Riding the Cosmere: Elantris

Welcome to the Cosmere

"Cosmere" is the name given to Brandon Sanderson's fictional universe that incorporates several of his series and stand-alone novels: Elantris, Mistborn, Emperor's Soul, Warbreaker, Stormlight Archives, and Mistborn: Alloy of Law to date. I've no idea what the ties between them all are, but I intend to find out.

I'd been intending to dig deep into the Cosmere for quite some time now, and it was @nophilip's thread over here that finally prompted me to do so. I've been a huge fan of Sanderson's ever since reading the Mistborn trilogy a few years ago and have read a number of his books since then: The Alloy of Law, Warbreaker, and a few non-Cosmere books such as Legion and Steelheart. However, if I'm going to read through the Cosmere and try to piece everything together, I'm not going to simply half-arse it but read through the whole lot again! Fortunately, the chronology I stumbled upon online indicated that I'd be beginning with one I hadn't read previously: Elantris.

Elantris

Before getting into the real good stuff and trying to pick out what might have effects on the Cosmere as a whole, I'll reflect on the novel itself. It was a big surprise to discover that this Sanderson's debut novel; it exhibits much of the same mastery of story-telling seen in his later works. One of my favourite parts of Sanderson's writing is his ability to pull off some insane twist that completely make sense thanks to expertly placed hints throughout the story and it's done well here over and over again: "Crush/Crushedthroat" hiding in plain sight all along, and the nature of Elantris to name a couple.

These weren't all necessarily perfect, however. While the story about a failed healing turning sour early in the story was later revealed to be the eventual villain's motivation, it was a rather stale and overused one. In a similar vein, it was incredibly frustrating to watch Raoden spend two chapters figuring out what was missing from the Aons when it was incredibly obvious to the reader as soon as they realized they were all based off Arelon's map.

Elantris rides the same sharp edge between fantasy and science fiction as Sanderson's later novels, backing up every mystical element of the meticulously crafted world with technicalities that are completely logical within its own confines. A minor highlight of this that won't give too much away is the sludge that covers Elantris turning out to be a moss that had previously given the city its ethereal glow; when the city died, so too did the moss.

One of the biggest surprises of Elantris for me were the characters. They all seemed to be built from their insecurities, making for a compelling and relatable cast in spite of their fantastical surroundings and abilities. Perhaps my favourite of these was the villainous Hrathen, a character that feels insecure in his faith and performs some nefarious acts for a noble purpose: the rescue of Arelon.

The absolute biggest surprise was that I was compelled to actually care about a romance sub-plot. As perhaps the least romantic person I know, this took me by surprise. Sanderson somehow managed this before even bringing the characters together.

Overall, Elantris is yet another five-star book out of Sanderson. With that out of the way, there were a couple of things I noticed that may or may not relate to the Cosmere.

Hoid

I'd read this name in a number of places before even beginning Elantris, hearing that he was essentially the leading man of the Cosmere as a whole. As such, I wasn't quite expecting him to show up as a beggar.

There wasn't much to glean from Hoid yet, who was described as an older man wearing a hood in the brief scene in which he appeared. Sarene gave him a bunch of weaponry to take into Elantris during the third act of the novel, and then he went on his merry way. The short story, Hope of Elantris, makes it clear that these weapons were delivered.

What was Hoid up to in Arelon, then? Observation? Hiding? I guess I'll find out in a later entry. I don't know nearly enough about him yet to make any kind of assertion.

The Chasm

Being a standalone novel, I expected the cause of the chasm to be neatly explained and wrapped up by the epilogue. That never happened, leading me to believe it has greater import to the Cosmere than I originally thought, though I'm not sure how a geographical event could have an effect on other worlds. Or perhaps it was an effect itself? I'm not sure there's anything else to be extrapolated as of yet, but this is something I'll need to keep in mind as I continue reading through the Cosmere.

Next Up: Mistborn - The Final Empire

I'm pretty excited to be reading this one again since Mistborn might just be my favourite series behind only The Dark Tower. Its concision, being a trilogy, certainly puts it leagues ahead of the likes of A Song Of Ice And Fire and Wheel of Time for me.

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Thank You Ryan

I feel like this should be the overriding sentiment.

Even in light of today's news my first reaction to hearing his name is a smile.

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This one time in EVE Online...

I used to play EVE Online before I lost my job. There was a website that ran a live internet radio show for the game, and one night they were giving away a really big ship for the craziest shit that someone would do. A couple who played the game said they would film themselves hitting each other in the groin and send it to the radio hosts for the ship.

Now, this radio show also did more traditional contests for ISK, and on the evening in question I happened to get through to the show on skype for the contest. It was a variation on that shitty TV show Deal Or No Deal, and I won a decent amount of ISK. Not a ton, but enough. After the contest, I hung around in the skype chat they were using to broadcast because I was playing EVE anyway so why not? A few minutes later, a video was linked to us.

There was a topless man and a topless woman taking turns to punch each other in the groin. I could hear a baby crying in the background.

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Let's Replay Mass Effect 2!

Don't rage, this is simply an opinion piece. If you have a different opinion, guess what? That's fine! I just want to start blogging more often, and I felt particularly passionate about this.

But of course, this is the internet.

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Let's Replay Mass Effect 2

Before we get into it, let's go over my feelings on Mass Effect 2 pre-replay: I didn't like it. I couldn't quite remember why since it had been a few years since playing it, but there was a feeling of dislike there, at least partially due to the characters. I wanted to give it another chance though, see if maybe I just had a bad week when I first played it or if my tastes had changed. It's okay to change your opinion on something; I do it all the time.

This week I have been working on a new save file to import to ME3, playing through both of the previous games on PC. My goals were few and simple: Create a Shepard whose choices mesh with my own ideals, and get Jack into my bed because holygodsheisdreamgirlsohot. I was also hoping to lose a few of my team in the suicide mission as I lost none on my first time through and it fell a bit flat; I would have enjoyed the drama and tension of losing a friend since it would have made for a better character and story.

Mass Effect 1 was fine, just as I remember it: A solid RPG-shooter hybrid with a great story and some good characters. There were plenty of problems with it, but overall it's an enjoyable game to this day.

Then we come to Mass Effect 2. I fucking detest this game.

It starts out fine: The opening sequence is quite nice to watch since yay, explosions. I did the Archangel mission early on, and I really like Garrus as a character and he has some great lines, so meeting up with him was fun. Then something unfortunate happened: the rest of the game.

Here's the deal with this game: You have the main hub of the Normany where you'll essentially choose what missions to undertake, and the sub-hubs of planets like Omega in which you'll branch out into other missions: The worst offender of how deplorably abhorrant this game is. These missions are corridors in which you'll move from point A to point B, having gunfights around conveniently placed objects that you can use for cover. This is mind-numbingly, soul-crushingly boring. If you think I'm simplifying the structure of the missions, I'm really not. Here's a diagram.

Shoot through corridor > Cutscene > Shoot through corridor > Cutscene > End Mission

This is so, so dull and formulaic and exactly the kind of thing that developers should be avoiding. This is, essentially, the plague.

Let's look at one of the main parts of my wonderful diagram: The shooting through corridors part. The gunfights are also horrendously boring, consisting of doing little more than unloading bullets into your opponents until you have to reload. Sure you can throw in the occasional biotic ability, but all that does is remove a few enemies in a flashy display of blue and purple explosions; you're not actually doing anything. This. Is. Boring.

Bioware, if I'm getting so bored during these gunfights that my mind is drifting off, or I find it more interesting to mindlessly finger my phone, you have not made a good videogame. If your combat is not compelling enough to hold my interest, you should probably rethink it.

A thing that I miss from ME1 is interesting locations and characters. I remember Ilos, Noveria, Feros, Virmire because they were stacked: a ton of great stuff happened there and there was so much depth to the planets that they felt lived in and real. I've literally just been playing Mass Effect 2 and I can't tell you where I was. The only name I remember from that game is Omega because you go back to it a couple of times. While superficially Omega is great because it brings up memories of locations in great sci-fi movies such as Blade Runner, it has nothing interesting going on: It's not a simplification to simply label it a “scumhole.” What I'm basically saying there is that it's only saving grace is that it plays on your nostalgia. This is not a good thing; it's horrendously lazy. Do you remember any locations from ME2? Do you remember where the lab Jack grew up in that she blew up was? Do you remember where you found Jacob's father? No, because there is nothing interesting about it. I bet you remember where you had a stand off with Wrex, though. I bet you remember where you were forced to choose which friend to save. I bet you remember exactly where you realised what the Reapers, the Protheans and the “cycle” was. They are standout moments in videogames; a bunch of disconnected decisions that tick a box as to which characters live or die are not.

Then there's the characters themselves. Fair is fair; Mass Effect 1 didn't have the most amazing characters in history, but they were far better than ME2's one-dimensional cast. At least in ME1 we had Ashley, who actually really grew on me this time: she's a nice study in familial pride, and I really enjoyed questioning whether she was really racist. On that point: No, she isn't. Wrex was another wonderful character: A proud member of a race that's struggling to survive, whose ideals clashed with his own fathers and led to his exile. The stand off on Virmire was still a ridiculously tense moment, despite having gone through it before.

Garrus is a great character in ME1; a lawkeeper who is frustrated by the bureacratic bullshit surrounding his position, it was good to hear him say at the end that he was going to try going back to C-Sec and re-applying for a Spectre position. So obviously while I was initially happy to see him return in ME2, I was disappointed to see him reduced to “lol fuck The Man,” though he has some great lines. Unfortunately this is a trend among characters in ME2; they are essentially defined by a single trait, whether it's Mordin being quirky, Garrus being a “badass” or Jack being a crazy, psychopathic bitch. Even if I do cry myself to sleep at night because she's not next to me.

The only good thing that's come out of replaying Mass Effect 2 is that at least I know now that I am completely justified in my vitriolic hatred of this game. Over the last two years people have tried to convince me otherwise, but I was right: This game is truly, truly awful.

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3DS: One Year On

With the North American and European anniversary of the 3DS quickly approaching, now is as good a time as any to take a look back on our brief experience with the infant console.

I was a relatively early adopter of the 3DS, spending what little money I was earning at the time on the system roughly two weeks after launch, picking it up with a copy of Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars and Pilotwings Resort. Like most of you I was immediately enthralled by my new toy with it's shiny new no-glasses 3D and it's surprisingly fun Augmented Reality functions, which even the most cynical and jaded gamer would be impressed by. The most overwhelming feeling inspired by the 3DS was one of impending fun; this was not a system that would force feed you a bunch of “cinematic” cutscenes loosely tied together by gameplay. No, it was a system that would throw those out of the window and make sure you played with a smile on your face, battling dragons on your dining room table or capturing your friends faces so that you might shoot them. There was a ton of potential here, my mind going straight to the possibility of using the AR card functionality to build a game around Pokemon Cards, which I still think should absolutely happen.

The initial batch of games released almost seemed like a proof-of-concept, Pilotwings Resort being chief among them for me. There wasn't a lot to the game due to it consisting mainly of challenges to beat your own high scores, giving it the feeling of being little more than Nintendo saying “Look! It works!” Not to take anything away from the game; it was a finely crafted piece of software that did exactly as it set out to do. It just felt a little vacant. This feeling was perhaps offset by Ghost Recon, which set out to prove you could make a compelling, more traditional videogame on the system completely unhindered by the more – perhaps gimmicky – parts of the 3DS. A goal that I feel it absolutely succeeded at. After launch, however, there was something of a gulf of interesting new releases.

Fast forward to June however, and the Nintendo eShop was launched with... not a whole lot. Okay, so there was a huge backlog of DSiWare games and the Virtual Console opened with the promise of delivering all our favourite retro games to us, but there was nothing new, nothing that really took advantage of our shiny new toy. I don't think I was the only one to be a little underwhelmed and disappointed with the eShop at first, though that now obviously isn't the case, with Nintendo and smaller developers filling the virtual shelves with fantastic offerings such as Pushmo/PullBlox and Mighty Switch Force, but the first few months were a little sparse in terms of compelling games.

Also in June, a little game by the name of The Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time was released in it's glorious new three-dimensional tunic. My personal favourite game was re-released and all was right with the world. Shortly after in July, Star Fox 64 was given the same treatment. The 3DS served as the lungs that would breathe new life into these classic games, reinvigorating them for the older gamers while introducing them to the younger crowd.

Unfortunately there was a period of several months following this before any game that really captured my interest was released, though this was of course shattered in middle November with the release of Super Mario 3D Land and quickly followed up by Mario Kart 7 in early December, giving us a double whammy of Mario goodness; Nintendo's finest. Nintendo did a great job of updating these two franchises for the 3D handheld, delivering yet another tightly constructed Mario platformer that managed to both stick to the fantastic formula while also being fresh and interesting, while Mario Kart was... well, it's Mario Kart. Mario Kart.

Overall, I've had fun with my 3DS in it's first year of life. There have been disappointments and gaps in the release schedule sure, and I wish Nintendo would just get Kid Icarus out already, but it's been a good year! And with games like Luigi's Mansion 2, MGS3D, Harvest Moon, and Kingdom Hearts 3D just around the corner, this is going to be a fun year.

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Skyrim Mod Spotlight #2

Been a while since I've done one of these, but finally the workshop's out and the modding has picked up a bit.

Sounds Of Skyrim: Dungeons by Cliffworms http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=9106

This is a great mod that adds a bunch of sounds to a variety of dungeons to really pump up the immersion, from rats squeaking to wooden frames creaking. 5 stars!

Sounds Of Skyrim: Wilds by Cliffworms http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=13231

Part of the same project, this mod adds a ton of immersion to the wilds of Skyrim, including the sounds of bats flying and the howls of wolves in the night.

Fall Of The Space Core, Vol. 1 by Valve http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=7375

You don't need me to tell you what this is.

Dwarf Race by Jerry60k http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=12061

HOLY SHIT, PLAYABLE DWARVES. Jerry60k is my new god for making this. Arms are a little weird and kill animations are broken, but DORFS!

If you want to check these out, here's a video:

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Skyrim Mod Spotlight #1

The game has only been out for a short while, and already there are some great mods out. Here are some of my favourites:

FXAA Post Process Injector: This is a great mod that breathes a bit more life into the world of Skyrim by adding some much needed colour to it. There are four presets to choose from, all of which are great. depending on your preference. http://www.skyrimnexus.com/downloads/file.php?id=131

QD Inventory: This is my favourite mod. It completely rebuilds the inventory screen into something much more PC-friendly. I love the game, but Bethesda sure did screw up by making a more console-focused game this time, but this mod goes a big way toward fixing that. The inventory screen is no longer an unwieldy mess! http://www.skyrimnexus.com/downloads/file.php?id=667

No More Blocky Faces: Perhaps my second favourite mod this far, this one does exactly as it's name implies. If the blockiness of the NPC's faces has been annoying you as much as it did me, you will love this mod. http://www.skyrimnexus.com/downloads/file.php?id=30

Enhanced Night Skyrim: A purely aesthetic mod, this one just adds more colour to the stars in the night sky. I think it also adds some real-life constellations. http://www.skyrimnexus.com/downloads/file.php?id=85

Killable Children: :D http://www.skyrimnexus.com/downloads/file.php?id=774

I have begun a YouTube channel in which I'll be posting mod spotlights such as this as well as other Skyrim goodies.

There'll be more videos here

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Diary of Eorzea Part 1 - First steps into Final Fantasy XIV

Some may call me a fool, but I care not! I decided to try FFXIV for myself, and form my own opinion on it. Possibly the most commercially hated MMO out there.

So my journey began when creating my character. I decided to go with a Miqote (a catgirl) since I had played a Mithra in FFXI, and I named her Alyx Blanche, because that's the first random brainfart I had. She is a tiny catgirl with a massive greataxe, I fail to see how this can not be awesome.

I was instantly thrown into the action when I arrived in Ul'dah, the desert city, when a rampant crazygiantmossmonster decided to go on a rampage! The graphics in this game are pretty damn impressive for an MMO and this is obvious from the get go. The first problem I encountered with this game was it doesn't really give any hints as to how to do anything! This isn't that much of a problem since I managed to figure it out, but I missed the Hint messages that appear in so many other MMOs that guide you through the use of your character, journal, and menus. Again, it's not a massive deal since I was able to fumble through it and get comfortable with the controls.

I did battle with crazygiantmossmonster (this consisted of moving near it and clicking on it twice) and came out triumphant! Well, the bloody thing ran off anyway. I was proud! Stuff happened, and I ended up in some building talking to a Falafel imean Lalafell, or whatever those little midget things are called. This appears to be where the tutorial begins, as she soon had me running around doing quests including going to a camp just outside of the city and running around to the various guilds within Ul'dah.

The nice thing about these tutorial missions, and the game in general, is that there appeared to be an actual storyline to it. In an MMO? Madness! Cutscenes introduced me to the various characters I had met with in my epic battle against the crazygiantmossmonster. I felt this was a nice difference from the other MMOs I've played (WoW, Rift, FW, etc.) and I'm actually enjoying meeting these people.

Speaking of people, I had an encounter with another player! While out killing beetles and weird squirrel things, a white-haired Miqote began to heal me. This led to much use of the emotes /bow /cheer /clap and when she spoke, it was Japanese! Apparently this game doesn't have region-specific servers? That's pretty weird, but I'm okay with that.

Why was I killing beetles? Well, I was on my way to a camp where I was then contacted by the midget woman from before and given a levequest! These appear to be identical to quests so far, except they have a time limit and - I assume - added benefits to complete the quest within said time limit. I'm not sure where this mechanic is heading, but time shall tell!

I still haven't gotten into changing up my class yet, which I'm guessing is essential since it seems impossible to actually find anyone selling equipment. Guess I have to craft my own? I shall look into that tomorrow.

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I just watched Mulholland Drive *SPOILERS*

Okay, what a movie! What a mindfuck!


Right now, after first viewing, this is my theory:

The first "part" of the movie is the fantasy that, uh... Betty/Diane/Naomi Watts is running in her mind during a certain scene of the second "part" of the movie. Take the Silencio scene, for example: That whole scene was there to show that not everything we see is real. I really liked that scene, particularly after the dude says it's all an illusion then the woman is singing, Betty and Rita get all emotional and teary-eyed... but hey, we just told you this is all an illusion, stop being ridiculous and crying! I'm not sure if there's some commentary in there about the emotional impact of cinema, but I really liked that scene.

Which brings us to the second part of the movie: What Really Happened. This is pretty much just what leads to the breakdown and eventual suicide of Betty/Diane. During this part we also see a lot of things that appear in Betty/Diane's masturbatory fantasy, such as Adam Kersher's mother, the cowboy, the "Camilla" from the fantasy world, and the entire relationship between the two lead women.

One of the most tragic things about this theory is then the fantasy sex scene: Betty/Diane tells Rita/Camilla that she's in love with her, but gets no response back. Even in her fucked up crywank fantasy, she can't make Camilla love her.

Only hole I see in this theory is this: why was Diane's corpse in the fantasy world? There was no obvious influence for that from What Really Happened, so what the hell?

I really enjoyed the movie though. A real mindbender that gives you plenty to think about.
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...See You, Space Cowboy - Part Three

Today saw the completion of the tutorial missions after roughly 17 hours. Hoorah! About bloody time. 
 
So, I ask myself, whatever is next? The rookie chat tells me to go to do some Sisters of Eden missions, so I did a few. Kinda boring fetch quests. 
 
The thing is, these tutorials and missions probably would have seemed brilliant, but I know now that that's really not what EVE is about at all. I hopped over to Sacerdos87's thread on these forums and found a corporation to join: The Cronus Miners. It "only" took 20 jumps to get to their base, and then I signed up and became a member. Happy days! 
 
The Cronus Miners are, well, a mining corporation. Duh. There are three of us right now: me, Sacerdos, and SunburnSlap. What our operations consist of right now are Sacerdos and Sunburn mining while I go back and forth to the base, collecting and depositing the minerals that they have mined. Your standard monotonous, repetitive task. 
 
...Yet I'm hopelessly addicted to it. Like I said to the corp, it's like a second job, but in space, so it's okay. The key words here are: in space. When you've grown up on sci-fi, a life spent scouring asteroid belts is a goddamn great prospect. Shit, if I could quit my job and just do mineral runs all day for some real cash,  I totally would. The scary part is, that's probably a viable option. I've been reading about PLEX, an ingame item that you can seemingly buy and sell for either ISK or realmonies. So if you made enough ISK in mineral runs to buy some PLEX and trade that for real money on eBay... the implications are frightening. 
 
And it's not like you'd miss human contact: I've spent the last four hours having the same conversations I would have with people at work or friends. 
 
In summary: This game fucking frightens me. 
 
There was also a slightly hilarious moment today. While doing mineral runs for the corp, another player appeared and started stealing from our container, which resulted in Sacerdos87's ship blowing up and SunburnSlap on the run. Of course I headed back out there to find the container with a new yellow colour which I examined, to find it full of minerals. RESULT, I say. Until I mention it in the ventrilo to find that yellow means it belongs to the guy who stole it, and now he has a kill right on me. 
 
...Ohshit. 
 
So I try to warp out, only to find I've been jammed and the piratebastard is shooting me! KABOOM! Goes the ship. 
 
Luckily I had insurance, so getting back to the base reveals a pleasant surprise in the form a Reaper, which I instantly make active and head out to pick up the Wreathe I just bought to replace the lost one. 
 
Piratebastard's waiting outside. KABOOM! Goes the ship.

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