DC Movies, Tone, and Why it Hurts

While I’m not a huge mainstream comic fan, I’m averagely familiar with Marvel’s and DC’s franchises.  Really, living in America, it’s hard not to be at least somewhat familiar with them.  They are fairly pervasive in the culture, and with the recent string of superhero movies, they are pretty well-known characters.  That being said, those familiar with the current state of movies know one thing: Marvel is doing better.  Not to say, of course, that Marvel always has masterpiece movies, but Marvel has had more successes in the past few years than DC.  In fact, outside of a few Batman movies, such as The Dark Knight, most DC flicks are forgettable or laugh worthy.

Why is this?  This is a pretty important question since Marvel has proven that superhero movies can be box office successes.  Though I’m sure certain fanboys/fangirls would say Marvel has better franchises, I would disagree considering Marvel and DC copy a lot of characters from each other.  This is not to mention that DC does have iconic characters like Batman and Superman, so the flaw in the movies more likely lies with their execution.

As I pondered this question, I also considered the fact that DC gets a ton of other great material in different media.  While Marvel has put most of its eggs in live action productions, DC still gets a lot more animated shows, video games, and so on.  Though there are certainly flops, a lot of these productions are successful.  Take for instance Young Justice who just got renewed for a third season because of the passionate fans.  Or, consider perhaps, Injustice 2 which just released and received high praise, in part for its writing and not just its game mechanics.  Heck, even consider, despite all the years that have passed, people still talk about Batman: The Animated Series because of how masterful of an animated show it was.  The point is, whether you personally like the productions or not, DC can succeed as shown by their success in other areas.

So, why are their movies so ill received?

Thus comes my personal opinion on the matter: DC movies are getting the tone entirely wrong.

Tone in stories can be subtle but very important.  Describing a rainstorm as “light and cascading” sets up a different tone than describing it as “an unforgiving torrent of water.”  Though movies are clearly more visual, the dialogue, music, light choices, and more all characterize what the tone of the movie will be.  Tones dictate everything even if one doesn’t understand them completely; they not only encourage consumers to a specific interpretation, but also help manipulate the emotional responses that will occur.

In the case of DC movies, there seems to be a common trend of making the tone as serious as possible.  The movies will focus on the darker sides of the DC characters, from Superman’s inherent threat from being so powerful to Batman’s broodiness and vengeful attitude towards stopping crime.  The conflicts they face will often have dark implications, and lighting choices will be fairly dark or have a gloomy atmosphere to them.  All in all, the choices in the movies set up a serious tone to remind the consumer that this is serious business with serious stakes and angst.

Unfortunately, this is inherently the problem with their tone.  Everything in the movies (with exception to a few specific movies) is meant to be taken seriously.  Consequently, all the joy and fun of superheroes is sucked out of the production.  These are, at the end, people running around in costume; to not have a little fun with that is to do the concept a bit of a disservice.

Now, that being said, I’m not saying the franchises shouldn’t be treated seriously.  After all, there are some DC movies who did the exact opposite, and were as poorly received as the serious ones.  However, what there should be is a balance of treating the franchise seriously and having fun with it.

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To example this, let’s take a quick look at the 2001 animated Justice League TV show, a generally well-received animated show for the time.  Now the show was definitely a serious one and the conflicts were treated seriously.  There was an episode about Diana/Wonder Woman being banished from her home, an episode where Superman was thought to have died, and so forth.  The show did not skirt around serious conflicts and made sure to convey some heavy emotions.  However, the tone was never overly serious, and the show added lots of light-hearted moments as well to keep the tone from being too heavy.  A lot of this actually came from Flash, who was depicted as a goofball with some funny lines, especially his failed pickup lines.  Overall, the best word to describe it is the show was relatively witty.

I could go on and on and analyze several incarnations in other media but lack the time for this post.  Regardless and suffice it to say, in my personal experience, the good DC productions all achieve this balance.  They are serious, but never forget to add some humor and wit at regular intervals.  When done well, it blends in seamlessly, and one gets to have fun even despite the heavy conflicts going on.

As such, for me at least, it is the tone of the DC movies that is failing them.  If one looks at Marvel’s movies, they do not fall into this trap; rather, there is a lot of humor in Marvel’s movies.  Even when there’s a hole in the sky, there’s still time for some witty banter from Iron Man.  The movies are fun, so many flaws can be overlooked.  Since DC movies treat themselves so seriously in tone, though, their flaws don’t receive this benefit; people will judge the movies in a completely serious and unforgiving manner in the same spirit.

While, of course, I don’t expect this trend to change anytime soon, I thought this analysis might be insightful for some people asking this same question.  I’m sure other aspects also hurt the movies greatly, but for me, the tone is the truest culprit that changes what could be a fun depiction into an overly serious, nonsensical, travesty.

 

Mentioned Marvel franchises (Iron Man, The Avengers, etc.) are © to Marvel Entertainment LLC and affiliated parties.

Mentioned DC franchises (Batman, Superman, Justice League, etc.) are © to DC Entertainment and affiliated parties.

Image: Justice League (2001) animated show promotional image.

Quick Tips for Business E-mails

While e-mailing your friends is easy enough, it’s often a whole other ballpark to e-mail a business or similar professional entity.  Is this too formal?  Will they care I didn’t capitalize this word?  What else should I do?  These are just some of the questions that may pop into your head as you try to conquer your nervousness.  As someone who deals with a lot of professional e-mails in an indie setting, though, there are a lot of common mistakes that get made that I feel the average person doesn’t quite consider.  That being the case, I wanted to impart my wisdom in these four quick tips that will help you compose a better e-mail.

Before I begin, please keep in mind this post will not cover formatting.  This is something that can easily be found in a plethora of other articles should you care to look.  It is also an aspect I feel is less important, since differing e-mail clients will change the format anyway.  With that out of the way, here are my quick tips to writing better business e-mails~!

 

  1. Say something; never leave your body blank

Though I expect some skeptical eyebrow raising from some, let me assay your worries: this does happen.  It’s not common, for sure, but it happens.  Especially in an environment where people will be sending you attached files, some e-mails just arrive with nothing to say.  Let me tell you, this is highly inadvisable.  It gives a bad impression to the receiving party when you say nothing.  Additionally, it makes it easier for them to not notice your attachments, since it blurs the line about what the e-mail is regarding.  So, even if it’s just a file exchange, always write something.  Even if you have to write something generic like, “Below I’ve attached the requested files for Project Name,” that is infinitely better than just sending a blank e-mail.  Remember, this is a business exchange.  You don’t need to write them an essay about this simple exchange, but you should properly state the obvious anyway to keep the line of communication clear.

 

  1. Don’t say too much; the receiving party doesn’t want your life story

Now this one is far more common than the former point.  Some e-mails are just flat out intimidating walls of text.  As a person, I can empathize; I, too, ramble a bit when I’m nervous.  That being said, the glorious thing about writing is that you can edit it down.  Trust me, if you have a huge paragraph, you may want to consider this.

Business e-mails should contain ONLY the necessary information that the receiving party requires.  If the receiving party requested certain files, don’t write an essay about your hard search for them or how your day is going.  Write a proper greeting, mention you included the files, and conclude the e-mail.  That is all that should be in the body.  Did the receiving party request the body to contain a short biography?  Write a proper greeting, mention the biography is below, write the biography, and conclude the e-mail.  Do you see the pattern?  Being concise is key for business e-mails.

There are certainly those who are asking what necessary information versus unneeded information is.  Unfortunately, there is no one catch all guideline for that.  For example, if in a certain file you had to redact something because of privacy agreements, that may be something worth mentioning in the e-mail.  However, perhaps the part you redacted was small and had nothing to do with the core parts the receiving party needs.  In that case, it may be irrelevant to mention.  There are a myriad of circumstances, so what is needed is a case-by-case thing.  My rule of thumb for this, though, is less is better.  Unless the receiving party specifically requested it, it’s probably better to not include.

For those wondering, the reason you want to be concise, is that the receiving party probably doesn’t have time.  It’s great you want to share your life story to everyone, but for business purposes it’s not really the place.  In fact, including too much information is liable to anger the receiving party more than it makes them like you.  The more you make the receiving party have to sift to find relevant information, the more likely they will not want to work with you.  So please, for your sake, keep your e-mails to the point.

 

  1. Write a clear subject line.

This is one you may find in articles about formatting, but I’m going to include it here because it is a frequent problem.  Always be sure to make your subject line as clear as possible.  In some cases, the receiving party will actually indicate what subject line they would like for the e-mail (i.e. your submitting content for a group project).  The best practice is to always use that subject line verbatim in those cases.  Don’t switch words around, don’t add cheeky emotes, or anything else.  Use that subject line exactly because it will make the receiving party that much happier.  For those times where the receiving party doesn’t specify a subject line, pick something that is a clear indicator of what the e-mail is concerning.  Is your e-mail a question about payment?  The subject line should probably be something like, “Payment Question – Project Name.”  Is the e-mail a submission of sorts to some project?  Perhaps include a subject line like, “Project Name– Submission.”  The key with subject lines is to be clear but concise.  I know that’s easier said than done in some cases, but with practice it’s something that can come naturally.  It will help you out too, in the long run, since you’ll be able to go through your “sent” folder and clearly identify which each e-mail was about.  Using a clear subject line leaves a better impression, so it’s good to endeavor to do.

 

  1. Read any instructions carefully

My last tip is one that I feel is most important of all: have stellar reading comprehension.  As a receiving party, there is nothing more infuriating than getting an e-mail that shows the sender didn’t read anything.  It gives the receiving party not only a bad impression of your work ethic, but also your ability to follow instruction in some cases.

Thus, I cannot stress enough how much writing a good business e-mail is equally about reading.  If you’re, for example, submitting content for a project, read all the project instructions and follow them to the letter.  Yes, some of those instructions can be a huge wall of text, but they are there for a reason.  Trust me, the receiving party did not write those instructions for fun.  Being able to follow the instructions not only makes the receiving party’s life easier, but gives them a much better first impression of you.

It is equally important, however, to pay attention to any e-mails you receive from a business/professional entity, etc..  The business, if run well at least, will be following these tips.  In other words, their e-mails, even if they’re long, will endeavor to only include the necessary information.  It is essential you read these e-mails top to bottom, sometimes twice, to make sure you don’t miss anything.  Sadly, as a frequent receiving party, I get many replies that ask questions that were blatantly answered in the e-mail I had just sent previously.  This is why it is important to make sure you understand an e-mail before replying to it.  It will, again, give a bad impression if you’re demonstrating you can’t be bothered to read.

That being said, if you have read everything, it’s perfectly okay to ask for clarification.  The receiving party is usually more than happy to answer reasonable questions that haven’t been addressed already.  It’s also fine to ask for clarification.  This is not quite the same as asking a question.  Rather, if the business answered the question, but you didn’t quite understand something about it, it’s fine to request clarification; just admit you didn’t understand it.  The receiving party will not think less of you; rather, they’re probably grateful you asked instead of wasting their time with confusion.

In summary, please read available information concerning the receiving party.  Tl;dr is not an excuse in a professional setting.

 

Although I could list infinitely more tips, these are ones I feel are overlooked key points that one should consider for any business e-mail.  As harsh as I’m sure some of these tips sound, remember that business communication is, in a sense, a collaboration.  Just as your time is valuable, so is the receiving party’s time.  It is best to endeavor to not waste it.  Simplicity can save everyone from long e-mail chains, and aid in everyone getting what they want.

 

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Image: By naobim on Pixabay

No Post This Week

Hey everyone.  There won’t be a post this week.  I’m very sorry to miss the update day.  Sadly, one of my cats passed away this evening so I’m just not in an emotional fit state to update the blog this week.

Posting should resume normally next week.  Thank you in advance for understanding during this time of grief. 😥

Basic Writing Tips from Rebel

As someone who writes most every day, I consider myself decently knowledgeable about numerous aspects of writing.  I’m no expert certainly and make mistakes like a normal human would, but I grasp the basic concepts pretty well.  That being said, as someone who writes often, it always surprises me how many people have stories to tell but claim to have no ability to write well.  Today, I would like to impart some knowledge on these sorts of folks.  Now, this is not an attempt to say, “I’m better than you,” or anything like that.  I simply feel some of the tips I can offer may help someone out down the line.

So if this is something that would interest you, please sit back and enjoy~!

 

  • Outline your story.

In my opinion, outlines are one of the most crucial steps to starting any story. While there are, of course, people who thrive when they don’t have a set plan for their story, I find more often than not most people do better with an outline.

So what do I mean by outline?  I simply mean a bulleted point list of all the major plot points.  Does Bob journey to the forbidden mountains, fall in love, and then get turned into a frog?  List all those as separate bullet points.  The organization of your outline is totally up to you; as long as it’s something you can understand, it’s fine.  You can add as many details to each point as you want (I’m a particular fan of organizing things with subpoints), but it’s also okay to just do the bare minimum.

The point of doing an outline, however, is so that you go in with a plan.  When you have your major plot points listed out, it becomes much easier to notice things like logic inconsistencies and plot holes.  Additionally, it also gives you the perfect medium through which to foreshadow future elements.  For me personally, I find writing is also infinitely easier when you have an outline prepared, since you already know where you need to get with any scene/arc/etc.  I could go on and on about the benefits to outlining, but the point is it gives you a plan, which is necessary particularly for those who aren’t experienced story writers.
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  • Remember writing is not science, it’s a creative pursuit.

I’m sure a plethora of people have heard this before, but it never hurts to reiterate. Throughout your writing development, you will be told numerous amounts of rules.  Generally, these are things like avoiding clichés and tropes, not beginning a story a certain way, etc.  However, unlike science, these are not set in stone rules.  While they are good guidelines to follow, there exist an infinite number of contexts where any one rule can be broken and work in an amazing way.  In the same spirit of art, it’s okay to experiment with how you write a story, even if it means breaking some of the rules that get hammered into you during your youth.

Now, another aspect of this being a creative pursuit that’s worth mentioning is writing is also subjective.  No matter what you do in regards to rule-breaking or not, there will always be people who don’t like your story.  Now, you should of course consider all criticism seriously.  That being said, you can choose to continue writing how you like if you feel certain aspects are necessary for the story you want to tell.  There’s nothing wrong with not following someone’s advice, and you can always find an audience that likes it the way it is.  The point I wish to make here is that you should simply write the story that makes you happy.

  • When applicable, read your stuff aloud.

Assuming you write your entire story down at some point, you’re probably going to want to edit it (at the very least for grammatical stuff). When you edit it, I highly advise reading it aloud.  Of course, I don’t expect anyone to start randomly reading their story on the crowded bus.  However, if you can find time to yourself, I definitely encourage reading the story aloud, or, if you can’t read it, getting someone else to with you present.  The reason this is a desirable way to edit, is it’s a quick cheat to find grammar, flow, and other sorts of similar errors that you might have otherwise missed.  I myself do this all the time since my brain has a tendency to auto fill in words even if they’re missing.  Reading aloud helps you catch issues like that quickly so you don’t wind up publishing a story with items like, “You only need go with flow.”  There are a ton of other ways in which this helps, and while you may have a sore throat after, you may find your editing skills improved immensely from doing this.

  • Trimming is important.

When I say trimming, I mean this in two ways. In the first way, it is often better to be brief than it is to expound on something.  While your two paragraphs about your protagonist’s breakfast may be a beautiful masterpiece, in the larger picture it may not really be necessary to elaborate that much on it (assuming the breakfast plays no part in the actual plot).  Of course, brief does not mean never describing anything ever.  Generally, the rule of thumb is to describe things that you want the reader to pay attention.  Does it turn out that the breakfast gave the protagonist magical powers?  Then yes, that would be a scenario describing the breakfast wouldn’t be out of place.  If it’s just a normal breakfast though, you don’t really need to write an essay on it.

The second way I mean trimming is simply to not make things overly complicated.  I’m sure you love your protagonist who is a magical girl, but also a princess and a half-demon who gets overcome by blood-lust occasionally.  While I won’t knock having such a protagonist, the problem is that all these things are going to require story rules.  What triggers the blood-lust?  What are the transformation rules?  The world is as much a part of a character as the character is a part of the world.  The rules between are intermingled and, unfortunately, readers can only keep track of so many rules.  So, simply for the sake of not confusing the reader, one needs to find a balance between being complicated and being simple enough readers don’t need a whole guidebook for how the world works.

 

 

There are a lot of other pieces of advice I could give, and ways in which I could elaborate on the points above.  However, I think I’ve conveyed a basic understanding at this point of these basic writing components.  Becoming a good writer, like numerous creative pursuits, is simply a matter of practice.  Writing with confidence, whether you think you are good or not, will also make a huge difference in your ability to convey your story.  I hope with this article that some people feel better equipped to dive into story-telling.  There are never enough stories to be had in the world, so I encourage everyone to tell the ones they have.

The Broad Usage of Indie

Speaking from a game development perspective, you’ve most likely heard the word “indie developer” thrown around.  It’s becoming quite the phenomenon lately, especially with the numerous changes that benefits indie developer.  These changes range from financial support systems like Kickstarter to platforms that make indie games readily available (circa the Steam Greenlight program).  There are also numerous engines available to the public now such as Unity and RPG Maker.  All in all, the industry scene has changed quite a bit for indie developers, allowing them more access to tools to make games and more access to people to play those games.

All that being said, none of these changes have affected how we apply the word “indie developer.”  Yet, for me personally, I have to wonder if the term is applied too broadly now?  With more tools and more platforms comes a wider variety of quality in these games.  Is it fair that all indie developers get lumped into one group?  That is the topic I wish to explore today, or more so, apply my opinion to.

To begin, we first must have our standard definition.  Wikipedia defines indie games as the following:

“Independent video game development is the video game development process of creating indie games; these are video games, commonly created by individual or small teams of video game developers and usually without significant financial support of a video game publisher or other outside source.”

By this definition, we’re speaking then of creators who are not supported by publishers like Electronic Arts, Bandai Namco, etc..  While this may at first seem like a fine definition, when one looks at the wide range of games available, it starts to have some flaws.

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Let’s take a look at Subnautica by the studio Unknown Worlds.  For those unfamiliar with the game, Subnautica is a survival, crafting game with a futuristic, underwater theme.  Subnautica, in my opinion, has a graphical quality that could challenge a lot of AAA games.  While there is a stylization to it, the graphics in it are high quality featuring smooth meshes and spectacular animations.  Fish in the game all have individualistic movements, from the Gasopods who more float around to the Reaper Leviathan’s who coil about.  The interface is also well-developed, featuring stylistic minimalism that serves its use while fitting in with the futuristic tone of the game.  The world is fairly vast, featuring numerous individualistic biomes.  This includes areas such as a biome filled with mostly underwater lava to a biome that that is in shallow water and has a bunch coral like structures.  The mechanics of the game are also well-developed and pretty balanced, letting the player explore, gather resources, and craft items at a good pace.  The atmosphere the game possesses is very intense and has vast immersive factors; one cannot but help but be a little more scared of the ocean.

In summary, though, the point is that this is a high quality game that you can tell was developed with great care.  While the game is still in development at the moment, there’s a certain level in which you could be tricked it was finished.  That is how amazing the game is.

That being said, let’s take off our Subnautica hat and look at someone else: me.  Now before you click off, understand I do not choose myself for shameless self-promotion.  I choose myself, because I’m the person I can criticize the most without hurting anyone’s feelings.  My intent in this article is not to discourage anyone from making games, so I’m a risk free candidate.  Moving on, in October 2016, I developed a Halloween game called Dark Forest.  It was made in the RPG Maker VX Ace engine and used, for the most part, in-engine assets.  The game is a puzzle-horror game and was made within the span of a week.  The game takes maybe 20 minutes to beat.  While I personally may be proud of certain aspects, I’m under no illusion that it’s some amazing, revolutionary game worth playing.

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The unfortunate fact is, however, that a lot of indie games are closer to mine in quality.  There is nothing inherently wrong with that as everyone has to start somewhere.  Yet, all these beginning developers (such as myself) still get to wear the title of indie developer.  So the point I ask you is that particularly fair?  Should I be able to say I belong to the same grouping as a hard working studio like Unknown Worlds?

In my opinion, the answer should be no.  In fact, I would argue applying the word indie so broadly in this case is detrimental to both sides when it comes to public perception.  Let me explain.  Say there was a player who only ever played my game and games of similar quality.  Let’s also assume that they did not care for these.  So, when a game like Subnautica comes along, there’s a risk players may not even consider it once hearing that it is an indie game.  After all, indie games to them have so far been of an immense lesser quality than AAA games.  On the flip though, say they were someone who, so far, only played games like Subnautica or Stardew Valley.  These are both fairly high quality indie games, so overall those high standards would inform their perception of what an indie game should be.  However, when they go to play a game by someone just starting, they are probably going to hate that game by default for not matching the higher quality of others.  In the end, both sides of this coin cause a huge rift in player perception.  Either they are going to expect gold or expect trash upon hearing that one word.

I feel this is a gross disservice to both experienced indie studios and those just starting.  While I, of course, have no power to suddenly command language to change, I do advocate that maybe it should in this case.  At the very least, I feel indie games should probably have sub-genres of a sort: one for games like Subnautica and one for games like mine.  In this way, the word indie would have less effect on players’ expectations, and the quality someone was getting into would be better known.  Though I acknowledge this may disadvantage those starting out, at the very least these developers would not be getting people who hate on them for not being these more intense indie games.

Unfortunately, this is the extent of my power in making this change happen.  I have no real expectations for it to change, nor am I going to go on one-on-one tirades for anyone who is okay with using the term broadly.  I do understand that not everyone feels a need to get that specific about word usage.  Nevertheless, I did want to put my two cents out there regarding this linguistic phenomenon.  At the very least, maybe someone thinks about indie games different than they used to, and I would at least consider that a victory.

Subnautica is © to Unknown Worlds all affiliated parties.

Image 1: Screenshot from Subnautica during one of my playthroughs.

Image 2: Screenshot from my game Dark Forest.

Why I Find Dragon Age: Origins Quests Tedious

Warning: Spoilers ahead for Dragon Age: Origins.  Also, this is a very game specific opinion piece.  If you aren’t familiar with the game, you may not understand this post very well.

 

As I continue to traverse in my little free-time through Dragon Age: Origins yet again, I am reminded of a consistent fact: I hate the Fade.  For those who need a refresher, lore wise the Fade, or the Beyond to Dalish elves, is a world of spirits, demons, and dreams.  Gameplay wise, the Fade is a major component during the “Broken Circle” quest line, as at a certain point you get transported to this nightmare-scape by a demon.  It is, in my opinion, a nightmare to play through as it involves numerous loading screens, numerous fights that are overly difficult if you are a rogue or warrior, and a bunch of other small annoyances.  However, as I examined my dislike for this sequence, it occurred to me that many of the main storyline quests in Dragon Age: Origins are equally tedious to me.  Why would that be though?

Then it hit me: three of the four major storyline quests have false endings and terrible boss pacing.

Now before I begin with the specifics, do not get me wrong.  I love Dragon Age: Origins.  If that was not the case, I would not be on my fifth or sixth playthrough of it.  Nevertheless, I can recognize flaws within the game, and this happens to be one of them.

So, what exactly do I mean by false endings and terrible boss pacing?  Let’s first take a look at the “Broken Circle” quest line.  After traversing three or four floors of the Circle’s tower, the player is sent to the Fade, which is a rather long sequence that requires about the same amount of time as the tower itself to complete (at least if you’re thorough about some of the extras).  At the end of the Fade, you fight Sloth, the demon who put you there in the first place.  It is not an easy battle by any means and requires killing Sloth several times in different forms.  There is a sense of finality to the battle, yet, that is not the end.  Rather, you must fight Uldred, the real boss, who is almost literally right after the battle with Sloth.  In this case, there is no breathing room between these separate boss battles, making the fight feel long and tedious with little time to resupply and prepare between them.  The Fade sequence does feel like it should be the end of the questline as well, so to have another boss battle right after it feels somewhat anti-climatic as far as story-telling goes.

What about the other quests though?  In “The Arl of Redcliffe” questline, there are various paths to completing the quest, namely saving or abandoning Redcliffe and saving or killing Connor (the possessed mage child responsible for the problems in Redcliffe).  Once dealing with Connor however, it turns out this was not the end of the quest line.  Now, the player must go on a whole separate questline (“The Urn of Sacred Ashes”) to heal the Arl; unfortunately, this second questline has no real boss battle as a finality (the High Dragon is optional afterall).  The numerous amount of back and forth in this quest line vastly ruin the pacing and make it hard to feel there’s a proper climax.  Additionally, no battle within it feels like a true boss battle and it becomes a mix of easy enemies and hard enemies.  Thus, this questline, to me at least, has never felt like it had a final moment of feeling like I earned something.

Then, of course, we have the “A Paragon of Her Kind” questline.  Before even heading into the Deep Roads, the player must get the support of Bhelen or Harrowmont through various quests.  One of these support quests involves killing the carta boss Jarvia, which is a decent mini boss.  Alas, she is but one of three mini bosses before the player even gets to the final point.  While in the Deep Roads, the player must pass through four thaigs in order to get to the Anvil of the Void; however, all these thaigs are long enough to feel like two main storyline quest worth of material.  This is not to mention the fact you must also fight two mini-bosses before getting to the final fight against whichever Paragon you did not support.  In the end, the pacing on this quest was just overly drawn out.  One keeps wondering when they’ll finally hit the end, and every boss fight seems like false hope to reaching that sense of finality.

To summarize, these three quests are just terribly paced.  While I can appreciate trying to have variance in the composition of the questlines, the pacing feels off because of the segmentation of each quest.  They are not interconnected well to feel like parts of the same quest (even though completing them moves the main story-line along), so drawing them out as in “A Paragon of Her Kind” does not work well.  The timing of bosses was also ill conceived in some cases, since they felt either like they should have been the real boss or were simply of no concern as a climax at all.  In the end, a lot of these quests just feel tedious, since they do not properly convey a sense of achievement when they are completed.

Now you may have noticed I left out the “Nature of the Beast” questline.  This is because this is the questline I think is well-designed.  The quest has a few stages that are decent in gameplay length, and give the player opportunities to breathe and resupply.  Mini boss wise, the player can fight The Grand Oak or the Mad Hermit, but this is smack dab in the middle of the quest stage and is completely optional depending on choices.  There is also a dragon to fight within the ruins, but it is equally in the middle of the ruins sequence.  At the end, the player is given a clear idea that fighting the Lady of the Forest or Zathrian will be the end of the quest and accomplish the end goal.  As such, this is a pleasant quest, for me at least, to play through.  The story feels properly climatic where it should, and I never feel like the quest is dragging on too long.  The bosses are also well-paced to get the blood-pumping, but never catch the player unaware by putting them too close together.  In the end, this is the easiest one to play through and feel like something has been accomplished without feeling overwhelmed.

That being said, I’m sure others will have different opinions.  I can only give my opinion here on this blog.  However, I hope that someone will take these insights to heart when designing a questline, as pacing is very important to making a pleasing experience that doesn’t trap the player in an anti-climatic tedium.  This goes for story too, of course, but gameplay and story can be very intertwined.

My last thought on the matter is simply this: next time you’re playing a game and don’t understand why you dislike a certain sequence, maybe take a look at the pacing, as that may explain quite a lot.

 

Dragon Age: Origins is © to Bioware, Electronic Arts, and all affiliated parties.

Image: Dragon Age: Origins Cover.  Obtained from Wikipedia.

Multi-device vs. Specialization: Company Edition Pt. 1

Over this past week while working on administrative tasks for StArt Faire, it became necessary for me to analyze the best use for two different platforms.  However, I was overtaken by a feeling of the stark difference between the company practices.  Namely, where the companies focus device wise and how that affects me as a user, not only in my enjoyment but in my desire to even use the platform.  Thus, my goal today is to write down my thoughts about these stark differences.  Please keep in mind that the platforms I’m about to compare are from widely different industries.  Nonetheless, they are the best representatives for what I’m about to talk about.  Let us continue on this journey as I compare Tapastic and Discord.

 

Tapastic

For those unfamiliar with the webcomic industry, as far as mass hosting goes, Tapastic is one of the hugest platforms out there right now.  It offers numerous of the expected services such as: easy uploading of comics, the ability to schedule releases, the ability to comment on others’ comics, an upvote/downvote system for those comments, etc..  There is also a good sized user-base from which creators can gain readers, so it is one of the go-to sites all around.

That being said, after some internal changes in 2016, Tapastic became extremely focused on its mobile app called Tapas.  The change in focus was extreme enough that Tapastic even made a new Twitter account to reflect this change.

taptwitteraccount

Under normal circumstances, an app is usually not a bad thing.  In fact, it is becoming more common for creators to make sure their content is mobile friendly, as a huge chunk of their views comes from mobile users.  Unfortunately, however, Tapastic’s change of focus was so thorough that their desktop version is now severely neglected.

Their mobile app has numerous features you cannot even access via their site.  For example, the mobile app allows writers to post regular novels, and include paywalls for their content.  Comic creators can also use these paywalls for their content and, unfortunately, there is no way as of yet to get past these on a desktop.  Even more recently Tapastic added a tipping feature where one can watch ads, gain coins, and then give them to creators they wish to support.  Of course, as is the theme, this is something you can only do via the mobile app.

Now it’s quite easy to say, “Just get the app.”  The unfortunate fact of the matter is many people do not have access to compatible mobile devices.  This is not to mention the numerous people who may not like reading from their phones or tablets for a variety of reasons, whether it be text size, screen brightness, etc..  Yet, Tapastic has made the mobile app a near essential component to use their platform to the fullest.  For those who are skeptical that Tapastic really is neglecting its desktop version, at the time this post was written, the Twitter link at the footer of the site still links to their old Twitter account.  I don’t know about you, but a company who cannot even be bothered to check their links is one that is not being very attentive.

The unfortunate consequence of this mobile focus is that Tapastic is ruining the experience on desktop.  Readers who are desktop oriented cannot financially support the creators they like, nor can they even read some of the comics that are exclusive to the Tapas app.  Inevitably, this shows a lack of care for creators, in my opinion, as this essentially cheats creators out of fans and financial support they might otherwise have.  These lack of desktop features likewise affect readers, as with an increasing exclusivity for the app, readers are left with less content to peruse.  The end result is the desktop version becomes increasingly unenjoyable; between the desktop site breaking for long periods of time and the knowledge that you’re missing out on a lot of features, it is just a discouraging experience to use Tapastic on a computer.

At the end, this specialization of focus ruins a lot of the experience.  It can be no wonder why a good chunk of the user-base is leaving for LINE Webtoon, whose desktop version is friendlier in several respects (though does suffer its own issues).

 

So how does this relate and compare to Discord’s company practices?  Tune into the blog tomorrow where I will discuss how Discord chooses to handle various devices.  I will also conclude this segment with the next post, and specify why the differing industries don’t make a difference~!

 

Tapastic is © to Tapas Media, Inc.

Image: Screenshot- From Tapastic’s old Twitter account.