacrifice (and how much mana you spend). On top of that, there are a lot of opportunities to reincarnate into a more advanced version of your current class, which will have better "aptitudes" - basically a bonus to the stats which you get from your equipment.



Desco is wearing a lot of hats in the story, figuratively speaking. Fuka versus Valvatorez could get old quickly, but Fuka and Desco with two different outside perspectives is a different matter. Fuka plus Desco can act girly in opposition to the testosterone-laden demons, but on the flip side, Tyrant Valvatorez and the ultimate final weapon Desco (look, that's not a spoiler, it calls her that in the manual!) see eye to eye when it comes to slaughter as a solution for life's little problems. The use of "minnagoroshi" in her Japanese lines is quite common...

The fact that she has two giant tentacle cannons with the stopping power of a crazed rhinoceros on bad acid doesn't hurt either. Early on, your characters will be doing heavy single-square attacks, or rather weak wide-range ones; Desco comes in at a time where she's more or less your only "wreck that whole group, please" option.

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September 22, 2011

Disgaea 4 - like coming home

I enjoy playing strategy RPGs as much as any other genre of game - maybe a little more, as a good one will have lots of deep mechanics that you can sink your teeth into. The classic of the genre is Final Fantasy Tactics - good story, good strategy elements, and lots of quirky character types and customization options. (Not in the shallow sense of "hm, what RGB value do I want for this guys' hair", but in the sense of "hm, if I level him up some in Ninja he'll be able to equip the Blade Grasp ability when he goes back to Knight!")

If a normal game is a meal, and a good strategy RPG is a feast, then the Disgaea games are a Brazilian buffet where waiters bring you endless quantities of barbecued meat.

They're silly, don't get me wrong. The plots are less an example of great writing and more of an example of how odd Japan can be. The fourth wall is broken with gleeful abandon by genre-aware characters. No trope is safe. I can't imagine even trying to take it seriously.

And yet... there's just so much that you can play with. Level up characters to unlock new classes, then reincarnate the characters INTO those classes and level them up again. Equip basically any item you want, then travel into the item through some randomly-generated (quick) levels in order to increase the item's stats. Fight monsters inside the items to gain stat bonuses that you can move into completely other items. Mix and match abilities, borrow 'em from your allies. Fling your troops across the map with reckless abandon. Eventually get to the point where your abilities, and even the damage you deal, is expressed in scientific notation.

Disgaea 4 has all of that and a bunch of new stuff. Not only do the items have Item Worlds to enter, but now the characters have their own Character Worlds, giving self-improvement an entirely new meaning. People's characters will hop into your Senate sessions in order to wreak havoc or collect bribes (fortunately, not player-controlled, so nobody can grief you on purpose... but that doesn't mean their level 5000 foreign minister won't vote you down anyway!) A grid system lets you assign certain characters to territory and then give them bonuses based on buildings you create (and you can upgrade the buildings too). At some point you can even get a pirate ship and go raiding other players; apparently something called Reverse Pirating is the source of some of the best stuff in the game, not that I have clue one how you'd actually DO that yet.



Three chapters in and Fuka's running away with the show. Or maybe I'm just weak to the Prinny hat, who knows? But I'm having tremendous fun.

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September 15, 2011

Keep on trukkin'

Been painting away, busy as... well, I'd like to think "busy as a beaver" but I've been working on this thing for a month already and it's not nearly done yet. "How can you paint so slow," people ask? Well... I read a lot.



One ork trukk, getting to the point where it's not completely embarrassing to show off. Still needs some extra washes, a lot of highlighting (especially the red, which I'm looking forward to trying out), and some miscellaneous clean-up. It's to the point where I wouldn't feel bad about putting it on a gaming table, but eh, why not get the most out of it?



Miku, just a little lost...

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