Telling Stories: Only a little time

Yes, I know, it's a horrible logo. I'm not always good at those.In an ideal world, you would have all the time you want for roleplaying and work.  And whatever other hobbies you have, too.  Skateboarding, maybe.  But reality doesn’t work that way.  You have a limited amount of time in a given week, and with enough demands on that time it becomes really hard to also work in 2-3 hours of roleplaying on one night.  Let alone on multiple nights.

Your options are simple.  Find more time to roleplay, or get better at making roleplaying work without a whole lot of time.  If you’ve attempted and missed out on the former, well, time to fall back on the latter.  How can you do more with less time?

The simple answer is that it’s tricky, but it is doable.  What follows are the best tips that I have for making sure that you still get involved in roleplaying even if you aren’t able to go for marathon sessions on a regular basis, or even if you’re just a bit shy on time for a given week.

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Horrific asides

Unfortunately he didn't make it out in one piece when Other M rolled around, but no one came out of that looking good.

You wouldn’t think this would even register as scary in a game where you fight a space dragon in a world of lava, but here we are.

I loved the Wrecked Ship in Super Metroid.  Honestly, I loved the whole game, so in many ways that’s not terribly interesting, but the Wrecked Ship in particular stood out in my mind.  Yes, it was clearly a part of Zebes, but it was also this strange interloper, an alien element unconnected to the larger plot.  I remember exploring it before it was powered on, then again after it had regained its power, at once intrigued and confused as to its ultimate purpose.

Super Metroid, of course, is not a horror game.  But it’s also not the only game that makes use of horrific asides.

A horrific aside is a segment in an otherwise non-horror game that inserts a few elements of horror into play, whether you were or weren’t expecting it.  When done right, it breaks up the flow of the game without being jarring, giving a sense that the player is more vulnerable than previously thought, mixing in shades of fear without making the whole game an exercise in terror.  Sometimes, it’s even more scary and memorable than when the whole game is focused around the horror.

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The Final Fantasy Project: Final Fantasy IV, part 10

I don't expect it to last, but it'll be nice while it does.

Artwork from a sketch by Yoshitaka Amano

After a brief stop at the Dwarven Castle to drop things off with the fattest possible chocobo, it’s time to head to the Feymarch!  To do that, I’m sure we’ll have to penetrate a cunning illusion that hides this mystical land, surely secreted away from mortal voyagers, kept behind a veil of – oh, we just fly due west for a couple of minutes and then land on an island.

I suppose this at least answers the question of how Rydia got underground to save the party before, although how she crossed all of that lava is a different question.  Maybe she’s a really good jumper.

The Passage of the Eidolons looks a lot like the Sylph Cave but with its colors swapped; to its credit, that actually feels very different and ominous.  Lots of hard-hitting enemies in here, but that’s to be expected, since we’re not supposed to actually be here until later in the game.  (Probably.  Sidequests, you know how they go.)  At least we no longer have to deal with Malboros and constant Sleep effects, although the Confusion that can be tossed around is pretty annoying.

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Hard Project: Hellboy

I mean, he seems like a pretty cool guy.  Plus, he was in Pacific Rim.  That counts for a lot, here.

Actually Ron Perlman.

I have given up on explaining certain franchises to people without them sounding really weird.  This doesn’t bother me, exactly, but it’s in the back of my mind, so these days I think I wind up actively looking for stuff that sounds either impossible to parse, bizarre, or just plain stupid when described in the abstract.  Like Hellboy, which is about a friendly demon who punches secret Nazis and folklore horror figures in the face with the key to ending the world.

Okay, all right, the 90s were a different time for all of us, especially when it comes to comics.  And despite his decade of origin and those scant details, the eponymous Hellboy is not a snarling antihero, having a demeanor closer to Detective Lenny Briscoe of Law & Order – wearied, a bit gruff, but mostly concerned with doing the right thing and helping people.  Yet for all the fun of the very concept, for some reason the dude’s only got two games, both of which were horrible.  Why’d that happen?

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Demo Driver 8: DreadOut

Seriously, why did you ever go here.

Places to run away from really fast, part one of like a million.

I’ve long had massive reservations regarding the whole concept behind Steam’s Greenlight service, but another one popped into my head as I played this game.  I’ve seen plenty of games flooded with negative user reviews over trivial technical issues or the usual impotent gamer publisher rage (Ubisoft, EA, Activision, pick your villain of the week), but pretty much any greenlighted game is filled with positive reviews.  Because of course it is, because there’s a built-in pile of players who wanted to play the game and now they can.  Regardless of whether it’s very good or not.

DreadOut is not actively a bad game from the demo, at least, but neither is it a tremendously good one.  It’s got visual character for miles, and it’s the sort of thing that draws you in quickly, but actually playing the game falls victim to all of the tired tropes of survival horror without adding anything of interest besides.  Or to put it a bit more bluntly, it’s the sort of game that’s only going to appeal to fans who will buy almost anything that has a horror tag attached to it.

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