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Birdshot And Balderdash

I am pretty much over the cold I was suffering last week, but it is surely a sign it was the real thing when I am still experiencing some croupiness even now.  This week, the notable things to happen in the Geldosphere can be summed up under three bullet points:

1. Trion's re-release of ArcheAge continues to disappoint.

Yesterday (November 4th, 2014), the final continent was released to the players and went catastrophically wrong.  Oh, the servers came up alright... a little late, but they came up.  Then everybody zerged over to the new continent and every single piece of land was instantly claimed with scripts.
Many players were... less than happy about Trion World's inability to keep hackers from souring the game.
As usual, Trion's policy on this is to sit on their hands, but I don't think it's collusion, I think they just know they're helpless against the hackers.  They are using an older version of the game and are relying on XLGames to port them versions that have fixed these hacks.  (Honestly, I am not aware if XLGames ever fixed these bugs, and I have my doubts because the kinds of hacks we have seen would seem to indicate that they have no idea what secure client/server interactions even are.)

If any MMORPG developers are paying attention, I think this would be a good time to draft a new commandment:  Thou Shalt Not Port MMORPGs... at least not unless you can get the most recent versions that have had all the hacks patched out.  Of course, I think the only way this lesson will be good and cemented is if this lead to a serious financial setback for the company, as people in the business of making their livelihood out of games must listen very closely to their wallets.

2. Civilization V is still Civilization V.

With Civilization: Beyond Earth's recent release, I was tempted to give it a spin.  Only two problems.  First, most reviews suggest that it is basically Civilization V, but with less personality, and so why bother getting this game when I already own Civilization V?  Second, it's fifty bucks, a full-priced AAA title.  I might be willing to go $35, just because I like a Sci-Fi setting enough to be interested in playing a Sci-Fi Civilization V, but this is probably paying more than a professionally made total conversion of an existing game is worth.

So, instead, I played Civilization V again, something I last did back in May of 2012.  Since then, I had bought the Gods And Kings expansion pack on a sale, and never really got a chance to give it a serious shakedown.  I have not yet bought the Brave New World expansion pack, and maybe never will...
The main problem I have with this game is it takes too long to play, it took me a little over 24 real life hours of playing to get through a single game.  Yes, I set it up for a "large" map, so maybe that was partly my fault, but I played on "standard" game pace on "prince" difficulty.  I was playing Rome, and hoping for a cultural victory, because I had yet to earn the victory achievements for either of those yet, and this would give me a chance to explore the new religious mechanic more.

The good news is that I am still good enough at playing Civilization V that I was not simply steamrolled by the AI players even though the "prince" difficulty gives my empire no advantage or disadvantages versus an AI-run empire.  In fact, I was apparently a pretty brilliant tactician compared to the AI, because I soundly beat them with over 2 to 1 odds against me at times.  I probably have my experiences in Warlord: Master Of The Arcane to thank for that (basically a completely combat-focused version of Civilization V that takes place in a magical world).

The bad news is that I still lost.  Although I bloodied Napoleon's nose by pushing back his attempts at conquest (mostly mumbling to myself about how he should "render unto Caesar" the whole time), both he and Hiawatha were neck and neck towards achieving a space victory which Hiawatha eventually pulled off while I was at 4.2/5 policies.  I might have won had I kept my annexed city count even lower, and perhaps kicked Napoleon off the continent entirely, but I was not that aggressive.

Did I have fun?  Sure, I guess.  But, I still find the pacing to be rather slow for what I get out of it.  I really regret how I spent my time when that happens... the achievements I missed out on by losing might have helped a bit.

3. Hatoful Boyfriend is not completely for the birds.

I mentioned how I enjoyed Phoenix Wright, and when Hatoful Boyfriend was on sale for half-off on Steam, I decided that maybe I would enjoy a visual novel of significantly less sophistication but considerably more lunacy.  Basically, Hatoful Boyfriend is a dating simulator, but more than that, it is a parody of a dating simulator.

Here, you play the only human student of an all bird school.  You did not misread that, nor is "bird" a euphemism, as (in this world) the common bird has received a massive intelligence upgrade and they are now the dominant species.   This visual novel was originally created by a mangaka who just happens to like birds.
So why is a girl going to an all bird school?  Apparently, to get herself a birdy boyfriend.  We've got a good sampling of the usual manga/anime stereotypes here.  One bird is the kind, childhood friend.  Another is the snobby sophisticate.  One appears to be the shy, withdrawn type but is really another trope entirely.  The jock is a real loon - not literally, he's a swallowtail pigeon, but he is a hyperactive primal pigeon obsessed with pudding.  And so on - each session of Hatoful Boyfriend is completable within an hour, and your human protagonist will have herself a birdie sweetheart at the end... or else!

What do I mean by that last bit?  Well, this game is not really a dating simulator at all.  Each time you complete a story of a bird, you learn a bit more about their personality, and encounter some strange clues about something going on underneath the pleasantries.   After you unlock the majority of the main endings, you have the option to "fulfill a promise," in which case Hatoful Boyfriend becomes something entirely different: a significantly longer visual novel where the characters you learned about become embroiled in a mystery of this all-bird academy, where nothing and nobirdie is as they seem.

Despite its zany premise, Hatoful Boyfriend runs the full gamut of emotional impact, and I do not feel that I have wasted my time playing it.  However, as I have indicated before, visual novels are a bit of a cheat: they are not really great games, they are stories.  If it is gaming fulfillment I am looking for here, I will find little, as most visual novels are really closer to a book with accompanying pictures.  Given our propensity towards an oral history, a love of stories is implicit to human nature, it takes a real misanthrope to hate the idea of stories, and Hatoful Boyfriend's story is quite the stimulating yarn.


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