The optimistic melancholy of Outer Wilds (Spoilers)

Warning; Heavy spoilers ahead! Do not read if you haven't beaten the game.

We are used to be able to fix things in games. Beat the big bad boss, save the world, achieve success. So while the stated mission in Outer Wilds is "explore", I automatically adjusted it to "stop the sun from exploding" the first time that happened. What do you do then, when you slowly realize during the course of your exploration that the sun does not explode because of some machine you can turn off or some meteor that hits hit. It's simply old. The entire universe is. It's dying its natural death.

I am not fully used to this in games, because games usually have an happy ending. I say usually, because we are gradually seeing more and more games daring to go another route. But when that happens it's usually some tragic ending. Outer Wilds ends with everyone and everything gone. The universe is no more. And yet it is filled with hope and optimism. Because you, as the youngest member of your species rickety space program, manage to get to the thing that started the universe. You, the member of a whimsical, goofy and curious species, did so with the help of an ancient long dead species. A species with technology so far beyond anything you could make yourself. A species that when crashing in a new solar system ends up with lifeboats on two different planets, then manages to rebuild a new system-wide civilization in the span of one generation. They are so smart, clever, scientifically minded and curious. Yet they died out. It was no fault of their own, it was pure bad luck. But they died. Only for you to set out and do what they didn't manage to. And because of that, you, with all of your knowledge get to start a new universe.

Both of these species are so happy, cheerful, so in awe of what the universe has to offer. Every new discovery is met with glee, every new corner eagerly rounded. All of this knowledge is in the mind of your player character, a young and hopeful Hearthian. I can only imagine how wonderful a universe someone like that can set in motion. A universe where someone down the line can sit around a campfire, roasting marshmallows with their friends.

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I am no longer excited about "The Singularity"

Or any other way of copying myself into a digital version in order to live on. Something I am sure most of my fellow duders have been wanting, or at least thinking sounds cool. I mean, of course it sounds cool! Not having to be limited by our biological needs and wants, having the ability to experience the far-flung future of humanity. When (or if) this becomes reality, there really are no limits. But the past couple of years has presented several pieces of entertainment that has revealed the one flaw in all of this. None of us will actually experience it.

Beware, there are potential spoilers regarding Soma, Black Mirror and the Bobiverse ahead.

I don't remember which piece of media I consumed first, the game Soma or the TV-series Black Mirror. But both in the game and several episodes of the show they explore what our consciousness is. And while all of this is theoretical, I cannot see it working any other way. A copy of my mind will be "just" that. A copy. I placed the word "just" in quotation marks, because the copy will be me in every way. But it will be a version of me that I will not experience myself. Just as they illustrated in Soma when you switch suits.

Instead of taking the actual consciousness of Simon out of the old suit and putting it in the new one, it is far easier to just make a copy. We are after all electrical signals, which in theory can be converted into code or something. In the game they present it as if you just suddenly appeared in the new suit. Like being sedated for surgery, then waking up again in some other place. But then your old suit "wakes up". You are still in there. We as players understood what was happening, Simon was more in denial about it. When the end of the game comes around, and you are stuck on the bottom of the ocean instead of arriving in the digital heaven you were striving for... we get it. A version of Simon does have the sensation of suddenly being in that digital heaven, but that is the third copy of him. The original Simon is long dead. The first copy of him are either dead or stuck in the first suit, depending on what you did. And the second copy of Simon is stuck on the bottom of the ocean, cursing Catherine.

It took the excellent book series The Bobiverse (which I listened to on audiobook after seeing Vinny tweeting about it) to let this really sink in. In the series Bob sets it up so that when he dies his body will be frozen, ready to be woken up in the future when things have progressed far enough for him to be saved. Instead he wakes up in the future inside a computer, his mind has been scanned and digitized. And now he will be used more or less as a very advanced AI program. I don't want to spoil more, but let's just say it ends up being a lot of copies of Bob. But already by the point of Bob 1.0 being awake, the original Bob from the intro to the book is dead. He actually never got to experience the future. It seems he did from any outsiders perspective, as his copy is him. But from his perspective, it all cut to black the instant he died.

So that's the problem, and that's why I am personally no longer caring about a potential Singularity. I am never going to experience it. My entire brain would have to be scooped out and hooked up to something for that to happen. From an outside view any of us could live forever as a digital copy, but from my perspective I will just die. I have never been afraid of death, I think, because I am 100% certain there is nothing after. But I have also had a small hope I might be able to live long enough to be crammed into the virtual space, experience eons of human progress, travel out to the stars. I now, finally, understand while there is a slim chance that might happen it still won't be me who experience it. And I must admit, it kinda bums me out. Enough for me feeling I had to write this down somewhere. To bum more people out.

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I just want to brag

I started building and painting WH:40k figures less than a year ago, and I am having a blast with it! Probably never going to play, and I don't see myself with large armies, but I really like what I have made so far. To varying degrees. There are a lot of techniques I just don't get yet, and I do suck at a lot of the highlighting. Still, I think I have improved. So far I have three Ultramarines, which was snap-fit and had a small amount of paints in the box. I then escalated into a Dark Angels Gauntlet Tactical Squad, where there are 10 Marines and one Rhino. I went ahead and got an Interrogator-Chaplain as well, as he looks dope as hell.

Now recently I got a squad of Adeptus Custodes, which is a pre-Heresy group, from my girlfriend for Christmas. These guys are beasts!

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Three notes or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love The Soul of Cinder. [Spoilers]

When Dark Souls came out I instantly loved it. The deliberate movement, the bleak world and the feeling that you are just a small gnat in the machine. A gnat that for some reason, mostly perseverance and bullheaded stubbornness manages to kill the old gods. I remember liking the music in the game, the graphics and environments, but the one thing that stood out to me was the worldbuilding and storytelling.

For a lot of people Dark Souls is the brutally hard game with no story. You are just going from place to place, killing monsters and undead. The way the story is told is, in my opinion, brilliant. The hidden depths of it, the uncertainty there is about many aspects of the history of the world and its champions. It all makes sense in the context of the game. You are one of many who tries to kindle the flame that keeps the world moving. Or something, who knows what the flame does. Maybe it is better if it is put out? In any case, with the flame dying, time and space is also breaking apart. You meet people who have been long dead in places that no longer exist. Or exist, just not where it is now. No wonder history is breaking apart.

Dark Souls 2 just expanded on this lore, but not in the way a lot of us had hoped for. The Dark was more the focus, and the way you link the flame at the end is so different from the first game. But by now we know for sure that the fading of the flame is cyclical. It has happened before, and it will happen again. It is likely that the boss in the first game, Gwyn, was the first one who tried to link the fire, starting it anew. Your player character in that first game was the second. How many times the fire has faded and flared up again between the two first games is completely unknown.

Which brings me to the third and final game in the series, Dark Souls 3. They said it would be the final one, and so things would have to be clarified, put to rest. In that regard not much has. The lore is as difficult to parse as the first two, more questions are asked than answered, and even long standing mysteries that are explained leads to more questions.

But even so the game has this feel about it. It feels like the end.

Every boss, even the beasts just standing in your way, has a theme-song playing in the background that has seared itself into my head. The music in the game is my favorite aspect of it. I don't know what it is, but it's perfect in every way.

Now I come to why I love the last boss of this game so much. I managed to keep almost everything spoiler-free when I played the game, and everything about the ending was thankfully not spoiled at all.

While the arena of the fight is fantastical and pretty damn awesome, the boss in itself was, at first, a letdown. Just a guy in armor, with a sword. It just didn't fit with the "epic last boss of a great trilogy". Then the fight changed as the boss transformed his weapon. He did so again. It started dawning on me by the third kind weapon change that I was fighting myself. Myself from the first game, where I linked the fire with a mage. The second game where I linked the fire with a katana-wielding dexterity build. Fighting the final boss is fighting everyone who has ever linked the fire, every player character.

After several attempts I got the boss healthbar down to zero. I was expecting something, as almost every boss has two forms in this game. That first time I got to the second form I died because of three notes on the piano. Everyone who has beaten Dark Souls will most likely remember it vaguely, everyone who has beaten it several times will have it seared into their souls. I recognized it instantly before I got killed by a familiar move. Gwyn was back.

Maybe it's my highly sensitive nature that does it, but I just loved that. Making you first fight yourself, then fight the one who made the World of Man possible. Again. After he sacrificed himself to keep the fire burning the first time. Pieces of his soul is still there, doing its work to... stop you from doing the same mistake he did? Test your worth? Who knows.

Anyway, I find the fact that From Software only had to play three notes on the piano to elicit such a response to show how well they have made their lore. At least in my case. It is a fitting end to a grand series. It turned a slightly underwhelming last boss into something special, something I will remember for a long time.

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The music in this game might be my favorite part.

I mean, the game in itself is pretty damn awesome and is fast becoming my favorite Souls game. I am not that far in with my 25 hours of play, but so far I have fought... about five bosses? And besides noticing how great and "Soulsy" the design is, how they move, attack and generally want to fuck up my day, the one thing I have noticed on all of them have been the kick-ass music. An early fight ( Vordt ) would have been cool by itself, but the music all the way through is brilliant. Especially how it morphs into something more when the boss kicks into overdrive. Then you have the weird and disgusting stuff going on when fighting the next boss ( Curse-rotted greatwood ).

Bottom line, they have made a great game even greater by doing right by the music. Everything about the game feels like what it should feel like. The best end a trilogy of depressing and awful stories can have. I love it.


My friends are musicians

Some friends of mine got a band. They have finally managed to get an album out there, and has a few music videos done. The latest one is one of my favorite songs so far.

Having friends making music when your taste in music is very... picky, is a dangerous thing. How do you tell your friend that "nah, didn't really do anything for me." I am glad I didn't have to do that, as I find the music pretty damn good. My best friend in the band is the vocalist/guitarist. Have known him for over twelve years, and he was the one who was there the most for me when I broke my back ten years ago. He has been working really hard to make this happen, and it is so awesome seeing it come together.

Thus I want to share the video as much as I can, hence this blogpost. Have a listen, or don't. But if you like it, try and spread it. Would be awesome if a Norwegian hard rock/metal/funk band got big.

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Playing SOMA as a wuss. It can be done!

SOMA is one of those games I didn't even bother thinking about before it came out because I knew it was a horror game. I just can't play those. The only game I have beaten "normally" is F.E.A.R., mostly because the scary parts where infrequent and the shooting was awesome. I hid under a staircase in Doom 3 back in the day, never played it again. Got a few hours into Dead Space before noping out of that. Did beat Dead Space 2 though, but I barely had any sound on. Was still hard as hell.

But the more I heard about SOMA after release made me want it. I love that kind of story, and I often play games for the story. Started watching a playthrough on Youtube, but decided that I wanted to experience it for myself. Find everything, read everything. So I got it. And I played a bit. And it is just so fucking hard to play for someone that just can't deal with first-person horror. The "I am helpless" makes it all so much worse. I got just past finding Catherine, but even the first monster freaked me out. And he/it/they mostly stayed out of my way. Not even sure if that one attacks.

As far as I have gotten on the GOTY podcasts for 2015 the crew have repeatedly said that the game would have been better without monsters. The good parts about the game is the atmosphere, the story and the locations. And I agree. Those parts are awesome, and if further on in the game I have to run past awesome stuff because a crazy Gonk Droid is chasing me, then that is a shame.

Which is why I pulled the trigger and installed the "Wuss Mode Mod". With that mod on the monsters no longer attack or run after you, save for some instances it seems where the chase is a part of the story. Which, as the creator mentions, kinda makes it even better. Having the monsters patrol the corridors, mumbling and screaming, or following you around being angry at you changes the atmosphere into something kinda worse in the "this is fucked up" way. I have only played a bit of it, and have either managed to stay away from a monster or I have just not encountered a new one yet, but the game still freaks me out. I know I cannot be attacked now, or die because of something attacking me as the monsters give off no damage with the mod on, but I still feel the dread. The fact that some of the chases will happen due to story stuff makes it, in a weird way, more tense. I have no idea what monster will chase me. Which means I will still crouch-walk everywhere, stay out of sight of whatever is walking around. But knowing I cannot die at least takes some of the paralyzing dread I feel in games like this away. I can now play it, experience it, beat it, while still being pretty scared. Which is awesome. So if you are like me, one who wants to experience the game for themselves but just cannot sit down and play it because of the scares; try the mod.


Metal Gear

Metal Gear Scanlon is done! And boy, what a ride!

I never played much Metal Gear myself, as the only games I have actually played properly have been one bootleg copy of Metal Gear Solid (which I now realize had some kind of DRM as it always locked up when the last boss fight started, deleting the save) and Metal Gear Solid 2 on the Xbox. Why only those two games? I never owned a Playstation. I did also play through the demo of Metal Gear Solid on a friends Playstation though, and I played it a lot for some reason. Not sure why, because I never liked how it controlled.

I have always been fond of stealth, and the stealth gameplay in Metal Gear rubbed me the wrong way from the start. I struggled through MGS2, only playing on to see where the story went. At the time I remember liking how bonkers it was, while at the same time thinking it was kinda stupid.

And now, after I have seen all of the gameplay and story from the main games? Well, Drew didn't actually play it stealthy, but it seemed to be as bad as I remembered it. The camo system in 3 and 4 seemed neat though, and I think I would have enjoyed that. Story still straddling the line of "this is stupid as shit" and "this is awesome". There are glimpses of great stuff there, ruined by idiotic scenes. I think, for me, Hideo Kojima's love for western action movies ruined a lot of what could be cool. Most of the cool stuff was just hammered in too much, and it got worse every game. The same with the dramatic scenes, which got more and more melodramatic. I appreciate the story, (but calling it great is stretching it,) and I do love big plots like that. Had all of it been planned out at the start it would have been impressive, but it is clear it was not.

Yet there is something to this series, I admit that. I even went so far as to add Metal Gear Solid 5 to my Steam wishlist. It seems to be better in the gameplay department, and maybe you can stealth it better when you have more freedom. But I don't feel like I need it at the release date.

So congratulations, you guys made me want to play a Metal Gear game. I have always thought I didn't need that after MGS2.

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The Witcher 3.

Been playing The Witcher 3 for about two hours today, gone up two levels. I have fought exactly one monster. This is so good.

Also, when I told my brother what the game was about, he said it sounded like some sort of medieval fantasy version of "Supernatural". That is kinda spot on in a lot of ways. He is now further into the game than I am...

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You don't have time, the world is ending!

There is a bunch of games where your task is to stop the end of the world, but instead of structuring the game as a corridor of events leading to the final showdown, it is open. You can go and do whatever you want. In these cases I invariably feel I can't just go about doing whatever. A big part of me always feels this need to finish the quest. I can't go screwing around when the world is ending!

Take Skyrim for instance. Alduin the World Eater is flying around waking up dragons. You are the only one who can stop him. On my first playthrough I did minimal of the sidequests, I really leaned into those main quests though. I just felt I couldn't mess around while Alduin is supposed to make things shittier by the minute. But you could fuck around for years in the game without anything really changing. It breaks some of the immersion for me, and so I need to stop the end of the world. Fast.

Morrowind was better at that. Your very first quest is to deliver a package. When you do so, the recipient Caius Cosades turns out to be a member of a spy network. The package contains a letter saying you are supposed to become a member of the network. The first mission he gives you? "Go out and do whatever. Join a guild or something, fight some bandits. Just do stuff to make an alibi, this spy network is secret." No "you have to stop Dagoth Ur fast or he will destroy the world!". In the context of the story of that game you are free to just do whatever you want. Hell, you are encouraged to!

This brings me to Majora's Mask. Recently remastered and released on 3DS, a lot of people have shouted out both in favor of it and against it. I am part of the crowd who love it. A part of the smaller subset who thinks it is the best Zelda game out there. And a part of the even smaller subset who thinks it is one of the ten best games I have ever played. One of the main gripes people have with the game is the "three day restriction".

"You've met a terrible fate, haven't you?" Yes, I actually made a papercraft version of this guy.

The game works like this: You arrive in Termina three days before the moon is to hit the ground. You literally have exactly three in-game days to stop the end of the world. These three days pass on rather fast. A quick Google search yielded this chart:

1 Termina hour = 45 seconds

4 Termina hours = 3 minutes

12 Termina hours = 9 minutes

1 Termina day = 18 minutes

2 Termina days = 36 minutes

3 Termina days = 54 minutes

Inverted Song of Time - Triple the amount of real time

1 slow Termina hour = 2 minutes 15 seconds

4 slow Termina hours = 9 minutes

12 slow Termina hours = 27 minutes

1 slow Termina day = 54 minutes

2 slow Termina days = 1 hour 48 minutes

3 slow Termina days = 2 hours 42 minutes

So without messing with the time, which is easier to realize you can do in the 3DS version, you only get 54 minutes to save the world. I can see how people figure that out and think "hell no, this fucking sucks". Even with the Inverted Song of Time you only got 2 hours 42 minutes. Not that long time, right? Well, with that you can finish dungeons without any problems. I actually only learned about the Inverted Song of Time after beating the first two dungeons back in the day. And I was like... 12 years old or something. So it can be done on the normal time as well. How you say?

When you think about it, after that first day you steal money from the bank every time you withdraw rupees.
When you think about it, after that first day you steal money from the bank every time you withdraw rupees.

You don't have just 54 minutes/2 hours 42 minutes to beat the game. When you play the Song of Time you can travel back in time to the first day. Everything is reset, except certain items. You keep your bow, but your arrows disappear. You keep your bomb bag, but no bombs. Your upgraded wallet remains, but all your rupees poof. If you spent your last three day cycle getting to the entrance of a temple, finding the Owl Statue there, you can simply warp there right away. So the time constraint isn't "save the world in three days", it's "do whatever you want/need in three days". Want to beat a temple? You got three days. You want to roam around gathering rupees? You got three days.

And this is one of the reasons why I love this game. It has a time constraint that actually works. The world will end in three days. It actually will end, killing you and everyone else, forcing you to reload. In any other game I can think of the end of the world never happens, as it has not been scripted in to actually happen after a set amount of time (if there are any games I would love to hear about them! Ah, just remembered Fallout has that, so I can think of one game.).

If you only had those three days, the game would be super stressful. Even if those three days was real-time days. But with the Song of Time, a crucial part of the story, you sidestep the stress once you learn how it works. The first few cycles of days I was really stressed out. "Ok, I am at the beginning again, but I only have three days to beat this temple now! FUCK!". But you quickly figure out that you got plenty of time. Hell, you got all the time in the world. This also gives you an in-game reason why you can just fuck around for a long time. If you want you can spend a three-day cycle just unwinding. Taking in the sights. Have a vacation so to speak, without breaking the immersion. I know I would do that from time to time.

So the three-day cycle, one of the reasons why a lot of people dislike the game, is actually one of the main reasons why I love it so. It's like a perfect blend of "THE WORLD IS ENDING SOON" and "Eh, do whatever you want man, it's all good". And yet I understand why it turns people off the game. But for me, it is one of the greatest games out there.