Three weeks have passed since the ninth edition of the Giant Bomb Community Endurance Run. Since the event's conclusion, the GBCER team has raised $12,576 for Pencils of Promise. For me in particular, I managed to collect $2,568 of my original goal of $2,500. As such, I feel safe in saying the event as a whole was a resounding success. The Giant Bomb Community Endurance Run is, after all, a grass-roots charity event where most donations come from the family and friends of team members, instead of thousands of generous denizens of the internet. However, and this note doubly applies to me, the Giant Bomb Community helped several team-members achieve their fundraising goals.
It's not my job to bestow awards or special commendations to those who donated or participated in the event. I can, however, issue a great deal of personal gratitude to those who helped the event reached its emotional highs. For one, a hearty "thanks" is in store for @thatpinguino. The man assembled an army of helpers who made the event possible. Were it not for his organizational skills, the event itself would have died many years ago. Gino, I thank you for continuing to move the GBCER in a positive direction, and here's to next year's effort!
Likewise, I would like to congratulate everyone who participated. I want to thank Pat Baer for joining the event as his singing skills were a treat on the event's final day. Then there are the countless community members who spent hours of their time streaming. Whether it be @jeffrud torturing himself with ASMR videos; @riostarwind reminding me of the games of my childhood; @zandravandra impressing with their artistic skills; @nickieroonie playing a game using their feet; everyone played a critical role in keeping the event running over three long but fruitful days. There are of course many more streamers and participants who put their heart and soul into the event and deserve some form of praise or emotional support. Thank you for everything you did, and hopefully, we can continue to make this event something "special."
That leads me to the topic of this specific blog: what in the world did I learn? Over three days, I managed to squeeze approximately thirty-one hours of streaming content out of the empty husk of my body. That's a lot of time playing video games for the internet's entertainment! What lessons did I pull from my gaming sessions? What future blogs do I have planned? Which games do I envision playing later in the year? Without further ado, let's address all these questions and more!
Day #1: Star Wars: Empire at War
When I first envisioned streaming video games, this is what I had in mind. On one end, there's the player, streaming something they can talk about authoritatively. Then, there's the audience, which functions as an open-minded repository of questions. That's what I got out of my Empire at War stream, and I couldn't be any happier. It goes without saying, other games on my schedule had more ambitious endeavors; that doesn't make my time with Empire at War any less worthwhile. There's nothing quite like playing a game, and meeting up with strangers and civilly debating the merits of other sources of entertainment. It is both a humbling and a relaxing endeavor.
To the game itself, I have finally come around to the idea of EA needing to make another Star Wars RTS game. I realize it would pose a variety of financial risks for EA and Disney, but I believe those risks would be well worth it. The genre is still in a bit of a "recovery period" wherein only a few studios (i.e., Creative Assembly or Paradox Interactive) are willing to give the genre a shot. However, Star Wars lends itself perfectly to grand strategy, and the brand as a whole has been making a literal killing out of the CCG and miniature markets. If EA wants a game that gives them full permission to tack on exploitative DLC, they are in good company with the current RTS landscape, but for pity's sake make a new video game!
In terms of "learning"' from this stream, I pulled one major lesson. Streams that relax the soul and spirit are best served as bookends rather than introductions. A "relaxing" stream where I talk about my love for Star Wars, honestly should have been how I ended my time with the GBCER. Instead, I got pulled into some anime horseshit that melted my brain and scarred me for the rest of my life — more details about that latter.
Day #2: Final Fantasy XIII-2
First and foremost, the Steam version of Final Fantasy XIII-2 is a teeming dumpster fire. The game straight up does not work right out of the gate. For whatever reason, the PC port has a RAM saving protocol from its console releases. The result is the game crashes when it uses more than 2 GB of RAM, and on the PC version, you have to manually edit the executable. When the game allows you to enable sixteen levels of anti-aliasing and HD textures, you'll blow through that 2 GB cap within minutes. There's also a 4 GB patch Steam does not automatically download that you need to pull from Square-Enix's fucking website, and manually apply to the game's executable. I'm not fucking joking!
These points are all ignoring the game itself, which I found unmistakably "interesting." I would struggle to describe the game as objectively "good," but Final Fantasy XIII-2 is indisputably "memorable." For one thing, its story is a hot mess in the best way possible. The narrative jumbles together conflicting themes of destiny and time travel with unintentionally hilarious results. On top of that, parts of the story are downright incomprehensible. I am under the impression Serah and Noel are "time cops" that travel across centuries and "correct" blips in spacetime. Imagine, if you would, Cartoon Network's Time Squad, but with all the exaggerated elements of a romance novel. That is how Final Fantasy XIII-2 rolls, and it's AMAZING!
My gut-reaction of the gameplay is decidedly mixed. The game's open-ended structure is both its strongest attribute and the source of its dominant weaknesses. For example, when I opted to check out an optional timeline, I discovered an older Hope and was clued into the events leading up to the game's primary plotline. However, this specific pathway led me to a battle against Caius I was not ready for and ended up stuck trying to beat for the better part of an hour. Also, the game isn't clear about how it wants you to go about exploring its dozen or so branches. It presents its open-ended structure willy-nilly and expects you to piece things together. This back and forth prattle of mine is to suggest I am decidedly excited to play more of Final Fantasy XIII-2, but not as you may expect.
If I am allowed to talk about something off-topic, and I cannot imagine why not, it's my mother. For those who joined me when this stream went live you know at one point I called my mother as part of a "skit." Now I have to tell you; I was legitimately afraid about doing this on stream. As we all can attest, the internet is a fickle place, but you should know my mother is even more fickle. To my surprise, the bit went well. Furthermore, my mother loved interacting with the Giant Bomb community. I have no idea if this means she'll create an account, which is a prospect that would probably spell my undoing, but she's made her feelings on the matter known.
Day #3: Hatoful Boyfriend
Twelve hours. Fuck me. What the fuck was I even thinking when I put this game on my docket? This shit was only meant to last six hours, and it ended up clocking in at about twelve hours. The amount of time I spent playing Hatoful Boyfriend almost matched the time I spent playing Final Fantasy XIII-2! And the worst part is I don't know if it was worth it. All I do know is I will never be the same person since playing Hatoful Boyfriend's "Bad Boys Love" ending.
Let's start things off by addressing why I played as much of this game as I did. In what I can only describe being my first tactical error, I wiped my saves and played half of the standard romance options as part of my stream. So far, this isn't a problem in and of itself. In fact, this portion of the session was the most fun to play. The standard endings run a hilarious gambit of pure-comedy to abject horror. However, all good things come to an end, and when I finally booted up the "Bad Boys Love" ending, I was a solid four hours into my original allotment of six. Thus, the beginning of my end presented itself.
Having not done the proper amount of research about Hatoful Boyfriend's "secret ending," I was not aware it was an eight chapter story arc that took as much time to complete as every storyline before it combined. That's right, a secret ending in Hatoful Boyfriend, is longer than the proper game. What the fucking fuck is that about? Worse, the Bad Boys Love ending has multiple gameplay sequences where you can die! Luckily for me, I was playing with a handy guide. Without it, I have no idea how I would have dealt with the two times when the game becomes a JRPG. Then there's the bit where the game attempts its best impression of a BioWare-styled dialogue system.
What I was also not prepared for was the amount of content nowhere else present in the game. I'm not joking, there are entire locations, art assets, musical tracks, and characters that are only present in the Bad Boys Love ending. Even more bizarre, the level of craft and care in the storytelling of the Bad Boys Love ending far exceeds anything seen in the base game. It's also worth noting the Bad Boys Love ending presents the meaning of Hatoful Boyfriend's title, and its reason for existing. To think, most people's impressions of this game is that it is a silly dating game and nothing else. I can't help but think of that as a lost opportunity.
And to further add to the craziness, the Bad Boys Love ending is shockingly depressing. Characters meet untimely ends, and what sets the story into motion seems like something pulled from a David Fincher film. I do not want to suggest I regret playing this game, but the game went places, and I do not know if that is a good or bad thing. On top of that, the secret ending keeps going! In an almost Bad Boys 2 level of craziness the game appears as if it is about to end, and yet it keeps on going for an extra hour! One thing is evident to me today; at some point, I will need to write a blog about Hatoful Boyfriend that examines it under a microscope. I guess you should look forward to that at some point later in the year? Also, @thatpinguino needs to FINISH HIS PLATE AND PLAY THIS RIGHT NOW!
What Did I Learn?
That is the "million dollar question." Well, for one, I plan to continue with my customarily scheduled tomfoolery with the Final Fantasy franchise. If anything, after a discussion with jeffrud, I think it is high time Gino and I give The Spirits Within a watch. It's time, and I think I'm ready for it. Likewise, I'm starting to develop an increasing interest for the Final Fantasy supporting games. I would much rather play Type-0 or Dirge of Cerebus instead of Final Fantasy XV. I know that sounds shitty, but that's where I stand at this point regarding the franchise. I would rather play "failures" from the past than moderate hits of the present.
The success of my Hatoful Boyfriend stream has me more flummoxed. Hatoful Boyfriend is almost in a class of itself. The select few VNs that do have twists and turns are self-aware enough that they lack the impact of Hatoful Boyfriend. And before anyone asks, I'm NOT playing anything from Winged Cloud. I have limits and playing poorly translated anime trash is where I draw the line. Regardless, I have time to find something that "tickles my fancy," and if you have any suggestions, I am all ears.
Finally, I have to say I had a fun time even in spite of my occasional missteps. It was great talking to people both new and old while playing a handful of video games. To everyone who watches my yearly amateur exercises in streaming video game content, I'm sorry I cannot provide more opportunities like this throughout the year. However, you have my assurances that, at the very least, I will be back next year. Until then, peace!