Tag: Dungeons and Dragons

Webcomics worth a watchful eye

Webcomics worth a watchful eye

Oh boy, this is a topic I’ve wanted to dive into for some time!

I consume a lot of media. Movies. Books. Video games. Podcasts. YouTube videos.

But also webcomics, which is a subject I haven’t had too many occasions to touch on despite it being one of my favorites.

The closest I’ve gotten was briefly mentioning my time with Homestuck the day it ended.

That particular comic was a different experience, however. My time with it was more concentrated to high school where updates were exciting events. It was much more of a social, community-driven interest for me.

I spent a good amount of time reading fan theories on Tumblr (recently in the news) and fan fictions on Wattpad (which I was surprised to find out still exists).

I went as Dave Strider to Anime Expo one year.

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Had to dig through the dark bowels of my early Facebook posts to find this…

I even started planning out this big Dungeons and Dragons-esque fan roleplay with my friend Sam.

Found the planning sheet for that when I was cleaning out my old Mac, and I think her reaction to it says everything:

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All that doesn’t take away from how excellent the webcomic itself was. Even before it was finished, there were some great think pieces about it — my favorite being from PBS Idea Channel.

Finding out that video is almost seven years old hurt my soul… So let’s move into contemporary subjects.

More of the webcomics I read today are quiet, personal experiences. Super fun and often passionate projects from individual creators and small teams that haven’t reached the scope of something like Homestuck.

The most recent of which, Kid Midnight, being my spark to finally talk about them.

It all started yesterday when I was catching up on a few episodes of the podcast Still Untitled (most notably starring Adam Savage of Mythbusters fame). The usual suspects were discussing Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse with Ben Acker, who plugged his recent venture with the artist Natalie Nourigat.

His pitch was that the comic is an autobiographical story being drawn by a facsimile of Batman’s sidekick, Robin, as he tries to decide whether he’ll be a superhero or go to art school.

That was enough to sell me, but after reading through the seven current ‘episodes,’ I feel it sells the project short.

Kid Midnight is all about that sidekick dealing with not just career goals, but also the other trappings of adolescence. Love one is too scared to admit, popularity, imposter syndrome…

All guised in an incredibly charming, funny and beautiful comic.

Just go read it. I promise it’s worth the time, and you can bang out what’s there in a half hour tops. When I write this, anyway.

Next on my docket of favorite webcomics to suggest is Erma, by Brandon Santiago.

The elevator pitch for this comic is simple: Imagine if the monster from The Ring was actually a lovely, sociable woman who married a human that writes horror novels.

The comic centers around their young daughter — Erma — as she goes to school, spends time with her friends and does supernatural stuff.

It’s honestly one of the most adorable things I’ve ever read. You get a brilliant contrast between horror tropes and “scary” images that are followed by Erma watching Warrior Unicorn Princess with her babysitter.

The comic begins with one-off stories like you might see on the funny pages. But eventually there are sprawling story arcs — the current one about Erma and her family going to a Yokai village in Japan to meet her Yakuza-esque grandfather.

It’s wonderful to see the passionate community blossom over time, and the author has recently announced plans for spin-off comics being drawn by other artists and a phone app. There’s a lot to love!

For the final stop on my tour, I’m going to go in a bit more of an obtuse direction.

Tales of Elysium is another long-running comic from a team called Sleepless Skink Productions that presents a vision of Pokémon similar to the Mystery Dungeon series.

Except with a far darker tone and narrative.

The story centers around a Riolu named Leon and a Totodile named Vagus as they get sucked into conflict with a demented band of Pokémon and their feral underlings who hope to… Well we don’t totally know yet.

Presumably destroy all of the surviving members of an ancient civilization so they can take over the world.

We just haven’t gotten the full backstory at this point.

The story is quite long with no signs of slowing down anytime soon, and there are just as many quiet, enthralling character moments as there are swashbuckling Pokémon battles in a gruesome, more realistic style than you’ve probably ever seen.

I would argue the art direction of Tales of Elysium is its strongest selling point. Every single panel is immaculate — almost TOO good for a project focusing on Pokémon.

Though I wouldn’t say that because I adore Pokémon.

Also because the story and characters that have been created for that world more than justify a beautifully dramatic art style.

So there you are. Three different flavors of comics for your viewing pleasure.

Though I’m still fresh to Kid Midnight, I would definitely say it fits into my pantheon of weekly reads alongside Erma and Tales of Elysium. Catching up on my comics each Friday has become a favorite wind-down activity for me.

However, I’m always looking out for more!

If there are any webcomics out there that you love, please don’t hesitate to let me know about them. I’d love to expand my scope even further.

Spring 2019 first impressions

Spring 2019 first impressions

Alternate Title: “Last Ditch Effort”

Last semester I started what could be considered a tradition by writing about my early class impressions.

Granted that “tradition” was started literally one semester before the end so it doesn’t mean THAT much… But hey.

Traditions.

Given that it is my last semester at Cal State Fullerton, I actually have a pretty strange class layout. I’m taking seven, but only four are on campus.

Oh, and one of those four on-campus classes doesn’t meet every week.

As a result I’m essentially at CSUF two-and-a-half days this semester.

I’m not sure how I managed to achieve that while taking seven classes, but I guess that’s the nature of being a near-graduate.

As a result of that weird schedule, the degree to which I can talk about my classes varies. But it’s about as good a time to do so as any.


Cognitive Psychology

This semester we start with my only multi-day class and the end of my journey into a Psychology minor.

I took Cog Psych on the recommendation of a friend from my Sensation and Perception class. She had taken this course before and figured it would work out well for me considering my previous experiences.

Based on the curriculum so far I can’t really argue, even though I have a different professor.

In the two class periods we’ve had, the early subjects have all overlapped with things I previously learned. A third of the semester will even be focused on Learning and Memory, which I took last semester.

So if my general knowledge keeps up, I might just be ahead of the curve.

My biggest complaint is nitpicky, tying into how the desks are randomly dispersed and require students sitting in the same column to have to enter from different aisles.

Aesthetically annyoing, but harmless.

As far as my professor goes, I do like her thus far. She’s apparently a semi-recent immigrant from Egypt, which makes her an intriguing character with a slightly thick accent. Seemingly new to teaching, which could be good or bad depending.

However, considering I came in so positive about my last two Psych professors and got burned hard, I’m cautiously optimistic.

Guess I’ll just have to see.


Communications Law

Working for the Daily Titan may be the capstone course for the Journalism program, but Comm Law is considered the cream of the crop in terms of difficult classes.

Whether or not I succeeded in saving the work-heavy class for an ample time depends on your take regarding my ‘seven classes versus two days on campus’ debate.

Even though I don’t have the usually lauded Journalism department head as my professor, I still got the impression I’ll be very interested and engaged just from our first three-hour class.

My professor is plenty energetic and casual about the subject in a way that suggests her breadth of experience and all-encompassing love for it.

My one trepidation is that she seemingly decided to start winging it in the middle of the first day, shifting course to more of a traditional lecture style instead of a reversed classroom, video lecture style.

I’m not sure how much that will actually change things, and I think I prefer the sound of what we’re doing now, but it’s hard to inspire too much confidence when the immediate impression is “let’s wing it.”

Though maybe that ties in well with the casual air I like about the professor. So it could all mesh together quite nicely now that we’re past the initial civics recap.


Gaming and American Culture

In case you missed it, I wrote a post yesterday more or less discussing my first impressions about this class in service of a larger debate.

So I’ll keep it brief here and thank myself for the foresight.

Despite the fact that I apparently didn’t bother to fact check myself on the course’s name, I think this will arguably be one of the best things I’ve decided to do with my college career.

We’re reading great books, watching great movies, playing Dungeons and Dragons, analyzing video games (and board games and sports) and at the end I might even get to record my own pseudo-take on a Let’s Play.

It’s quite literally 15-year-old Jason’s dream class.


Senior Honors Colloquium

This is the class that I mentioned will only happen on certain weeks.

Ironically, this week was not one of them.

Because it’s taught by the Director of the Honors Program, she needed to be at the Welcome Back event held that same afternoon.

As a result I really can’t say much about the class itself. My friend who had it on a different day said the experience was pretty chill.

All I know is that it’s essentially going to be a bunch of planning to finish our Honors Projects, culminating in the conference of presentations at the end of the semester.

Shouldn’t be too bad.


With that, I’m all out of on-campus classes.

The remaining three are kind of similar in that they’re independent study experiences.

One is my Comm Internship class, where I just need to log 120 hours doing Gladeo-related stuff and turn in a few reflection papers online. Nothing too crazy.

The other two are Senior Honors Project Blocks, one of which is scheduled with my mentor Dr. Rizzo. They’re more or less the actual work half of the Colloquium class. I’ll be meeting with Dr. Rizzo on a weekly basis, possibly doing some outside meetings with people and going over my novel.

That about sums up my semester.

I’ll have two-and-a-half days of classes, with the rest of my four-day weekends being devoted to homework, work-work and writing.

A strange culmination to my schooling experience, but one that makes sense as a denouement for three converging threads of study.

At this point the best I can hope for is a more fun experience than last semester, which drained the life out of me by the time it was through.

Smooth sailing to graduation here we come!

He said, obviously jinxing himself.

An impossible choice

An impossible choice

I want to put more effort into the post with my thoughts on classes this semester, so I’ll be saving that for tomorrow.

However, today I’m going to sort of ruin that by spoiling my thoughts on the class I’m looking forward to most.

All in service of discussing an existential crisis it has delivered unto me.

While most of my classes are wrapping up my Comm major, Psych minor and Honors distinction, one in particular stands out as being taken purely for myself.

An American Studies class: Gaming in American Society.

I’m no stranger to the American Studies department, as I did take an AMST course on  American Character during sophomore year. Yet that was mainly to fill a general education requirement.

I took Gaming in American Society simply because I adore gaming. Plus I have 21 years of experience in American society, I suppose.

After one class I’m already convinced taking it (as per the recommendation of my friend Mimi) was one of the better decisions I’ve made in my college career. Especially as a final semester swan song.

It’s a 400-level course with a good amount of “dumb fun” elements to the curriculum given its subject matter.

Our novel selection includes Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One and Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game. We’re also watching a whole host of movies including 1983’s WarGames and 2012’s Indie Game the Movie, all about the development of titles like Super Meat Boy and Fez.

In other words I’ve already consumed a large chunk of the required materials.

The stuff I haven’t yet consumed seems plenty interesting in its own right, even outside of the bias that comes from knowing they stand in a pantheon of enjoyable media.

Hell there’s even a day where we’re just going to spend our three-hour class just playing Dungeons and Dragons. How sweet is that?

Another objectively cool element of the class is that essays are replaced by a long-form research project where we get to choose a game to analyze. Then the three papers we write will be pulled into one mega-paper as our final.

As someone who writes pseudo-game reviews on this blog and actual reviews for papers like the Daily Titan (big Nintendo hitters like Mario and Kirby at that), I should arguably be the most excited for this portion.

Yet I’ve hit a conundrum.

How the hell do I pick just ONE video game to analyze when I could arguably do it for any of my favorites?

Should I analyze one of my favorite nostalgic games of all time, like Pokémon Crystal?

Or for that matter one of the objectively better Pokémon games, given it is my favorite video game series. Perhaps Heartgold and Soulsilver or Black and White 2?

Maybe I should pick a game with more of a cultural impact considering I’ll need to write about its wider historical context. I could potentially use Ocarina of Time (or its 3DS remake), as much as games of that caliber have been analyzed to death in the past.

The Nintendo fanboy in me could downplay itself as well, leading me to analyze a game I enjoy but haven’t spent quite as much time with. Kingdom Hearts 2 or Simpson’s Hit and Run on the Playstation or even something like Don’t Starve or FTL as indie representation out of Steam.

That said, I could pick a game I straight up haven’t played before just to get a fresh take. Final Fantasy 7 has been gathering dust in my Steam library for a long time, and I do want an excuse to finally play it.

Even with all those options in the abstract, my mind did immediately wander in a particular direction when I found out about the assignment.

Recently, especially with the advent of the third Choose your Legends event in Fire Emblem Heroes, I’ve had the desire to go back and play Sacred Stones. My first and favorite Fire Emblem game.

Part of me couldn’t help but think about an interesting analysis coming out of Sacred Stones due to it being the first title released after Fire Emblem’s western debut.

… I was admittedly primed to go in that direction from watching The Geek Critique’s assertion that Smash Bros. Melee was a “kingmaker” for their series the other day.

That’s my most developed idea at the moment, but frankly I’m more than open to coming up with more in the weeks to come.

There are simply too many good games out there in need of analysis.

So I suppose that brings me to a call to arms of sorts. If any of you have ideas for a game I should try to analyze for my research paper (assuming it’s within my means), let me know somewhere on the Internet.

It’ll definitely be taking an unreasonable amount of my brain power for a good long time.

Deltarune is delightful

Deltarune is delightful

I’m a few weeks late to this particular craze, but after staying up until 2:00 a.m. finally finishing the first chapter of Deltarune I have an unbridled desire to gush about everything.

That’s probably going to involve a number of spoilers for an experience that I truly believe everyone should have for themselves. Because of that I’ll aim to be as vague as possible, but even so you might not want to read this quite yet if you haven’t played the game yourself.

Here’s what I can offer as a general teaser introduction.

Deltarune is the follow-up to indie game developer and chip tune musical genius Tobyfox‘s now-famed 2015 RPG Undertale — That one where nobody has to die. It’s available on just about every gaming platform imaginable, so if you haven’t dived into this universe at all you should.

The newest game, released just a few weeks ago, takes a somewhat different spin on the kill-or-spare game mecahnic from Undertale. It allows you to follow Kris, a human living in a world of monsters, as he deals with the day-to-day trials and tribulations of school.

Until certain events leave him and the local bully, Susie, taking on an adventure to save the world.

I know that’s pretty vague and somewhat derivative, but it’s nowhere near as dull as I made it sound.

Please just play the game if you haven’t.

Trust me when I say it’s all worth experiencing as blindly as possible. As a result, the rest of my discussion is going to go on under the spoiler-laden read more line here.

Hope you’ve enjoyed me rambling in vague generalities if this is as far as you’ll go. Just come back and  let me know when you’ve gone through the experience for yourself!

Continue reading “Deltarune is delightful”

What’s in a name?

While I can think of very few distractions better suited to the title than a video game where I’m able to kill a gun-themed dragon with bees, Enter the Gungeon cannot keep me from doing some work I need to do forever.

Mostly because the Switch battery doesn’t last forever. Otherwise it most definitely could keep me from my work for forever.

But that being said it doesn’t, and thus I have broken away from the addiction of roguelikes to work some more on my Senior Honors Project.

I’ve taken a bit of a turn in my approach to the project as the summer starts to wind down. Originally I had been simply starting to write the novel I’m working on while using a separate outline to keep track of things (as I pointed out in a previous blog post). However, I’ve found that hasn’t worked out phenomenally well.

It mostly left me in a place where I had a basic idea of some key plot points and the main characters, but no real sense of progression to build upon. Just figuring out things as I went along.

So I’ve decided to step back from the actual physical writing and focus more on the finer details of outlining this puppy.

Notably:

  • Fleshing out a more complete plot line
  • Coming up with the characters I want my heroes to encounter in their journey, with all the relationships those entail
  • Actually imagining more of the world they’re in, different names for locations included

With those in place I think writing a novel should actually be a sensible pursuit.

The thing that I’ve found most difficult about all this is naming everything. Who would have guessed that when you’re building a world from scratch you have to name all of the things?

All the characters, all the locales, all of the lore bits. So on and so forth.

Luckily I’ve made the task easier for myself by not establishing my world as one that has very strict hard-and-fast rules. I’m not Tolkien creating a crazy immersive, new fantasy world full of completely novel interactions amongst different races.

If anything… I’m kind of piggybacking off of the work he already did years ago.

See, for those who aren’t aware, my novel is a parody of sorts. It started as something meant to emulate the ideas of a book called ‘Redshirts’ but in the fantasy genre rather than science fiction.

Then I decided to narrow my focus even further. While I don’t necessarily read a ton of fantasy novels, I do play a lot of fantasy-themed video games. Zelda, Fire Emblem, Final Fantasy. So on and so forth.

This my novel evolved into one where the focus is on NPCs in a video game who gain some semblance of sentience, realizing they are caught up in the tropes of a world created by game developers who, like me, love fantasy themes.

As well as tropes of the video game medium as a whole, of course.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m hoping not to create a boring environment seeped in tropes for the sake of it. Hopefully by the end I’ll have an interesting world inspired by and utilizing said tropes.

Because of this I’ve felt free to come up with names for things in a number of ways without having to worry about standardizing too heavily.

Looking up name generators is a good general practice for character names especially, an idea bestowed by my friend Sam who does similar things for her Dungeons and Dragons campaigns.

However, I’m also trying to look to some real life inspirations. For example, the holy order of royal guards in the kingdom which presides over the land (currently unnamed since, like I said, names are hard) is based on my mom’s name.

Or in a more fun example, one character I have is named after this glorious little thing I found at Ikea the other day.

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Seriously how could I not make Eldig Black a semi-significant character in my story.

It’s just too perfect.

In fact, just perfect for the grizzled, Old veteran in charge of watching over the prince of the kingdom. The Gunter to my Corrin in Fire Emblem Fates, or the Jagen to my Marth in the original Fire Emblem.

Because at least one faction of characters in my story is not-so-vaguely inspired by the archetypical group of traveling adventurers in the early stages of a Fire Emblem game.

Those are just a few of the ideas I’m juggling right now, trying to create a cohesive world with a web of relationships among its inhabitants.

If you’re a creative-type, I’d love to hear what kind of means you tend to use for inspiration when it comes to things like character creation. Let me know somewhere on the Internet.