Friday, April 27, 2012

AotP: A Bit More Garmuth, Some Roathus

Meh, I don't care if this is multiple posts in a row on the same day. I know I could just edit it, but whatever.
Previously on Art of the Pantheon:
Introduction, Concepts, Original Sketches
Hense Take 2, Design Guidelines
Hense Take 3 (with hood designs), Lemaign
Garmuth, a bit more Hense

So just two images right now. I'll start with the guy I introduced us to earlier.
Hello Garmuth. So, this take does some pretty good things. I tried out the taller and narrower face from the profile views on a front view, and I think it worked. In general, I think I got the look I want - in fact, I think I went and made him a bit TOO severe looking. Gotta mess around with the eyebrows, the direction of the cheeks, and the lines framing the mouth area to remedy his expression a tiny bit more.
Speaking of the mouth area, I just don't know what to DO with it! I don't just want it blank, but shading really starts messing with stuff. Maybe have it all retreated back in a bit, a bit darker. That could work. Will try it out.

Oh, I lied. More than two images, just two important ones.

So yeah. I messed around with the color reduction functions and had some fun with a bit of solid noise stuff. I like the look. I'm probably gonna use the small one as an avatar on KG or something. Click the larger one for a full view.

Alright, I admit, there actually WAS a point to making these. I've found that the color-reduction function is an excellent indicator of whether or not I've blocked in my shading right. If I reduce it way down and it doesn't look all deformed and the shading is still in the right place, I got my values right. So yeah. Just thought I'd share this.

Okay, back to real things.
Roathus, the Gorging Host. God of Thirst and Plenty, Roathus "grows ever larger yet remains insatiable, his eyes awash in tears."
So, this design is obviously very different from the original. While I found that the original fulfilled some requirements, I just wasn't fully satisfied with his look. This time, I went a lot less Ent and a lot more Tret from Golden Sun. I wanted the face a lot more human-like, with larger, fatter cheeks than a lot of the other gods are getting (if only to jump out of the rut of drawing gaunt faces), with a fairly large nose. I do miss the huge gaping maw, but it doesn't work great here. Maybe later versions will find a way. I don't feel so good about doing later versions though - I really like the drawing here, it gives me a very bark-y tree look that I have a really hard time replicating. This was essentially a happy accident.
And if you think the tears look tacked on again,'d be right. Again. Seriously, they're just not a compelling part of his design to me, I always forget them once I start drawing. Next time, I swear I'll get them!

That should be it for now. Maybe later I'll edit even more into here.

End Recording,

AotP: Garmuth, Hense, Squirt

Hey, so I did some stuff yesterday. First, Hense.

Okay. I forgot the cog trim on the hood, but that's an oversight. I tried extending the trim along the edge, but I don't like it. The eyes are still problematic, and I dislike them a lot here. Overall, this is not my favorite Hense drawing.
However, I got a couple of things right in this. First, I was experimenting with flipping around the shaded part of the hood. I like this one too, but I'm just not sure. I'd need to try it in color.
Also, the staggered cog pattern going down the robe partition is pretty good looking.

I really just don't know what to do with the robes. If anything, I think the issue is that I'm making her shoulders too wide. Oh well, something else to try out.

So before I go on, have a picture of a Squirt from the Bastion series. Obviously he's not a god, he's a basic enemy from the game. I like him. He's fun.
I'd love to talk about monsters (including Windbags) and their relation to the gods of Caelondia and the Ura sometime. Now's not that time though. For now, just have a cute drawing.
On to Garmuth, the topic of the day!


So, Garmuth. Remember that he is the Crippled Duke, he is the God of Purpose and Folly, and that "despite his lack of senses, he provides council to the humble and the wise." My particular version of Garmuth lives in a mirror. So obviously, flanking this text, are two heads.
Garmuth has a bald head, and has no mouth, eyes, or ears in any of his renditions. This is the whole "lack of senses" thing. However, I'm sure you can tell the difference here: the nose. One has one, one doesn't. So, I'm not sure whether or not to actually have a nose on him!
Obviously, the implications of the nose kinda hurt my no-senses thing. I can, of course, counter it by just saying it's sealed over and he can't actually smell, but that has issues being communicated visually.
On the other hand, it has visual problems without the nose too. I mean, I just don't know what to DO with the front then. I like how the nose gives me an excuse to make the shading more interesting.
As another thing, I'll mention the expression. I wanted it to be a noble/wise stature, very purposeful, but perhaps a bit arrogant too. Basically, he needs to look aristocratic. Thankfully, the whole Crippled DUKE thing already had me going in this direction. A very straight neck, high cheekbones, tight drawn face, etc.

But I have more! This was the first image I was building of Garmuth for today. It's a bit more refined in the drawing than the others. However, as the first one for the day, it has some things that I fixed up on the others. For the largest thing, his face shape. The other ones I did afterward has a taller, thinner-looking face, even gaunter than this guy. I have a hard time drawing that face shape from the front, but hell, I'll give it a shot. He doesn't look as severe here, he looks much more relaxed. The facial shape will help that, as will the gaunter look, but other things involve that his neck isn't so straight up here, and he should have much more set-back rigid shoulders. Obviously, this one has the nose.
I want to talk below the neck for a minute. Pretty obviously, that's a shirt. If you're wondering about the texture, I just went without a reference while trying to think of a silk shirt. That's what he'd wear, silk. It has cog trim at all the edges, but it's a light, comfortable shirt. I need to learn how to draw silk in pencil.
One last little bit: arms. Here he has no arms, obviously. Did I just not draw them? Well, yes. That's true. But it's also a point of debate for me. I have this urge to give him no arms or legs. He's the CRIPPLED Duke. Of course, I could interpret that as his lack of senses, but I like the idea that he's limbless. It's not like he actually needs to touch anything - he lives in mirrors! Anyone care to help me out on this one? I could go either way, but I don't like drawing arms. Maybe I should just suck it up and try it both ways.

So, that should be it for today! Garmuth, Hense, and a Squirt. Enjoy!

Non-AotP: So, what's going on? Finals coming soon, so Kris can't make it for DW. Likely can't play until his summer, though that's soon. Avengers is probably the next movie I'm going to see, so that'll get a review. Video games, I'm still playing huge volumes of Mass Effect. Might play something else too soon though.
Oh yeah, and DW 2.2 came out, so I'll do some margin notes and quick look at the changelist at some point soon.

End Recording,

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A Quick Note

Hey, thought I'd pop back in and mention that I finally have admin control over my own blog! As much as I'd like to say the Ego name was passed down to me Dread Pirate Roberts-style, I just changed email addresses a few months ago and forgot to give the new one admin control. So now I can actually see a bunch of stats, and, more importantly, I can mess with the layout if I need to. I only noticed because of this:

Yeah, I made a new header while AotP is happening. All the art is made by me, including the Chozo Artifact wheel and the Star of Caelondia. Hope you like the shift while I'm doing this project!

Okay, that's all. Later.

End Recording,

Monday, April 23, 2012

AotP: Hense Take 3 (and hood designs) and Lemaign Take 2

Hey, two Art of the Pantheon posts in two days! So today was a really nice day and I didn't really feel like doing anything on the computer during my class break, so I just sat there and drew. I sketched some stuff, but I ended up doing brainstorming and trying stuff out with the AotP characters. Here, let me show you.

Take three is a modification of take two. As I mentioned yesterday, I fulfilled criteria 1 and sort of 4, but needed to do a redraw to take 2 and 3 into account. I also decided to try to figure out how exactly the hood worked and what was happening below the neck, as well as trying to come up with a hood design. Oh yes, and all the pictures today are more crappy cell phone pics. My scanner is annoying to use, so I'm just going to keep doing this until I come upon drawings I really want to use.

So this is what I got at first, redoing how the hood fits in and I tried to give a little more room to work with on the face. Most obviously, it's lost a lot of the look that Tali's hood had that I wanted to change. Instead, now it reminds me of something I would see in the middle east, which I'm totally cool with. I intentionally left the hood blank at this point - I wanted to try a couple things out before I muddied this drawing with the pattern.
I didn't have a good reference, so I don't yet get "smiling" from the eyes, though it's deinitely better. I can visibly see "scratches and scars" though, so that's good. The main issue is that now that I see it, I don't think those will be enough to make her goddess-y. Gotta keep thinking.

 And so, here.
 I drew a couple of these blank, side views of the hood so that I could practice out some patterns. This is the swirl pattern, inspired by the Hense take 2 design, which was in turn inspired by Tali'Zorah's hood. I'm still on the fence if this is too similar to her's, as the note says. I'm also not sure what color it would be. Really, I think the two issues are connected - pick the right colors, and it wouldn't look too similar. I'd need an outside opinion though. Help?

This one, the Flames design, was the other one I drew. Honestly, I like how it looks a lot. I drew the flames in solid black and made the hood a lighter gray, but not as bright as the trim. By the way, you can see on both of them now that I actually added something to the trim - the cog look. I think this was a really iconic image that gave Bastion a lot of its flavor, at least for the Caelondians, so it's pretty much a go-to trim for me. Still deciding if it should be the trim by itself or if it should be a second band of trim, as shown here.
Anyway, the comments on it note a couple of issues. I think the dark flames might be too harsh in this drawing, they're overpowering. They would likely be much lighter in a final. Another one posits the colors: I was thinking a crimson red hood with light gold threaded flames. It's the inverse of the colors on the drawing, but I like the idea, and it solves the issue of not being boring while not treading on Olak's toes as the colorful one. Lastly, I question whether the flame design is thematically appropriate for a Bastion god. It's jagged and violent and fire, which I don't think are quite right, but I think Hense could make it work. I'll keep trying hood designs, but this is pretty good I think. So good that...
I put it on her. I also some robes, to get a sense of her body position. I think it actually meshes pretty well. I'd think she'd be boring to look at any lower than that, but most robes are, so that's not really my problem. This adding of the flames is kinda messy, but it's less harsh. I think this could really work for her. Just need to do some more eye work and I'd be prepared to call he done. Oh, does the veil need anything extra? Should I show the outline of her face under it to try to make it barely transparent-ish? I'd rather not (cuz it's hard!), but I'm willing to if others think it's a good idea.

Oh yeah, so I said I had some Lemaign as well, right?
This is less a take 2 and more a redraw just because I like drawing him and I need to figure out something godly for him here.
Hi Lemaign! I really like this drawing too. It's a little different, but it fits I think. This kid in my Stat lab saw this on my binder as I was setting up my laptop and complimented it, so that feels nice.

Here we go. Doesn't look like I changed much? I didn't. As it says, I found a godly trait for him: maybe he's made of stone. Make the Mason King bit really strong too. However, I can't do much for drawing stone without the color, so just cracks for now. Still gotta find out some hope/despair for him (though his expression right now is pretty hopeful I guess), but meh. Still not positive about the stone thing either, I'd need to try it.
Oh, and all the blurry? Yeah, I tried some body context and goofed it up, but my eraser smudged it all up. Ignore it.

So, that was fun! Any opinions about these? Especially about Hense's hood design? Do you actually like seeing this stuff?
Talk to you guys later.

End Recording,

Sunday, April 22, 2012

AotP: Hense Take 2 and Designing the Pantheon

So, like I'd mentioned at the end of the Mass Effect commentary, I've managed to come up with a way better design for Hense. I'll be sharing that, but first I thought I had a pretty good opportunity to discuss my own criteria for designing the Pantheon.
Okay, so for all of the first-takes, I took an index card (4"x6" is the size I believe), cut it in half, and then folded that in half again so I had a 2"x3" window to work in. I like having a small space to work in originally, though once I get onto the computer I'll expand the canvas infinitely. Anyway, so I take the little piece and start drawing. Usually I have an initial basic idea in mind, though I'll often just start from a base human head shape. Sometimes I'll go in with a full idea in my head too, like I did with Jevel and Pyth, while other times I went with just a basic idea and let it evolve (like Garmuth - I drew the mirror and knew he'd only be in the mirror, but taking away his face came partway through). Eventually, when I think I have a decent enough base, I go through a few checks. They aren't finished in my mind until they fit the checks.
1) The God represents their Title. Every God has a title, given in their Shrine description. For example, Hense is the Veiled Widow. Their title should be somehow represented.
2) The God represents their domains. Every God has two domains, and they're always a positive concept and a negative concept (Micia and Olak are exceptions). For example, Hense is the Goddess of Pain and Pleasure.
3) The God represents their dialogue and description. Every God has a blurb in the shrine that I want to adhere to. Several also have other dialogue mentions in the game, and while I'm not so insistent about these, I'd like to go after them. Pyth in particular has a lot of imagery in the game, and I want to sort of represent that (though my version's third eye is frequently unrepresented).
4) The God is not human. Most look human-like and have humanoid shapes, but they must in some way be obviously inhuman - more specifically, they must be godly or divine in some way. I think in the first post I referred to them needing to be special.
Not every God needs these to be in equal balance, as long as the requirement is even a little satisfied.

Let's scan through and see where I'm at so far.
Hense: I'll come back to here, since I made a new version already. On the old one, I barely satisfied piece 1, and that's it.
Acobi: 1 is mostly complete, though I'm not sure "maid" comes off well. I might be switching that to Maiden though, it makes more sense anyway. Besides, maidens can be maids. For 2, I got the oath part alright (though suddenly I'm thinking tattoos of words or promises could be sweet as hell), and I guess you could stretch to Abandon. Abandon isn't exactly an easy one to represent though. 3, I got, though again I might add a lock. 4 is alright, but would be even better supported if I did those power tattoos. Maybe they glow a dull orange. That could be neat. Oh man, chains made of promises. Now there's an oath concept. Maybe it won't come off very well, but I want to try that, at least as an alternate.
Lemaign: 1 is pretty good. The dwarf look and tough guy build, plus the hammer, says "yes" to Mason King. 2, I don't think I got Hope or Despair across. 3, hell yeah soldiers pray to this guy. 4, nope. This guy looks normal so far. Need something else. Pretty empty on ideas here.
Pyth: 1 is fine, he's the Wakeful Bull alright. 2 came off half right, the Commotion could be there. Maybe make his features a bit more angular to get "order" across. 3 is satisfied, as is 4.
Jevel: 1 is my trouble spot. I think the crown could work, but I'm not sure how to make him the Tower Keeper really. 2 is filled, 3 is filled, 4 is filled.
Yudrig: 1 works alright as long as I get some light into the image. 2 is fine, but not great. 3, I don't even know how to do 3. 4 is an issue on paper - when it gets into color and such, it should be a bit better.
Roathus: 1 is alright, though just barely. 2 I've got down I think. 3 is met, but should be more obvious, and the tears need to get actually added in (those were just added in, I'd forgotten them). 4 is good.
Micia: Weird one. 1 is satisfied if you know any of the lore I wrote, 2 is satisfied by the lore, 3 is fine, and 4 is completed by the old face on the young body (and by the eventual torn-out heart). However, I'm not satisfied with the design itself yet. I need to tie Olak in somehow and just make her more interesting to look at. White hair forever though.
Olak: 1 is good, though he might need to look even more youthful. 2 is good. 3 is good in the lore. 4 is not all the way there, gotta think of something.
Garmuth: 1 is there, what with the no senses things in the fine clothes. 2 is there in the lore. 3 is in the lore. 4 is achieved. I think Garmuth is the best at achieving everything I wanted, and he's my second favorite drawing too.

Alright, so Hense is redrawn, Acobi is going to get some redos, Lemaign needs to be godly, Pyth might need some Order but is otherwise good, Jevel might need some Tower Keeper but is otherwise good, Yudrig needs basic coloring to be judged, Roathus might need a bit but could work as-is, Micia is getting redrawn despite filling requirements, Olak needs a redraw, Garmuth is complete.
Hope this was kind of a cool look into the process.

Yes, this is a shitty picture I took with my cell phone. I'll do a good scan later. But yeah, this is the new Hense! She basically does a lot of what I was concerned about. Let's see about those criteria up there-
1) This is the Veiled Widow. I realized that I was using one interpretation of veil, but that it was the wrong one. The description involves it being said that she's smiling, but it implies that you can't see that smile, so I flipped to the other veil. I like it a lot more, it's mysterious and evocative. Plus, WAY easier to draw. "Widow" is hard, but I made her old to make it a bit closer.
2) Pain and Pleasure. Well, this I'm going to have a bit of an issue with. Basically, both Pain and Pleasure are covered by her description in part three, so let's just jump to there...
3) So, covered in scars in scratches is definitely the pain. Smiling would be the pleasure. The fact that her scars and her smile are both covered by robes means that it isn't exactly easy to see on an image. I'll need to scar her face pretty intensively (which I didn't want to do on this initial concept drawing to avoid cluttering it up since it's so small). The smile will need to be communicated in the eyes, which I think I can do with some work. I'll pull the hood away a bit to give us some more room to see the head in.
4) Hmmm. Maybe the intense scarring will be enough. We'll see.

Okay, what about non-criteria stuff? Well, if you look at the hood, and you think its design reminds you of Tali from Mass Effect, you'd be right. The basic shape of the hood was inspired from there, and I might keep some of that look. The design on the hood was me doodling. It won't actually look like Tali's swirly design. Just don't know what to make it yet. My main issue is that I don't know what I'd do with the hood from here - What's below the neck? I need to think of Hense as a whole character, not just the head (haha I first typed "not just a bust" but then realized that sounded really bad). Also gotta figure out a design for the hood. I'll try not to go too close to Tali, but I want to be careful not to tread on Olak's toes with a colorful thing, but I also don't want it too boring/plain/colorless. Need to do some work. The veil will be black there (are there even non-black veils?), I just didn't want to muddy the image by making it too dark, it'll be better in later renditions.

So, how's the new Hense? Well, it's WAY better. I feel satisfied going this direction with her design, but it's obviously not complete yet. I need to think about her hood and its design, and pull it back a bit to give more room for scars and smile-y eyes. Gotta not look at any images of Tali/use Tali in game for a bit before I start drawing next time so I'm not so tilted in the design.

Well, I really do need to go write a paper. Not sure what'll come next in Art of the Pantheon, but I'm looking forward to it! Later.

End Recording,

Mass Effect Series (mostly 3) Commentary (FULL OF SPOILERS)


Well, time to rant and chat a bit. I wouldn't dare call this a real review. You might notice that I mentioned posting some ME2 review/commentary, and that it hasn't happened. I'm just going to do it all here. I completed Mass Effect 3 the other day, but I don't want to really do my review yet until the craze wears off, otherwise I'm going to overlook any flaws. I really do try to be somewhat impartial. Heck, I might not even do a whole review, I might just leave it at this. There are Review Scores down near the bottom if you'd like to read them.
Here's something I want to get on the table right off the bat.
The Ending: Okay, so we're hearing a lot of complaint about this. Generally, the complaints sound like "All the endings are too similar." Now, I've only completed the one ending myself, but I know of all of them. Overall, I do happen to agree that the endings are quite similar, but that's not my major problem. But I'll get to that, I want to address the general complaint.
So, the endings are similar. People are taing some major issue with this. Now, you might be saying, why is it such a big deal? Most video games don't even give you a second option for an ending, let along over a dozen, even if they're similar. But the issue with the similarity is related to Mass Effect's story structure itself. ME is built to allow you, the player, to craft the story. There are dozens of outcomes with an absurd number of possible outcomes. All those decisions you make in the games, the ones that we were told would be significant, should have brought us to different places. As is, the three paths of ending for ME3 all do about the same thing, which makes the decision kinda pointless.
Then you have the issue of "happiness." The ending they gave us was a bleak as hell thing with death all over. Now, this is certainly a good ending. If Iwas watching a movie, I could leave the theater satisfied. However, there's this weird thing with video games where we want a happy ending. Aside from that though, the huge malleability of the story should be able to produce a happy ending with relative ease- if we, the players, are deciding how the story goes the rest of the time, shouldn't we have a say in whether we want a bleak, dark triumph or a solid happy ending?
BUT none of these are my primary complaints, because of the Perfect Ending. This ending results in destroyed Reapers, saved Earth, and, most significantly, Shepard survives. Despite the weirdness of what happens to your squadmates (why did Joker abandon you, how the hell did my team get from the ground to the Normandy, and where the hell are they now? Will they be rescued and returned?), it's a strong ending. I wish my teammates would be around (I'm really pushing for the Shepard/Tali thing) but I can tolerate it. Unfortunately, I have no first-hand experience of this ending, because unless you play through the whole series with the explicit intention of obtaining it and using a walkthrough every step of the way (in ALL THREE GAMES), there's no way you'll see it unless you play Multiplayer. Yes, multiplayer is required for the good endings. If you want Shepard to live, you sure as hell better get on that multiplayer. Unfortunately, I'm not even sure I CAN play multiplayer on Origin without an online pass, and I know that if I'd played on 360 I'd never get it because I don't have Xbox Live Gold. And I saw an interesting point raised: what about when the server's eventually shut down? Any people who like to go back and play old games will be literally prevented from getting the best ending. Fuck you, Bioware. If it was *possible* within the span of ME3 I'd be okay with it. Hell, if the basic/non-imported decisions allowed you to have it, I'd be more okay with it. But no, if you don't import, screw you, better get on that multiplayer, and even if you do import, you probably need to get on that multiplayer anyway. I HATE online multiplayer. If I can play, I'll be boosting my scores through private games with no one but myself, and boosting to get that Galactic Readiness. FIX THIS with the Extended Cut.
Okay, I'm done for the moment I think.
Oh wait no. Wanted to mention Indoctrination Theory. While I haven't read about it/watched any explanations or anything, I know the basic idea, and honestly I'm calling bullshit. You're making excuses to get out of an ending you don't like. Bioware doesn't have this big conspiracy to avoid telling us what really happened. I won't rule it out, but it's so unlikely that I don't even care about it.
Okay now I'm done.

So, what's my Mass Effect experience? I've played all three games now. I played ME1 a while ago, and beat it, but my saves got wiped out in a hard drive failure and I haven't taken the time to replay it. As such, no importing from here, and thus the game assumes I killed Wrex, let the Council die, and killed the Rachni queen. I recently played ME2 through, twice, back to back. It was glorious. I lost Miranda and Jacob at the end, and destroyed the Collector base. Solid paragon. That's my history with it. Oh yeah, and I didn't import so no first-game romance, but totally romanced Tali in the second game. Actually, I'll make that the next topic of business.

Romance: Honestly? I genuinelly think Tali is consistently the best option. I'm not even saying this because I think Tali makes an excellent choice - it's more that I think all the others make for POOR choices. From what I've seen, everyone but Tali is either a crazy or a total bitch. Some of the evolutions of the characters in ME3 make them more appealing as choices, but those same characters aren't even options unless you're tranferring that relationship over, which requires you to have picked them when they were either crazy or a total bitch. This is just my opinion though.
Alright, I'll just confess. I've never been one to ship characters from fiction. I just don't do it, I've always thought it was stupid. And then, within a month, I've managed to get TWO of them stuck in my head as unchangeable. I simply cannot imagine Shepard with anyone other than Tali. It's the way it should be, in my mind. I'm glad it's NOT canon - the "No Canon" thing that Mass Effect has going on is part of what makes it so beautiful, and I wouldn't want to change that. It's just that for MY canon, it's Shepard/Tali or nothing. For that matter, Female Shepard/Garrus is my other match. Here's an interesting bit: Tali and Garrus are the only two characters who're on your crew all three games, and if you choose to romance someone else (or not to at all) they'll be with each other instead. It just seems obvious to me that those are the intended choices. However, No Canon, so this is all just what I think - any and all situations are canon to someone, I suppose.
Moving on.

Alright, this is supposed to be about ME3, right?
The Graphics: So, Mass Effect 3's graphics are nice. They're well made, usually, and they're varied, colorful, and simple. The game definitely made graphical improvements over ME2. However, in my opinion, the graphics have actually done worse overall. Mass Effect 2 took what it could do with the system at the time and pretty much pushed it to the limit, making the best of a slightly problematic system. Mass Effect 3 has a higher overall graphic quality, but to be honest, they're sloppy. Things clip through each other all the time, there's strange motions and weird movement glitches in the models, and multiple times I saw the graphic de-sync from the audio. Come one guys. The cutscenes are very strong and well-made, though I think they often could have done more with some things. It's good, but this isn't pushing the envelope. I wish the very unified-feeling, context-sensitive loading screens made a return. The facial expressions on the models are quite improved this time (despite being good before as well), and they fixed the damn smile.

I have an issue with a lot of the cutscenes, but it's a paired concern with sound. The visual issue is mostly tied to them just seeming static. Too often were the cutscenes a bit stiff or slow-moving. Not in a narrative sense always, sometimes the people and camera just moved too damn slow. Mostly I'm drawn to the invasion cutscene when retaking Earth. I know it's space and the Reapers are supposed to be a bit slow-ish, but still. The Suicide Mission is probably my favorite video game cutscene EVER. It was fast and hectic and it responded to what you'd done, and it gave you a sheer epic impression. Whoever storyboarded the Invasion scene needed to take another stab at it. Space battles, especially with fighters, can look way cooler than that. Heck, I know these guys watched Battlestar Galactica (the quarian/geth thing just can't be a coincidence), and the space fights in that were awesome!

Actually, let me go off the rails again since this isn't a real review, more just commentary. I was thinking about what I was talking about here with the cutscenes, and I actually came to a revelation about an entirely different game: Skyrim. What does Skyrim have to do with cutscenes? Nothing. That's my point. Skyrim entirely lacked cutscenes of any kind, and I think that went a long way to take away from the potentially very cinematic feel of it. I get the intention, trying to stay within the character and not pulling things out of your hands, but there were moments where it just needed cutscenes. Even just short establishing ones would work. Entering Blackreach could have used one, as could things like discovering the Eye of Magnus (that's what the magic orb thing was called, right?) or the scene where you meet Nocturnal. Basically, each of the core storylines could have been made much more special with the inclusion of some awesome cutscenes to set them apart as really unique. The central storyline had a lot of moments that were ripe for cutscenes that COULD have made the game way cooler and more enjoyable, and hell, maybe it'd even make the plot seem significant. Up on High Hrothgar, being taught to shout, absorbing your first dragon soul, at the peak, finding the Elder Scroll, entering Sovngarde, either Alduin battle, the arrival of the first dragon, all of it is just perfect cutscene material, and I don't know why they didn't take advantage of it.
Well, that was the Skyrim minute with Ego. Back to Mass Effect now.

The Sound: What the hell Bioware? The first game's music was excellent, the second game's was beyond amazing. Who dropped the ball and didn't hire Jack Wall again? Anyway, the music of Mass Effect 3 is easily the weakest of all of them. That's not to say it's bad - Sam Hulick and Cris Velasco and the rest of the crew did a pretty good job, and the soundtrack is much more agreeable in-game, but it doesn't make nearly as good listening on its own, which is what I usually do. I feel that they tried to take Leaving Earth and make it into the primary theme of the game, and it has its own beauty, but it doesn't function as the heroic super-song it needed to be. Basically, it's just straight up inferior to the Suicide Mission theme that recurred through ME2 and isn't as strong as the ME1 theme either. More than anything else, I'm upset that there was almost no use of the already established themes from the previous games. The music just didn't feel like Mass Effect. One of Halo 4's songs appeared recently (the Waypoint mix, I recommend it), and I thought it was more fitting to Mass Effect than most of ME3's music (which I also take as an enormously good sign for Halo 4). Seriously though, check out that song, it's pretty great in its own right
But don't let me sell the soundtrack short. It's weak in comparison to ME2's stellar soundtrack, but it's still strong, especially in certain places. Leaving Earth has a haunting beauty, and in its original early-game context it works exceptionally well. A Future For The Krogan is probably my favorite song on the soundtrack, and Rannoch is good too. I was sad to see that there were less clubs to go into in ME3, mostly because I really enjoyed the music they put in the clubs last game. Purgatory's song is good, but it's not as good as any of Dark Star, Eternity, or Upper or Lower Afterlife. I liked seeing Aria return though, thought it was hilarious that she brought her couch along with her (or at least it sure looked like she did).
So yeah, don't discount the soundtrack on my account. It's flaws are those of not fitting into the series tone-wise and not living up to its predecessor, not those of quality. Give it a shot, maybe I'm alone on this. I know quite a few folks who were big fans of Leaving Earth, so I might be a minority.
Oh, that reminds me, side-tracking for a moment, I've entirely neglected the overall community of Mass Effect. This is entirely intentional. I have no interest in getting into canon wars, disagreements, analysis of meanings of certain bits, and I especially am trying to avoid running into the game's heavy detractors, if for no other reason than to avoid lowering the game for myself. I'll put it on a god-damned pedestal if I want, whether others agree or not. So I have no idea what the general thought of people on the game is, other than the whole ending thing.

Reincorporation: Well, I was gonna use that Aria mention a minute ago to segue into this but that plan is all blown to hell now, but whatever, this isn't high writing. I'm writing this right now to AVOID doing high writing. God I need to stop procrastinating that homework and I'm rambling back to Mass Effect now.
What do I mean by Reincorporation? I mean taking things from the previous games and bringing them forward either directly or through reference. A lot of trilogy final entries rely on a lot of reincorporation. Mass Effect as a whole has done a good job with reincorporation - it seems to have been a major design goal, since in order to make your choices feel like they mattered they need to reference how those choices became fallout. Through numbers 2 and 3, for example, they'll reference the actions of Virmire pretty much whenever you've got stuff going on with krogans. Obviously, these are major plot points and need to be referenced. The sacrifice/rescue of the Council is probably the biggest of them. However, it's the attention to detail, the reincorporation of SMALL elements that makes or breaks their success of reincorporation.
Here, this is my favorite example of it: In Mass Effect 2, early in the game you can visit with Mordin and talk to him about personal stuff. One of the things he mentions is that he served under Captain Kirrahe when he was in the Salarian Special Tasks Group. Of course, Kirrahe was the salarian in charge during the first game's Virmire incident. It keeps going though - Mordin mentions that he liked Kirrahe's speeches, and mentions Kirrahe's favorite line in speeches: "Hold. The. Line." This was true in the first game too. I like that referencing of a small detail that's entirely unimportant, but does a lot to make the world seem a lot more alive and fluid.
ME3 tries to do some reincorporation as well, and when they do it, I think it works. The very humorous bringing back of Garrus' love of calibration, and Miranda's father, and of course any talking about character deaths. The wall on Deck Three in front of the elevator with all of the crew members lost over the years is exceptionally good. Saw Jenkins up there, smiled at his memory. A few time you'll talk about the crew member you let die in ME1 on Virmire (Kaiden for me). I romanced Tali through the games, so I got to have the drunk Tali scene (don't know if it's standard for others, but it's hilarious. Visit the Prothean during that scene if you get it, she drunk dials him over the comms). During it, she talks about Miranda, who I'd let die at the end of ME2. I thought that was a pretty good thing to bring back. And of course, the return of Jack and Oriana and Thane (and Kolyat) and potentially Wrex (though not for me D: ) was good.
Of course, it wasn't perfect. I don't think, aside form the memorial wall, that there was any reference to the fact that I'd let Jacob die in ME2, he was just a non-entity in this game. And sometimes, the reincorporation wasn't done very well. I LOVED engineer Donnelly in ME2, but he was sadly quite boring in ME3, though I was ecstatic to see him back.
Overall, I just like how they did it. I wish Saren/Sovereign tied more into things, along with the Collectors (we killed the homeworld, but that shouldn't have gotten ALL of them). They did a good job of bringing back pretty much all of the ME2 Normandy crew (donelly, EDI, Chakwas) though I missed Gardner. I mean, he wasn't really important in ME2, but I still would have liked him referenced. Chambers was missing for me too, but I know she can be there if you transfer her as a romance, so that's not an issue. One piece was majorly missing though:
Where the hell was Harbinger?! The oldest, most powerful Reaper didn't visually make an appearance. It's like we just entirely forgot that he was supposed to be important.
I know that some series end up all wound up in too much self-reference in their final bits and don't bring in enough cool new stuff, but ME3 had room to do more reincorporation. There was a lot of new cool to go around (The Thresher Maw Queen, the krogan female, Thessia, etc.) for more to be safe. In fact, I think a little too much was new in some ways. Specifically, I'm talking about Kai Leng. If you've read the Mass Effect novels, Kai Leng is the star of them and he'll seem like a more natural fit. I haven't read them. He seemed out of place and too new to work out. Needed someone we knew from Cerberus to be doing the job, though I'm not sure who. Maybe this is just a hint to say "Go read the novels" though; I suppose it's kind of like saying "I didn't play ME2, so I feel left out when they brought things in from it," though it's a bit different with spin-offs like the novels.

Length and Linearity: THIS is going to be a primary complaint. Basically, I felt like the game needed MORE. In my 24 hour playtime, I 100%ed every system, got every war asset I could, and beat the game. I'm out of things to do. A heavy RPG like this just needs more side-quests. This game, pretty much every "side-quest" amounted to playing the galaxy map scanning mini-game and then scanning a planet. It wasn't exactly enthralling, or satisfying. I needed more ground quests. But my main issue is something that worked really well and that they left out: loyalty quests. I loved 'em. They took the characters I felt marginally connected to or even DISliked and made them into people. I hated Miranda before her loyalty quest in ME2, but the whole Oriana thing really made me sad when she ended up dying. Loyalty quests were a great thing. Why are they gone? It would have been more side stuff to do and it could easily make sense in context. They even built in skills that you would have unlocked in almost the same way as the loyalty quests (as in for the Advanced Training thing) and then they just get unlocked by a quick option-less conversation.
Speaking of that, what the hell was with all the option-less conversations, or the fact where you didn't even go into conversation mode for half of them? I missed whole things because I accidently hit space and I can't ever get those back without playing through again. I had no steering of the conversation like in the first two, and it just made it a lot more boring. They basically just railroad you through most of it, especially the section up until after the first Citadel visit. Even after that it's not exactly like you have a lot of choices. And of course, the "linearity" of the ending, but I already talked about that.

Design: I wanted to talk about how much I love the character, species, location, and technology designs from the game. I love them. I think they're all freaking brilliant. There's obvious reference to those who came before (Cortana in the VIs, Twileks in the Asari, etc) but they're definitely their own. Basically, this is a plug for the Art of the Mass Effect Universe book, which is simply stunning. I happen to love concept art, and I like seeing how characters evolve over the design process. The book's diagram of the development of the Quarians (did you know that they came up with the Quarian idea, made the Geth idea from them, did visual design for the geth and then came up with the quarians by working in reverse from the geth?) is excellent, all the production paintings are brilliant, and the original Saren is wicked cool. Heck, I'll post that one up myself.
An older super-biotic version of him? This would have been a pretty sweet way to go with him too.
Unfortunately, not EVERYthing gets spotlight time in the book. There's pretty much nothing about the Hanar, for example (to our great misfortune, I love the Hanar). Keepers are absent, and a lot of secondary characters get no comment (Kolyat, Oriana, and a mess more, but even some more important ones like Udina are missing). Perhaps strangest is the entire neglect of the Batarians - while not present in ME1, they played a large role in ME2 so I figured they'd have some mention or art. Oh well, it was already a pretty large book.
Regardless, the book is worth every penny if you're into Mass Effect, art books, or general concept art. And clocking in at nearly 180 pages, it's totally worth the forty bucks to me.

The Kid: Well, this is something I think ME3 mishandled. They wielded The Child as pretty much a blunt instrument to say "Care about Earth!," but they used it too much. By the time I was doing the third of those damn dream sequence bits (which did NOT fulfill their purpose in any of the) I was just sick of seeing him. His implementation as the Catalyst was just ridiculous. A little more finesse next time Bioware. And then him being with Stargazer -
Stopping right there. Gotta say things about Stargazer: What the shit? That was stupid. Don't do that. It was basically a way to say two things: "This might not have been how it went, I've forgotten some of the details" and calling him "The Shepard" which is just lame. I'm just gonna pretend I didn't hear that little segment. Besides, it looks like that weird world the crew landed on, whch doesn't exactly help, seeing as that bit with the crew made no sense.

I can't think of too much else to say at this point! I think I've babbled on long enough now, so I think I'll just cut to giving you my scores on the games.
Mass Effect 1: 8/10, strong concepts, graphics, music, plot, a unique approach to the third person shooter that had a bunch of flaws. Those gameplay flaws are the main weights here.
Mass Effect 2: 11/10, I'm blown away. Everything bad I can think of about this game has to do with things that would have made the game even better had they been included - I didn't think there were any actual flaws. Waiting for my craze over the series to die out before I pass true judgement, but it's sitting as a huge contender to knock off Metroid Prime Trilogy as my overall favorite game of all time. Time will tell. If it can't hold onto #1, it'll sure as hell be #2.
Mass Effect 3: 9/10, a strong game with strong gameplay, decent graphics and sound, and a plot that's both excellent and lacking in key ways.

Eagerly anticipating next gen's inevitable "Mass Effect HD Collection." Well, at least I hope it's inevitable. Hope this was entertaining, enlightening, or otherwise worth reading. I enjoyed writing it, and it let me air some of my thoughts on the series. I just have one comment to Bioware:
Watch out. Do NOT upset your fanbase the way Bungie did when they kept spinning off Halo. Don't poison your work just to expand it and keep milking it. If you keep going, BE CAREFUL. I trust you, but it could be dangerous. Also, "Mass Effect 4" is probably a bad idea unless you declare Indoctrination Theory true and the end is actually totally different, in which case you have a whole other shitstorm coming your way.

Thanks for reading. Maybe I'll do a more formal Mass Effect 3 review soon, but I dunno. Later folks.

So, still no Dungeon World game happening. It sucks. Kris has finals coming and is rarely available thanks to studying, and Daniel's had a hard time being available, though I could get Kenny if I need to and I'm usually available. Still trying. Might take until the semester's over though.
Mass Effect has more or less hijacked Art of the Pantheon. It'll be back on soon. Actually generated an entirely different Hense that I like, might scan that in and toss it up in its own post.
Haven't been watching any movies lately, but I'll be seeing Avengers in a couple weeks. May will probably be a big movie month.
So yeah, off to do that homework, then to my New Game+ of ME3. Gonna work my ass off for that Perfect Ending. Anyone know what exactly constitutes "100%" for the Mass Effect games? Is it just all the sidequests and stuff, or do I have to go through like a million times?

End Recording,

EDIT: Sorry Mr. Velasco for spelling your name wrong before!

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Art of the Pantheon, Stage One: Concepts, Post One

The Art of the Pantheon. So what exactly do I mean by that? This is a Bastion art project of mine. After beating Bastion, I was basically just full of intense world speculation. Everything in that game has a name or phrase, but none of it gets fleshed out, so my mind was basically in overdrive thinking about what the rest of the world was like. Looking for something interesting, I walked into the Shrine.
It hit me. 10 gods of the Pantheon. Each one has a small blurb on it, and each of them is really interesting and unique. I had to make art of them. And so I began Art of the Pantheon.

This was maybe a week ago. Last few days haven't been used for it very well, what with my Mass Effect 2 craze. Still, I'm gonna start posting here to try to keep myself motivated to keep it up. Here's some basic info that'll help.
The Gods:
Hense - Goddess of Pain - Pleasure - "They say the Veiled Widow is smiling beneath her robes, her body all scratches and scars."
Acobi - Goddess of Oath and Abandon - "No one bound the Chastened Maid save for herself. Her shackles are her own design."
Lemaign - God of Hope and Despair - "Before each battle, soldiers prayed that the Mason King grant them high morale."
Pyth - God of Commotion and Order - "The Wakeful Bull, patient yet temperamental, adorns the City's walls with his likeness."
Jevel - God of Health and Atrophy - "Half of the Tower Keeper's face is that of a youth in his prime, and the other, an old man."
Yudrig - God of Impulse and Bravery - "The Morning Stallion affects the wishes of all people upon the break of each new day."
Roathus - God of Thirst and Plenty - "The Gorging Host grows ever larger yet remains insatiable, his eyes awash in tears."
Micia - Goddess of Loss and Longing - "The Lorn Mother gave away her heart, and bears the Star of Caelondia."
Olak - God of Chance and Whim - "Alive forever in a single moment, the Carefree Son plays beyond the reach of time."
Garmuth - God of Purpose and Folly - "Despite his lack of senses, the Crippled Duke gives council to the humble and the wise."

So I ended up making some concept sketches. Honestly, I'm not sure what I'm going to evolve most of these images to, and I'm not happy with all of these initial images, but it's a start. Oh, and just so we're clear, none of these is canon at all. I'm making this stuff up, other than those above descriptions and any other quotes I pull up. Other than that, everything is malleable.

So this is Hense, the Veiled Widow, goddess of pleasure and pain. She was actually the last one to be drawn, mostly due to a lack of skill to execute the image. Veils are HARD with just paper and pencil! When I have a greater range of shades and soem transparency to work with it'll probably go better. That, and I hate robes. The cuts and scarring will be more in detail later, and I'm aware that she has quite the chin going on there. Essentially, this one will be mostly redone. Also, I need to throw in a rose motif somewhere, as that's her Idol symbol, but I forgot.


PhotobucketThis is Acobi the goddess who bound herself in oath. She's a sorrowful and self-loathing goddess, forever seeking to bind herself further. She's a patron of paladins and monks everywhere, a symbol of self-discipline and true belief in honor.
As for the drawing, her arms are all wonky, as is the depth, but I'm satisfied with the general direction to go with this. Maybe I'll throw in a lock near the center, that could be neat.


PhotobucketWooo, I like this one! As his Idol symbol is a hammer and he's the Mason King, I wanted a strong guy with some weight to him, with a dwarf-like black beard. I'm very happy with how the face turned out, gave the exact look I wanted. The rest, especially the breastplate, are just okay, but they're window dressing anyway. Not so much Hope or Despair in this one, but lots of soldier/mason look! He may need something special to reveal his deific nature - this is something I really tried to infuse into all of them, something to show that they're truly inhuman, like Hense's super-scarred body, Acobi's endless chains, and Pyth's third eye. Lemaign doesn't have something yet, he looks like he could just be a dude. But I like the drawing a lot.


PhotobucketThe Wakeful Bull has three eyes, two normal and a third in his forehead, and only one is ever closed at a time. His horns stretch up above his head, curving in strange ways. I gave him small ears because I forgot about them until the end and couldn't figure out how to put them on. I'm not a big fan of the nose, but I'm surprisingly okay with the body. It will need some touching up and texturing (as well as some bulking up) but it's general shape has really grown on me, so this one was a happy surprise.
He needed to be somewhat special, because he's one of Caelondia's patron gods. He's their warrior god, symbol of peace, order, and power, and he adorns their walls. I'm considering doing something else with the design to make his visage more powerful and make The Rippling Walls a more imposing construct.


PhotobucketJevel is a lot of things. Jevel's description was the initial inspiration to start doing these, it just sounded really interesting to me. It was the first drawing I did, and I really wanted to get it right. And, well, I did. This is by far my favorite, with Garmuth coming in second and Lemaign in third. Now remember, Jevel is the Tower Keeper (inspiring the squared look of the crown and designs on the shirt), and half of his face is that of a youth in his prime, and the other, an old man. I wanted a seamless yet abrupt transition where it's definitely half and half, but I didn't want it to be like I'd drawn two images and just tried to match them to each other. Honestly, I think I succeeded on all counts. Beneath the neck was an afterthought - the face is what mattered. When it comes to doing more with these images, this is the one I want to do an awesome job on.


PhotobucketThe other animal of the Pantheon, I had a problem doing a pencil sketch of Yudrig. I couldn't decide what was deific about it, it just seemed to be a plain normal horse. My eventual decision was to make him glow with light in some areas (originally the whole skin, but that was axed for making him too plain. Eventually, mane was decided and then my bro suggested I add the eyes too). Unfortunately, glowing like that isn't suited to a pencil drawing really. This one will need to come through on the digital side. I'm generally happy with the shapes though, except I think the eye is slightly oddly formed, but in general I'm happy with the lines.


PhotobucketOh man, Roathus. The second to last one to be done, I really struggled with his concept. I had a couple ideas. The first was an enormously fat man, endlessly stuffing his face while weeping, but I deemed this unsuitable for a god; it seemed more like a personification of Gluttony. My next idea was to have him eating endlessly but remaining utterly emaciated. This was also a bit too gross for a god, and didn't cover the "grows ever larger" bit. In the end, my bro came to the rescure with the idea of him being a living tree like the Ents from Lord of the Rings. I switched it up and made him more like the Maku Tree, or like Tret from Golden Sun. His gaping maw swallows anything, and he eternally grows. The picture doesn't show the tears in his eyes very well - that was an oversight on my part, not a concept flaw.


PhotobucketMicia needed to be special. She's an enormous influence on the game, but it's all subtle. She is the patron of Caelondia, and bearer of their star. She is frequently reffered to by characters like Rucks and Zulf, and Mother is more or less a replacement for God. She needed to be a strong design to fill these roles.
Something struck me about her description: her domains are both negative, Loss and Longing. She's a dark, sad goddess. I made a couple of design choices from all of it. First, her hair is white. I felt that it tied in with both Rucks and the Kid's white hair, which was pointed out as special. "Having his mother's white hair didn't do him any favors" is a paraphrase of a line about the Kid in one of the Who Knows Where bits - while I know they didn't intend it to reference the god, I think the idea that his family was made fun of for having the white hair of the sad goddess is a cool idea. Another thing I wanted was for her face to be visibly aged but her body to be that of a young maiden, the idea being that worry, longing, sadness, and tearing her heart out has prematurely aged her.
The outfit is more or less a placeholder - I want to show that she's placed the Star of Caelondia where her heart used to be, but I couldn't figure out how to draw it. Disregard the body. This drawing is much more about the concept than the specific execution. I think I also might want to reference Olak somewhere, and you'll see why...


PhotobucketThis is Olak. I caught a small pattern that I'd like to think was fully intentional, but likely wasn't. Olak is the Carefree Son, who left time itself to live forever in youth and fun. Micia is the Lorn Mother, who lost something long ago and has been longing for it for eternity. Olak is the only god with two positive domains, Chance and Whim. Micia is the only goddess with two negative domains, loss and longing. See where I'm going with this? I like the idea that Olak is the lost son of Micia, who left her alone for all time for his own happiness.
So what's up with his design? I had two ideas. The first was to have him as a small child, a toddler, happy to the last. This idea ended up vetoed in my mind though. This one won out for the things I could do with it. Olak is dressed in brilliant colors and wild patterns, much like the designs the Ura wear but even more crazy. My idea is that Olak is the one who colored the world, who breathed vibrance and animation into the land. He was carefree and bright-eyed. I'm not so solid on his face, and the card suits on the pants there is just to remind me that he needs to be about Chance too. The rest of the design I very much like. I want to work in Micia though, a memento of her, or perhaps the Caelondian star.


PhotobucketMy second favorite next to Jevel. My idea is that Garmuth only appears in mirrors. The wise and humble who revere Garmuth carry mirrors with them always, and in their spare moments they pull out their mirrors and reflect upon themselves and the world, looking to Garmuth to grant them the wisdom they need. On the rarest days of legend, Garmuth himself appeared in mirrors tot he wisest of men, a head with no face and a body with no limbs. He imparts wisdom through simple understanding, and though he cannot see, hear, smell, taste, or touch, he knows all.
The mirror is directly taken from his idol, though I added the bands of light over him to make sure it looked reflective. I'm aware that I want a little heavy on the shadows by the cheeks, and that I gave him ears - he's not supposed to have ears. Otherwise, I'm extremely pleased with him. He's one of the cooler ones in my mind.

So that's the Pantheon. I will probably redo Hense entirely, and everyone else needs revisions and new thoughts, and then I can go on to figure out what to do with these next. Cheers!

Oh yes, and it turns out I've already tried something just for fun.
So, this is Jevel. I took the drawing and tried some painting over it. I'm a novice digital painter, but I kinda like it. It's messy, but a good start I think. The top is the original paintover, the second is a color edit for a much paler skin, and the third is a color edit done with the posterize function to color reduce it. It integrated things in some fun ways - the right side is heavier on the red, the left on the green. It's much too messy to use, but I like the thoughts in it.

So, until the next time! Please, give me some feedback on this!
End Recording,

EDIT: Did a little reformatting; now the images are alongside their text, not above it! Learning how to use this blog a bit better.

Video Game Review: Bastion

So, Bastion. Created by Supergiant Games last year, this game is one of the amazing set of indie games released in recent memory, such as Super Meat Boy, The Binding of Isaac, Bit.Trip, VVVVVV, Limbo, and Braid. I gotta say, I'm amazed by the sudden onslought of awesome indie games - I mean, the indie world is suddenly going places. For a good long while, Cave Story held the throne, and suddenly the little indie section is flooded by competition. And it isn't stopping - with Fez coming soon (actually, that might release today, not sure), and Minecraft only continuing to grow in power, I'm excited.
Alright, so back to Bastion. Bastion is an isometric action game. It falls under the header of post-apocalypctic, but it vastly different from everything else the post-apoc genre has to offer. It also takes enormous cues from the westerns genre, especially in the music but also in other places. Yeah, I think that's the best way to put it. I'll go into plot now - no spoilers here.

The Story: You play The Kid, an youngster who's a soldier on the Rippling Walls of the The City of Caelondia, a highly civilized city-state. Neighboring Caelondia is the Ura nation, who once initiated war against the Caelondians, but were defeated. However, don't think you're going to be exploring the City; the game starts with the Calamity. You wake up, and the world's gone to hell. No one else seems to be alive, you're alone on a small floating chunk of rock. You make your way to the Bastion, Caelondia's evacuation point and hub of the game, and meet the Stranger (Rucks is his actual name). You set out to find the Cores, powerful crystals that will finish the incomplete Bastion, which will make everything better (how it will do so is not told until later in the game). I dare say no more.
The plot is simple, but it pulls you in. The game only has a few characters, but each is strongly compelling, having a definite stance and an active voice, other than the Kid (who says nothing - not sure if you're actually mute, but you act it). What's even better in my mind though was the way it encourages you to speculate and create your own world. The game gives you the framework, it gives you names, places, relationships, groups, and it leaves most of it at that, sayign things that never get fleshed out. The core plot of the game is explained in excellent detail, though it is very linear, with only two choices occuring at the very end of the game. But all that open air makes you think, because those names, places, and such typically had maybe a line or two of description, which never ceased to be extremely evocative. The Art of the Pantheon is something I'm doing right now and I'll post about later, and that should showcase this.
I can't talk about story and dialogue without talking about the Stranger, Rucks, and his narration. As you play, Rucks talks overhead, telling your story. There's no talking in the game other than Rucks' narration (except for a moment at the end). Thankfully, his voice is really relaxing, a very Western voice. The neat thing about his narration is that it's adaptive; a good example comes from your fight against the first enemy. After that fight, he'll say something, and it's totally different depending on whether or not you took damage. If you fall off once, he's got something to say. Fall off again, you've got something new. Later levels have different comments frot hat same falling. It ends up feeling like really organic storytelling.
Oh yeah. The ending. It's a single moral choice that has no impact on gameplay, but somehow it was a really captivating and troubling choice. It's not "pick good or evil," it's "which good is greater?". For such a short game with so few characters and such a scarce deptiction of the world, it's surprisingly impactful upon the player.

The Gameplay: So, gameplay. This is an isometric action game - you run around with WASD, and use your primary and secondary weapons with the mouse buttons. You have a special skill to use with Q that takes a special resource (black tonics) and can heal with F (which takes a health tonic). Shift uses your shield. You fight a variety of enemies as you explore through the levels.
A cool thing about Bastion is the idea that the world is floating. As you walk, the pathway springs up in front of you. It gives a neat look, and makes the world feel very dynamic, but it has a dark side: sometimes you aren't sure which direction you're supposed to go. It's kinda supposed to be like a path that pops up and you always know where to go, but sometimes you need to get pretty close for it to spring up. Also, it kills a lot of potential exploration aspects they could have used. Aside from the few collectible mementos, the path is usually straight, without a lot of looking around for more unless you're really hurting for tonics or fragments (money). It's not a flaw in the game, just lost potential.
So the core of the game is quite simple, but there's a lot of nuance in how exactly you play. There's a large variety of weapons- you get one pretty much every single level, which is kind of sad because there's not THAT many weapons. The level really is quite low, unfortunately. But there's a healthy balance of ranged and melee weapons, and each feels very different. Here's a quick rundown (which weapons there aren't shouldn't be a major spoiler):
Cael Hammer: The starting weapon, it's strong but slow. You can swing it while moving, but it's stronger and faster swinging if you stand still.
Fang Repeater: You need to stand still to shoot it, but it's got a high fire rate and does okay damage.
Breaker's Bow: Take a while to fire, but very strong, especially if you Power Shot (hold down until you flash, and if you release it on the flash, the shot is stronger and faster. It's a timing test).
Bullhead Shield: Not a weapon, your shield. Hold shift to put it up. Doing so locks onto enemies to make aiming ranged weapons better, and if you put it up as an attack hits, you counter.
War Machete: Swings as fast as you click. You need to stand still though. Can be thrown and power shotted by holding the button down.
Scrap Musket: A shotgun type weapon, low range, spread, single bullets weak but all of the hitting is strong. Knocks enemies back.
Brusher's Pike: A spear. High range, good damage, low attack speed, and you can throw it like the machete (and it pierces multiple enemies).
Army Carbine: A sniper-like weapon. Hold is down to aim, high damage, low fire rate, great range.
Dueling Pistols: Shoot as fast as you click, can't move while using them. Not a ton of ammo though.
Flame Bellows: Short range flamethrower. Uses ammo too quick to really be super useful.
Galleon Mortar: Take a while to aim, but it's good at dealing damage and the slow-moving shots explode on impact. Can shoot over obstacles.
Each weapon can be upgraded multiple times, up to 5 tiers of upgrade. On any tier, you pick one of two possible upgrades, but you can switch between the two any time you're back at the Bastion. There is also a Proving Ground for every weapon. These are challenge levels for just one weapon, and range from fairly easy (Breaker's Bow) to really hard (Bullhead Shield). I've done 7 of the 12 (if you're counting, yes, I left off a weapon from the list for spoilers) to first place. Top prize is another of those secret skills. If you're curious, I went pretty much every time with the War Machete and Breaker's Bow whenever I could. I liked the Army Carbine quite a bit though.
As for your enemies, there's a decent variety, though a couple kinds get underused. The main three are the Windbag family, the Squirts, Gasfellas, and Scumbags. Squirts are small and like to swarm you (makes the machete great), Gasfellas have special attack patterns and more health, so I like the bow. Scumbags are big and spit out a mud that hurts to walk through, and it slows you, and they get smaller and faster as you hurt them. They usually show up as boss-type creatures. The other enemies I dont' really need to note here, save one: the Lunkhead. This is a froglike creature with an armored plate on it's face. You can't hurt it from the front, they jump at you, and you need to get behind them to hurt them. They're a BITCH to kill- they do a ton of damage and move fast, so it's hard to get behind them to hit them. Some weapons might work well, but mine sure didn't. The king Lunkhead boss is vicious.
Speaking of difficulty, that's one of the most interesting gameplay quirks in Bastion. The game has one difficulty mode, and it's pretty easy, though there's also a "No-Sweat" mode, but even I (a guy who always picks the easiest difficulty) didn't do that. However, if you want a harder experience, that's where the shrine comes in. The Shrine is a structure you can get on the Bastion, and contains, at its maximum strength, ten idols, one for each of the game's gods. You can turn on as many as you like, but each one adds an additional challenge to the game, making enemies stronger, faster, explode on death, or a wide range of other things, depending on which idols you switch on. Turn on all ten and you have a ridiculously difficult game. This sort of modular, difficult-in-the-way-you-want method is really cool. I wish more games had a "Build your own difficulty!" option. I didn't play with any idols, but I might do a New Game+ with some since the game is pretty short.
There are also Vigils, which are essentially achievements with a cash bonus.
Oh yeah, and Spirits! You can equip a number of Spirits equal to your level, and you can choose from the list which ones to use whenever you come back to the Bastion's Distillery. Each one gives you some kind of special bonus - for example, an early one, Werewhisky, makes all your attacks critical hits when you've only got a third of your health left. There's a lot of them to pick from, and a lot of nice ones. The one that boosts your health tonic count from 3 to 5 is great, as is the one that makes them full-head instead of only heal half of your health. The best I've seen is Leeachade, which is expensive to obtain but gives you back health with every hit, making it extremely helpful with the War Machete.
So like I said, a short, linear, and simple basic experience with a lot of nuance for how exactly you play it.

The Graphics: So this is one of the most bright and saturated games I've played in a while. Everything is VIBRANT! The previous year's major indie winner was LIMBO, which was ALL black and gray, so it's a nice change. The year before that was Braid, and the colors are closer to that. Really though, everything is grogeous and looks full of life. This is why, despite being post-apocalyptic in plot, it doesn't look like one; when's the last time you played a post-apocalyptic game where the grass was green and the sky was blue and the water is calm and the animals are plentiful?
Basically, super-high marks here. More games need to do this with the graphics. An issue is that a lot of enemies float in the air, and aiming is a bit weird about whether to aim for the creature or the shadow, so the shadow of these floaters needed to be more clear. This is nitpicking though, the game is freaking gorgeous.

The Music: Oh man, this game's music. I'd downloaded this soundtrack even before I'd played the game, and it's one of the strongest video game soundtracks I've heard in a long time, in the stance that it doesn't sound like a video game at all. I gave this to my PARENTS as a real album, and they couldn't tell it was game music until I told them. It's astounding. The soundtrack itself is a combination of western style music, heavy on the acoustic, and electronic, making a genre that labeled itself "Acoustic Frontier Trip-Hop" on my copy of the soundtrack. If you like the Firefly/Serenity type music or the Canadian band Euphoria, you'll probably like this.
Also, the lyrics tracks. There are a few, and they're all amazing. One sung by Zia, one sung by Zulf, one sung by the both of them, and one sung by Rucks. The one with both Ura is especially cool, and just gets better in context of the game. Rucks' song is one of the more mythology-inspiring songs I've heard.
In Case of Trouble is great as the main theme, and Slinger's Song is great too. Mine, Windbag, Mine is a different and interesting sound. Give the whole soundtrack a listen!
If you want to hear somethng funny, listen to "From Wharf to Wilds" from this. Then listen to "Seven Lives, Many Faces" by the band Enigma. They have an uncannily similar rhythm.

So, conclusion! This game is awesome and you should play it. It has a couple flaws, namely its length and linearity, but the myriad of ways you can play that short linear game, and the amazing story along the way, more than make up for it. It's one of the best presented games out there, and it stands apart from the pack as a stand-out game of last year, and even a stand-out game of the last several years.
9.5/10. A.
Play This Game If You Like: Colorful games, an enthralling yet vague story, action games.
Don't Play This Game If You're Expecting: A long, epic, or lore-driven game, something from a different genre.

References: So, this game draws some major inspirations from places, and I wanted to point out a couple. Mostly they come from the Wild West. The Kid is, of course, a reference to Billy the Kid, though I'm surprised that they referenced an outlaw killer in the hero's name). The Calamity references Calamity Jane, which is actually apt in some surprising ways, which would be spoiling to mention. Maybe I'll post up a comment to this post with those details, since I think it's really interesting to examine. The mysterious Stranger is a common trope in westerns. There's more, of course, but I can't think of them specifically to point them out.

Look for an intro post to my little Art of the Pantheon series, and no DW this week -_-. Also, Mass Effect 2 review/commentary soon, since I'm not sure if I'll be giving a full review to an old-ish game. Cheers!
End Recording,

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Pre-Game Impressions of Dungeon World Beta 2

So I don't get to game for another week, so I'm thinking that I take a close look and see what I think about the new DW Beta 2 rules, going in cold. I'm just going to start reading the book and annotate here as I'm going. Not everything will be super-relevant probably. Oh, and to be clear, I'm coming off of the Basic rules, not Beta 1 (if there was a such a thing).
I WILL be pointing out any typos I notice. I'm not trying to nitpick - I just think it's at a stage where you can fix it if you know it's there. Not trying to be a grammar nazi nuisance.
EDIT1: Well, this is taking quite a while, I've worked on this for a couple of weeks now. Still no game!
EDIT2: Well, I finish up, and you guys go and release 2.1 before I can post this up to my blog! Most commentary is still applicable, but if you see something that's fixed, at the very bottom and went through the 2.1 changelist, so I may have made more comments about it there.
Still no game happening! Next week, I really hope! Otherwise I might end up playing something else with a different configuration of our group while looking for the next opportunity for us all to game.

* Moves being indivisible is hard, though wonderful. Question about Passive Moves: Do passive moves simply become the default, or are they always to occur regardless of circumstance? I'll take the example of the Thief's Cautious. If left alone, I assume the Thief is being cautious and gets the bonus. But if the player actively narrates that his player is NOT being cautious (for whatever purpose) do I deny the bonus for that? It seems like it would make more sense when following the fiction, but it feels like denying the bonus would be in bad taste. If the second path, would that be the same as the phrasing, "When you are cautious when making the Trap Expert move, you get..."? Essentially, I'm asking if players can forgo their own passive moves if they want. Can a Fighter with Merciless do a less-damaging merciful attack if narrated that way?

This isn't always an issue (for example, the Fighter's Armored), and while in play I'd just make a quick judgment it'd be neat to have a real answer.

* Weak hits are hard, but to me they seem to be one of the best strengths of the AW family. I love 'em, but I hate making up the results for Defy Danger, so hard but so interesting!

* Hold: I was using the plain layout of the Basic playbooks before and think it needed a spot for the holds. Looking at the new ones, I know the layout isn't final, but I'd love a spot for them. on all of them there's space under the Bonds, maybe take half of that blank space and leave it for Hold?

* Bonds: Same thing, would have liked a spot for Total Bonds: ___________: +__ stuff. It works okay in the first session as is since you can count the names in your bonds, but that changes after each session so having a spot to write it would be nice.

* Would be cool to have a name for each debility, if you can. Weak, Crippled, Broken, Dazed, Addled, Disfigured, maybe. I liked having names for each in AW (though why were there only 4, you couldn't take -1 Weird. Strange. Should there be an equivalent in DW? If there would be, it would be Int since Spout Lore and Open Your Brain seem most similar to me. No fiction reason why you couldn't deplete Int other than that I can't think of a great debility name, but perhaps it was a balance factor? Oh well. Something to think about). I like that debilities are back though.
EDIT: Apparently the names are there, just not until way later! How did I do? Well, I matched you on Weak, but had something else for each other one. And I'm not thrilled with Stunned for INT either, guess it really is a tough one for me to pick! Well, my thoughts about a DW equivalent of no -1 Weird are still relevant.

* The new level up value is way better for me, as is the new XP mechanic. However, the text says there are two times when you mark XP, but I think it should say three since you also have the alignment way. Nitpicky language stuff, but I think it's significant enough to mention.

* Chargen process appears unchanged. Fine by me, I really enjoyed the process!

* The basic moves. Okay, I know earlier it said that all moves do the same on a miss - the GM does something dangerous to the characters or just makes a move. But I'd love some advice, especially on the percieving ones (Spout Lore and Discern Realities). That's something I liked about the Psychic Maelstrom, it was pretty close to the Spout Lore move except that it could ask questions back (it's harder for me to justify that via Spout Lore). Maybe that's an advice thing I'll just pick up or something I should just ask on Story-Games or something, but hey, this is just my first impressions.
EDIT: Oh wait, you DO talk about this later on! Problem solved!

* Defy Danger 7-9 is hard, but I think that exactly that is what makes the Apoclaypse World family so special. The new Defy Danger adaptability, making it functional through any ability score, is very interesting, but I think a bit of that was diminished with the new XP system. Since now everyone is just going to use the variation for their highest stat (if narratively possible), not try out different kinds like we could with the moving highlighted stats(Int one session, Dex the next, Cha the next etc). I suppose I should just try to present situations that they can't ALWAUS

* Can you stand in defense of a person who is yourself? As an equivalent of D&D's Total Defense action? I can justify it, I just don't know if it's technically correct.
EDIT: Clarified! Thanks, I like it.

* So, where did "Make a Saving Throw" go? Just didn't feel that it was necessary? I actually agree. It felt a lot like the Harm move, except that since it only came from higher-level enemies (in which case they're already dealing a lot of hurt) or from stuff like poison (which made sense, but didn't really seem all that needed).

* Also, we had a hard time justifying Aiding on Spout Lore and Discern Realities. A bit of advice on possible ways to do that would be really nice, though it's hardly necessary for the text to be complete.

* Huh, pulled out the Player half of Parley, huh? That's cool, I doubt we'd have used it. Player interaction is probably best handled through actual talking/negotiating or through the Aid/Interfere rule, so I feel like you've got the bases covered.

* Mmmm Last Breath. When I told Kris the rules of this one I got an immediate, "Ohhh man! That's so cool! Now I almost WANT a 7-9!" which is absolutely and completely the response I wanted to hear. This is an exceptional move, I must say.

* On the other hand, *I* am actually very, very happy with the elegance of the Encumbrance move. I'll say it: I hate carrying capacity. Video games, D&D, whatever it is, inventory management bugs the hell out of me, and encumbrance is the pinnacle of that. The pure simplicity of item weights and this move really appeals to me.

* I preferred the one-move Make Camp a bit more. My group's never been the sort to set up watches manually, we just kinda assumed our characters took watch. Might just try porting that one over if the rest of the group doesn't take to the new one as well.

* Steading Moves, huh? If I was playing I personally don't spend too much time doing stuff like this, but I don't see anythign wrong with them. Maybe my player's will use 'em.

* Bards! I've never played one, never played with one, never ran a game with one, honestly have no interest in playing one. But there's always those little beautiful pieces inside of otherise uninteresting classes. As usual, the intro text is wonderful. All of them always are. The racial moves are nice, though they don't pique my intrigue like some might. Same with the moves, though A Port In The Storm is very fun for world-building.
* Hey, here's something. I was looking back at th AW hack, and saw the Bard's old alignment moves. For good? "When you perform a deed that will be remembered in song, mark XP." That is beautiful and so bard-like to me. It doesn't matter if you succeed or fail - all you need to do is always be spectacular. Performing your art to aid another is easier to pull of, and maybe a bit more "good," but I just love the flair of the old one.
* For the advanced moves, the 2-5 ones are okay, but a lot of +1 forwards. It Goes To Eleven is sweet. For the 6-10 ones, Reputation is very cool, Unforgettable Face is very nice if you declare you've met someone before who HASN'T been in the game before, goes great with A Port In The Storm.

* Clerics, unlike Bards, I've played, played with, run for, and enjoy very easily. Oh, this applies to a lot of later ones: we were slightly confused as to what a knobby body looks like. Or at least what a knobby dwarf looks like. More cleric-specific, we had to google tonsure, though once we saw it we recognized it. This doesn't really matter though, I guess.
* I like the racial moves, though they don't wow me out of my seat. The deity is pretty cool. Like I said in the Session 1 post, Kris picked two domains actually - he'd seen the "two" for precepts and just swapped it up by accident. However, we liked the idea of mixing two and figuring out how that works. It would have been hard to reconcile Healing And Restoration with Bloody Conquest, but Bloody Conquest and Civilization were perfect! Kris is accidentally worshipping a devil tyrant, and thinks he is trying to take over the lands of those godless barbarians and bring to them the light of society. Suffice to say, the deity checklist there was really easy to riff off of and come up with cool stuff with. I'm... eh on the Turn Undead. There's nothing wrong with it, but just keeping them at bay isn't very intriguing in my own mind. Meh. Maybe play will change my mind. When we fought the ghost (the only undead so far) Grizwald just shot it with Inflict. I have something to ask about that actually but I'll mention it again in a minute.
* I love the DW spell system. Having to select "forget the spell" as a 7-9 result is a brilliant way to disable the 15 minute workday while still keeping a lot of Vancian flair. I'm mentally empty on how to narrate the distancing yourself from our deity, but I'm sure my players can give me something.
* Oh, I like the new alignment moves for the cleric, especially the Good one, it is VERY Good. Oh, didn't mention it before but I really like the selecting of the Gear in this fashion, it's customizable but not as long and drawn out as the full buy process.
* For 2-5 moves, I'm generally just okay with them, but I like the narrative power of Divine Intervention and the mechanical power of Empower. Also, Divine Protection is nice mechanically. From the 6-10 moves, I wish there were more new ones (ones that aren't evoltuions of previous ones), thouh none of them is particularly bad.
* Spells, huh? Cool. Okay, looking through... hey, shouldn't Bless have the ongoing tag? My personal favorites are the Death ones. Okay, here's my question: Is there a standard ruling over undead and cure/inflict? Typical D&D reverses them - heal undead with inflict and hurt with cure, because of the nature of the spells being positive/negative energy. Is Cure Light Wounds a positive energy piece, or is the name just a description of the effect (ie cure always cures, and we can just say when he casts inflict on an undead he's throwing positive energy)? The question came up in our game when Grizwald tried casting Inflict on the Vault ghost. We found it didn't matter in the end since he'd prepared both Cure AND Inflict, but I'm very curious about this in case he DOESN'T prepare both in the future. I preferred the latter - inflict is about inflicting harm, not negative energy, plus the former (the D&D usual) feels like "Gotcha! You just spent your move and healed me instead!" Cool once in a while, but I still don't like it.
* I don't think it's a full spell list yet, but I feel that one thing that's missing is a Divine Communion type. At one point, Kris and Grizwald wanted to contact his deity Bale to ask something (about ghosts, actually). We could have done it with Spout Lore, but I loved the idea of contacting Bale, so I tried to figure out how to make that happen. We could've just reflavored Spout Lore, but it didn't feel right. Our eventual solution was for him to have Contact Spirit as his wizard spell (since he's human) and just have the spirit be his diety, but for the dwarf clerics they'd be at a loss. I know there's Commune, but it takes too long. Contact Spirit also happens to be one of my favorite spells - if I needed to, I'd just make Contact Spirit into Contact Deity and give it to clerics right off.

* The fighter is interesting. Dan really like the dwarf racial move, and the very first roll he did was with it. Here's an issue I've got: Bend Bars, Lift Gates can't actually do either of those things. I know the reference, and it entertains me, but none of my players knew old-school D&D enough to get it. Even one more option on the list unrelated to breaking stuff would make the move work just fine for it, but as it is on a 10+ they'd need to pick "Can fix with little effort" or "Nothing of value is damaged," which don't apply to bending bars or lifitng gates. Might try rewriting that one myself to put that in so that my players don't get confused, though a lot of groups won't find that necessary since a great number of them know old-school well enough to remember that it's a reference.
* Also, Signature Weapon was hugely useful in building a very sweet axe for Dim, and that axe was what got us to see a lot of his backstory. I noticed this as a theme - the checklist type basic moves where you make choices were extremely helpful in springboarding our characters' concepts and making them unique. When we got to Kenny and Shank the Thief, we had a bit more of an issue making him special as a thief or even finding who he was without one of these checklist moves. I'd love something like this for everyone if possible, though it certainly isn't necessary. About Signature Weapon though: How many-handed is it? Why would you ever pick 2-handed other than flavor since then you could have a shield as well with no sacrifice? Dan decided Dim's axe (Hrothgar is its name, by the way) would be a battle-axe instead of an axe, as per the distinction on the equipment sheet, so he got +1 damage for it. On the theory side, why would anyone take Hooks and Spikes unless they're already also taking Serrated Edges? They're the same, but H&S adds weight as well. Is that just to balance people from just loading up on damage?
* For the Neutral move, does the fighter need to defeat a worthy opponent in solo combat, deal the final blow himself, or just be a significant member of the fight? Or could be any of those, and the value of "worthiness" just slides around depending on how he does it?
Also, as far the Evil move, Dan was asking about whether he could technically farm for XP with that by just massacreing a town. Could he? I ruled that since it said "enemy" the victim had to be an opponent, not just a bystander. I couldn't make this distinction for the Thief - it just said victim in Basic. I glanced ahead though and it seems to have been fixed already though, so great!
* We all giggled over "_______ is soft, but I will make them hard like me." Dan filled Grizwald's name in, and there was ALREADY joking about Dim being gay for him before the bonds. It just fell apart when we got there.
* As for the advanced moves, Dim took Merciless, leading to my question up top about the indivisibility of moves when the fiction doesn't match the character's moves (intentionally not being merciless, does he still get damage?). Honestly, I'm not a huge fan of Merciless since it's just a damage bonus (but if he narrates it as exceptionally merciless, I don't mind), but some of these are nice. Interrogator makes a lot of sense (though it makes Cha even MORE useless in my eyes), Blacksmith is really helpful, and Heirloom is AMAZING. I hope beyond hope that Dan takes that for Hrothgar, he's already established this is an ancestral family weapon and I really want to play with that! Oh man, Dim actually KILLED his father with their own family axe, I could put his DAD in there!
In the 6-10s, the Visions of Death reskin is excellent, and Evil Eye is way more interesting than its predecessor Seeing Red. Actually, by the concepts of Evil Eye and Through Death's Eyes, Seeing Red makes more sense as a prerequisite for the latter rather than the former.
* So, I was thinking: Barbarian. Dan loves to play the barbarian type, and I was sad that I didn't see one. I've heard that it's hard to make it work, but hey, I think the Fighter with either Armored or Signature Weapon replaced with a Rage move would be great, and the Elf racial move swapped for a Half-Orc one. I know the rage move is something that's been an issue to figure out (if I recall, you mentioned an issue with potentially having the player lose control of the character's actions for a moment for going berserk, and I see how that would suck, but I'm thinking I'll try to put something together myself later for Dan since he loves Barbarians so much).

* I'll admit this right off the bat. I do NOT like the Basic version of the Paladin. It just didn't jive with me at all. But hey, this looks different so open mind!
* Only human? Damn. One more would be nice, though I'm not sure if there's one that is particularly excellent (maybe Dwarf) but I'd still like one more I think.
* Lay on Hands? Cool, lets him take the healer role. Also, removing the limited number of uses from D&D is very nice. Armored? Makes sense, though shared class moves make them less special feeling (though in this case it makes enough sense and is a generic enough move for me not to care at all). I Am The Law? Quest? HELL YES. Intense awesome. Quest looks like one of the best checklist moves I've seen here both mechanically and flavor-wise. I Am The Law is lots of cool, though just +1 forward is a bit boring, though mathematically helpful. Also, both alignment moves are great, as is the idea of just having Lawful and Good (though I do happen to like alternate-alignment paladins, but that's an EASY house rule).
* I'd never pick a halberd flavorwise, but that's me. I'm the longsword/Holy Avenger type. Also, those bonds are golden. That "completely" about the trust is awesome, and I DESPERATELY want a paladin to pick a Thief who is using Flexible Morals to lie away his Evil alignment. THAT would be shenanigans. The exact kind that I can't pick on my own though, so that idea goes into the back of my mind.
* OW Bloody Aegis is nasty! I'd pick Exterminatus pretty fast, I like the D&D4e Avenger's Oath of Enmity a lot. Holy Protection seems really strong for a dude who starts with 2 armor and ignores Clumsy. Also, Hospitaler looks great. As does Divine Favor, I'd love a bit of spellcasting. For the 6-10s, Evidence of Faith is very flavorful though it could be of limited use. Impervious Defender is nice, and Perfect Knight is incredible seeming.
* Overall? You've taken the Paladin from the Basic version that I distinctly dislike to the Beta version that I think might be my favorite class I've seen yet. Fantastic job on this one, guys. Also, no Code of Conduct is SO NICE. One of my big complaints about the Basic was that it penalized you for going counter to the alignment when it's much more positive and fun to give benefit for acting WITH the alignment (as the XP thing does). The Code was just fun-sucking.

* Three more, right? Okay, Ranger time. Confession: I've never really "gotten" the ranger. I get Archers, I get Two-Weapon Fighters, but I never saw what really made the Ranger special enough to warrant its own class. However, I'm actually in the process of rewatching Lord of the Rings now, and I'm finding something more appealing about Aragorn this time through, so I'm thinking it'll be alright. And of course I've always liked Legolas, and I guess he's a Ranger too.
* So wait, Humans don't consume rations in a dungeon or a city? I would have said when you're in the wilderness, isn't that the Ranger's best place? He knows the environment, he knows what's safe to eat and where to find good food or water. In the city he wouldn't be at an advantage more than anyone else, and the dungeon is the sort of place he wouldn't know as well I would think. Oh well. Reasoning?
* Called Shot? Sweet. Do they need to be surprised by your presence or surprised that there's enemies. Like, could your buddies be in battle with the orcs and a shot comes out of nowhere and hits an orc's arms. Was it a called shot (he took time to aim and the enemy didn't know HE was there) or not (he was on his guard since he's fighting, and the chaos of battle makes aiming too hard)? I'd personally say it was, but I'm not sure.
* Can Hunt And Track be paired with Perilous Journey? Like, tracking through difficult terrain? If so, which first? My own answer would be "If you entered dangerous territory and then started tracking, Perilous Journey first. If you started tracking and it brought you into and through dangerous territory, Hunt & Track first."
* I like Animal Companion! Is that list all-inclusive or just suggestions? Also, if you pick mule can you use it tow your stuff? Otherwise I really like it. Do those strengths it takes actually have any statistical bonuses? Like, if you took Keen Senses, "If your Animal Companion works with you to discern realities, you gain an additional +1 bonus" or something? Or is it just narration fuel? Command is good.
* Alignment moves are good (especially the chaotic one). Oh minor issue with the gear: If you take Adventuring gear and Bundle of Arrows, you're automatically over your Load, even if you put the 17 in Str (1+1+2+1+1+2+1=9). And even if you don't take that, you HAVE to put your 17 in Str or you'll still be overloaded. Honestly, those arrows looks way too heavy. I mean, I have no idea how much arrows actually weigh, but it's a LOT of their room. You could have a friend carry some of it, sure, but that shouldn't be required. Looking back, the Fighter has an issue if he picks Scale armor, but it's worse with the Ranger because you have no choice but to put your 17 in Str or be overloaded.
* Haha, the half-elven thing is pretty cool. With Wild Empathy, by "understand" can you simply accurately interpret its motions or is do you actually understand its communications (moo moo mooooo means the treasure is underground)? I like either, so I'm just curious about the official line. Man's Best Friend: I think the apostraphe after "Friend" is a typo. Camouflage is sweet, and Dual Wield is great. Oh, typo! You have Dual Wield twice, as both the 2-5 and the 6-10. It seems you means Dual Strike for the 2-5. Wild Speech is awesome, I'd take that really quickly. Actually, Unnatural Ally is great too, though what happens to the companion you've had up to this point point for at least the first 5 levels? Does it just go into retirement, or is this up to the individual player what happens. Mostly I want to know: does it leave active play and get replaced, or is this more an addition?

* I like those Thief names! Kenny's Thief Shank is actually human, not halfing, and I keep tripping up over that. I still don't like Backstab being keyed to Str very much. I get the idea behind it being Str, but I still think I'm going to mod that to Dex myself. It's less important now that XP has changed (We highlighted Shank's Dex since that's the rogue primary, and he did sneaky backstabbing a lot, so he didn't get nearly as much XP as Dim or Grizwald who were casting or swinging constantly), but I'm still considering it.
* Flexible Morals is the most beautiful thing I've ever seen.
* So Applied poisons can't be used on a weapon? Damn. At least there's mroe touch poisons now. Also, the generation of your specialty poison for free is extremely nice.
* The alignment ones are nice. I'm a bit weird about the neutral one though - Shank really wanted to infiltrate, but at least in the first few rooms of the Hall Under The Hill I didn't see a good place where he actually deserved XP for having not been seen. But I think that's the adventure so far, I need to give him something to work with.
* I liked the "shiv" option on the old equipment sheet, but I guess that's just a dagger reskin.
* Underdog is interesting, Connections is great, and Shoot First is awesome. Alchemist is wonderful, as is Strong Arm, True Aim. Escape Route, Disguise, and Heist are all very interesting, and they're standalone so that's cool. Overall there isn't an advanced move for the Thief that leaps out as incredibly amazing to me, but there's a bunch of options that are pretty good quality.

* Hello Wizard! I've always liked Wizards.My first character was a wizard, and they've always had a flavor that really appealed to me. I like the look options. The Elf starting move is very nice - it allows for an otherwise Healerless group to have a bit of support in that regard. I've already talked about what I like about the spell system. Spell Defense is okay, though without actual Ongoing tags it's more of an iffy proposition, though it isn't THAT hard. The Ritual move, on the other hand, is amazing. And Elf Wizard with Cure Light Wounds would be a ridiculously easy way to generate XP off the Good move.
* Why does the Wizard have less Bonds? I get why the Bard is more bonded than anyone else, but I don't know why the Wizard would have fewer connections with his team. I know we can write our own, but of we don't it disadvantages the Wizard initially. That said, I like the first and third bonds a lot. I wish our group had a Wizard so he could pick Grizwald for "woefully misinformed," what with him mistakenly worshipping a devil and all.
* Empowered Magic is STILL very great. Eldritch Touch is the makings of CSI: Dungeon World. Arcane Ward looks really strong. Counterspell is great. Ethereal Tether is awesome, I really like this one! Mystical Puppet Strings and Self-Powered too, though I wish there was a bit of guidance over what "your own place of power" actually does for you, or a comment that its mechanical significance is up to the group. Also, typo near the end of Self-Powered (should be "interest," not "interested").
* Spells: Contact Spirits is really, really, REALLY cool. I love it a lot. Visions Through Time is nice, and Mimic is fun. Okay, with Cage, do they hear ALL of your thoughts or just the ones you want? I'd probably customize Cast A Spell when casting Cage so that on a 7-9 they get all the thoughts. Cause Mutation and Summon Monster are both interesting, as are Dominate and Shadow Walk. I love Contingency, but I ALWAYS love Contingency. Soul Gem is cool too.

* Hey, that was all the playbooks! One's I'd like to see eventually: Monks (probably as a modification of the Fighter), Barbarians (as their own playbook, or the mod described above), Sorcerors (because I like Sorcerors). Only the Barbarian is actually an imminent want. Okay, moving on.

* Like the Vancian system, the ammo system appeals to me a lot. 

* Hmm. A -1 ongoing sounds reasonable for the Clumsy tag, but something in it is making me think it might be fun to rework it to interact with the Encumbrance move. I don't want to just say clumsy stuff has a higher weight because then you might as well just actually raise the weight and just giving Armored a +whatever to carrying capacity, but I think some manner of interaction might be cool. Not necessary at all, just musing right here.

* Hmm. I like the definition of the Dangerous tag a lot, I wish it wasn't only used for poisons. So many things can be dangerous! Actually, Alchemist's Fire is a great-sounding basic item that's both flavorful and crazy dangerous (ignites on contact with air? Oh yeah. Actually, I always wondered why it didn't detonate in the flask - I mean, all the illustrations have air in the bottles! Oh well. Tangents.

* With Precise, does the same apply to Backstabs? I'd say yes without a second thought, but it technically isn't addressed. If you choose to keep Backstab Str-based, maybe include a thing in its description about Precise weapons?

* UNRELATED in that Book of Three quote, why on earth is Taran collecting as many BOWS as he can? I get the quivers thing, but having a lot of bows is both useless and heavy, not at all light or effective! Bah. As I said, unrelated.

* Speaking of arrows though, uh, problem. Like, major one. Bundle of Arrows, 3 ammo worth, is one weight. In all of the playbooks, a 3-ammo quiver is 2 weight. If it's actually 1 weight, my complaining under the Ranger section about the Starting Gear thing is diminished. 1 weight makes more sense anyway.

* Adventuring Gear: I really like how it does uses... wait, poles? We have 10-foot poles in our adventuring gear? YES! I don't need my thief anymore.
Tangent: Speaking of thieves, I just realized a blind thief would be crazy effective at finding traps. His cane will hit pressure plates before he would, he finds tripwires like a pro, you can't gaze him. Damn. I'm taking a blind fellow with me next time!

* The Keg of Dwarven Stout is incredible. I'd say it could be "If you drink a whole keg yourself, you are very very drunk - mark XP." Make it a choice for them - extra XP or better Carousing for everyone!

* I like the phrase "requires dwarf." It makes me think that stores refuse to sell it if you don't have a dwarf with you.

* ...does Delicious have a stat effect? You should mention it under the tag list.

* Why play math games with Halfling Pipeleaf? You can't use just one use, so just make it that 1 use is enough for two fellows. 10 gold for 5 uses is the same as 5 gold for 2 and a half uses.

* We won't be paying for meals, and only maybe for inns. It's just not in our nature, unless one of them WANTS to do so (if so it'll be Kris).

* I love Bags of Holding. I always have. The boring as hell and hard to use encumbrance rules from 3e ended up with all starting characters having Bags of Holding, just to save hassle. I won't be giving the players one for free just because of how nice the Load rules are, but I DO like the mechanic around this Bag of Holding.

* All of these Magic Items are wonderful. I love how strong they are, and they have a really magical feel. Actually, that last page (the last five) is incredible. Vorpal Sword  is nasty as all hell - I can't wait to have them fight a guy wielding it in order to get it!

* From what I can see, the "DM advice/rules/agenda/principles/whatever words you want" section doesn't seem to have changed much, and I have no problem with that. The section is solid.

* While I get how it had to be changed because of the genre, in my opinion Think Dangerous doesn't evoke the thing you're trying to communicate with it to the level of effectiveness Looking Through Crosshairs does. When I hear "Think Dangerous" I think about making a world that is nasty and dangerous to the PCs, not thinking that everything I create is in danger of destruction. The description is fine, I just have issues with "Think Dangerous" as a phrase. I'm not positive about an alternative, but it's something to think about.

* I did WAY too much "Deal Damage," and I feel like an ass for it. It's just my instinct from D&D, thinking of other things to do is outside my habits, though I'm working on it. That's my goal next session, avoiding this move a lot more. Actually, I really need to keep a list of these next to me while I run it, along with a separate set of lists of my individual front/monster moves.

* Basically, I like pretty much everything about the GMing section. Conceptually, no changes necessary!

* Hm, first session stuff! While this is helpful for when this actually gets released, the need to have already played a session to get these makes them a bit less useful. But that's the nature of Beta, not a reflection of the content (and for the record, don't change. This model of how to do Beta is really neat, I like it a lot).

* Um, major question. Where are these "GM worksheets"? I'm familiar with the MC worksheets of Apocalypse World, so I have an idea of what you're talking about, but I just flipped through the whole pdf and checked the website and there isn't actually any worksheets anywhere! Is the mention a remnant of a past draft, or are they mistakenly not included?

* Hmm. With my first session, I actually decided to use the Bloodstone Idol adventure, for a couple reasons: it was the only thing I had, I wasn't sure about how the numbers would balance, and there weren't exactly any monster creation guidelines. More than anything I did it out of hesitation. I understand not coming with any plot or anything, and I actually function better that way, but in this instance I wanted to use the pre-built stuff in order to get a feel for things, so I guess it didn't do the first session exactly as discussed here. In the future, I'd do it like this (it feels more natural to me), but for my own first session as a DW GM, I wanted to have something to fall back on.

* I DID ask questions during character creation. I should have asked more from Kenny and Shank, but he showed up late and we were squeezing our play time a bit already so I glossed over it. I wish I had a psychic maelstrom to ask questions with; gonna have to find myself a way to do that! Actually, this is a tangent, but it reminds me of one of the Penny Arcade D&D podcasts from PAX, where there was a magic teleport circle and the way you activated it was by announcing your deepest secret - that sounds like a great thing to move character development.
BTW, those checklist-type starting moves are AWESOME sprignboards for development questions, since they have a built-in "why did you pick x over w, y, and z?" I wish more of the playbooks had those, I think ALL of them could benefit from it in some way.

* I was also careful to make sure that they paired description with the action. "Okay, so you're using Hack-and-Slash, but what is Dim DOING?" came up a lot. And yes, I do mean with Dim in particular.

* You know, the more I read this, the more I think that I'm just going to use the Bloodstone Idol stuff in the loosest way possible next time, I'll leave a lot more blanks.

* Fronts are the hardest thing for me conceptually in both AW and DW. They really take me out of the "play to find out what happens" mindset that I really enjoy about the games. I understand that they function as good prep work and make you think about things and have some already built dangers and moves and such to throw at the PCs, but I much prefer just building these through play rather than between sessions. The way that *I* will probably use fronts is to write up categories of creatures and threats and give them a bunch of GM moves, as in the example, and just taking those to the table, my whole set of lists. This way when I have, say, an arcane enemy (like Grundloch) or a cursed place (like the Idol itself) or anything else (maybe I write up a list for Constructs and then when I decide while playing that Grundloch should have some golems) I'll turn to that and have some ideas of what I can do with it, without making anything specific enough that I will feel like I'm constraining my make-as-we-go dynamic. Most folks won't have that issue, but I'm just that way.
Two notes. One, do you mean crocodillian or corcodillian. I would think the first, but of the three times you use the word here, two of them are spelled "corc." My other note is: Why did Grundloch not have golems? You wrote him as the Master of Arcane Clay and then didn't give any golems in the basic rules! What gives? He shoots fireballs, mesmerizes monsters, makes illusions, can scry, and is doing rituals on an ancient idol, and none of these things actually relates to clay! Okay, done ranting now.

* I really liked the symbology of grim portents as countdown clocks in AW, I think some of that is lost in this. Not that the players will ever know :/ I don't think I'll formally use grim portents myself, though I'll give them a shot. I'll keep the stuff in mind, of "how do I bring this closer to the impending doom?" but I likely won't write it down in concrete steps.

* I probably WILL develop Impending Dooms though. I like thinking of them as instincts for groups - as a whole, they trend toward causing THIS to come about.

* Stakes...I dunno what I'm going to do. I will definitely be keeping what's at stake in mind, but I'm not sure if I want to formalize them. I'll give a shot and see how it goes.

* As a whole, take what I say about Fronts with a grain of salt. I haven't had a real significant chance to try them in actual play, and planning has always been an issue for me - if I plan, I'll probably railroad, even if I'm trying not to. I like to plan (and will probably develop dozens of fronts just for the hell of it, not for the game), but I hate using the stuff I've planned. We'll see how it goes. Like I said, don't take any of this stuff too hard - I'm not all that sure about what I'm talking about.

* So, a question about diverging from the Apocalypse World system. You seem to have abandoned the Harm move as it was - and your alterred version, the Saving Throw move. I'm curious as to your own reasonings why - I can imagine some myself, but I'd like to hear yours!

* So wait, once you've taken s-damage it's Defying Danger to do anything at all? Wow. Hey, you split Defying Danger into a bunch of stats, which one is this, or is that dependent upon the action being made?

* Hmm, I might take some liberties with the Last Breath move - Death's not the only thing waiting to make a bargain with these heroes. If Dim ever dies, I fully intend to put his step-dad in front of him, and Grizwald will need to come face-to-face with his deity. Or sometimes it's just Death.

* Level+7 for a level up is a nice value, I like it way more than 10 x level!

* Hey, those sample new bonds are nice. I gotta say, they inspire that sort of "unique to YOUR game!" feel that I like.

* Have I said before that I LOVE alignment in this game? It acts as an incentive without being a restriction.

* On changing alignments; I really like the idea that a geas's main power is to change someone's alignment move without a change of heart - it compels them to act toward the geas and no longer rewards them for acting as they want. If I ever play, maybe I'll try playing a guy under a geas like that.

* Can Paladins change alignment without losing power now?

* However, I'm not the biggest fan of the non-class-based alignment moves. The way they specialize to the character is one of my favorite things, Good doesn't mean the same thing for the fighter as it does for the thief.

* I enjoy Outstanding Warrants. I enjoy the idea that I can throw that at Shank and we'll come up with WHY they want him later. Otherwise Steading Moves are necessary, but aren't of particular interest to me.

* The steading creation guidelines are pretty cool. Also, "The keep stands on a border."

* Campaign map stuff is nice, feels very cool. I've never been one for large maps, but I'm gonna try it out now.

* Ehhh, I've never liked hirelings. I'll let my players have them if they want, and I recognize their significance to the fantasy RPG genre's past (and the rules are pretty good for that) but if it was up to me we wouldn't use 'em.

* Hmm. I like the idea of disregarding encounter balance, and I'll be doing so, but this brings up an issue I had with the Bloodstone Idol adventure - it really should have told us how hard the encounters are, especially at the beginning. That first encounter is a slaughterhouse, and I did NOT realize that. At the very least, I expected the very first encounter of an introductory level 1 adventure to be a reasonable one to beat. I don't mind that it's really hard, but if you produce adventures in the future, I'd love if you'd prime us on how hard you sort of expect it to be. Maybe not - maybe this is a matter of eyeballing it and I'll adapt much better down the road.

* Typo at the top of page 185, "(to close or too far)".

* Okay, basically all this monster design stuff sounds really cool, and I saw a couple threads on Story Games a while ago that I can consult if I get confused on just this topic at any point. It emphasizes coolness and imaginative vision over mechanical balance, and I like it that way for this game.

* I'd love a more comprehensive kind of sample monster section. All of these swamp creatures are cool, but I would prefer to see a bunch of iconic fantasy creatures represented to give an example of how to do a lot of various moves. Though you do hit a number of very iconic ones. This is just preference though, keep it up to taste.

* Ooh, Moves Discussion, looks like one of the last sections. This is where I suspect I'll have a number of technicality type questions, and I suspect some of my questions from earlier will be cleared up (I go back and edit for that though, I try not to make you read and answer questions that are already addressed).

* So, Hack And Slash. Let's see. Okay, so if attacking a dude who doesn't know you're there is just outright assaulting him, but it triggers a move for the Thief (Backstab) does this mean that potentially the Fighter is better at killing things from an unknown position than the thief? My own answer would be no, that if a fighter could just kill them so can the thief and backstab doesn't need to trigger, but if the fighter just does damage, the thief can choose to roll to backstab if he wants to try for the extra benefits, otherwise he can just do standard damage just like the fighter.
Additionally, I fully understand the idea that it isn't an attack unless it has a chance of causing distinct physical harm, but does the same apply to the terminology for an enemy? As part of Hack and Slash's 7-9, the enemy makes an attack in return, but can't you choose to do alternate moves instead of dealing straight damage? I'd assume that it's a case of one word meaning two things. I would assume that the enemy just does whatever you say and not only damage all the time, if only because damage is such a hard move and a lot of weak hit hack and slashes would easily decimate a character.

* Volley, one of the two moves we didn't make in the first session (the other was Parley). I'm glad that you address throwing, since I know that was a weird one before.
Typo in the first example, you used the wrong "sight" (it's "site" here).
...yeah, I don't think Volley is confusing at all now that you've cleared up the throwing thing. Still wish there was an additional choice that replaced expending ammo when you throw instead of just taking away an option. Not that big of a thing though, just speculation.

* Defy Danger is a great move. Splitting it to all stats under the old XP system would have been problematic, but with the new one it's just perfect.
Perhaps have a bit more guidance? Either one what constitutes each stat (like a couple examples for each) or some help writing hard bargains? The 7-9 result of this move encompasses everything that makes the AW family awesome to me, but they're hard to write for me. If you've got anything to say about how to make 'em, that's be awesome. Maybe I'll just ask on S-G or something.

* Oh wait, you CAN save hold for Defend! I forgot about that! I need to make a special note of that. I like Defend as a move, and I really like that it convinced Dan to have Dim do something other than Hack and Slash.
I like the clarification that Defending yourself is an actual thing. However, without a solid initiative system doesn't this make abuse an issue? "I attack him on my turn with Hack and Slash, I roll 10+ and deal damage, he then attacks me, I roll defend and reduce it all..." etc? Is it just up to the GM to stop that and say "no way, you're busy attacking him" or is this totally applicable? I wouldn't let him defend if his H&S got a 7-9, but what about just the monster's action there? The lack of initiative keeps throwing me off with this stuff.

* Spout Lore; so, do you make the move if you ACTUALLY consult a bestiary/travel guide/library, or do I just give out info for free if they actually do that? How free should I be about that info? Does Spout Lore only really apply if it's coming from their memory? Also, if a guy fails his, can the next party member try, and so on? It's the threat of them knowing they failed at percieving. And if it's one roll for the group (like, they're all thinking together about something) are they better at it than if an individual had done it? Or do I just model it with one dude doing most of the thinking and then the others making Aid rolls? That last one is my best guess.
Still wish using this move entitled me to ask questions back. Maybe my world will just have a Psychic Maelstrom... or probably not. Whatever.

* What do I do when they FAIL to discern realities? I would say that they don't notice something (and I come up with a complication to the scene) but then I wouldn't TELL them the complication since they didn't notice it! Plus that seems pretty harsh. Oh well. I gotta figure something out.

* Ah yes, Parley. I feel like it doesn't cover everything I want it to, namely Bluff. If the player's bluff a guy, do I just decide if he believes it or not? I feel like this is something worth rolling for, but I don't know what. It also seems common enough to warrant being either a part of Parley or its own basic move, not just a custom move. Hmm.
When you tell a bald-faced lie, roll +Cha.
On a 10+, they believe you, no sweat.
On a 7-9, they need some more convincing - you're going to have to tell or show them something that would make them believe your story.
On a 6-, they're not buying it, and are more suspicious of your lying face."
Maybe there's a way to twist this for feints in combat too. Whatever, this is just fun experimentation.

* Well, I get the logic behind limiting Aids, but it seems fictionally strange that if Grizwald helps Dim, it's +1, but if Grizwald AND Shank help Dim, it's still +1. I may override this on occasion, if only to support them aiding each other more. If they abuse it at all I'll drop the limit back in, but I don't think I'll need it at the start.

* I love Last Breath. I kinda like the idea that it's not always Death that shows up, that it could be another superpower, maybe with Death hanging off behind his shoulder. If possible, I'm going to be showing Grizwald his deity Bale. I'm already thinking, when it happens, if I have nothing better to use, I think I'll use "Realize my true alignment and become my champion." That one'll throw him for a spin.

* As I've said, this is the simplest and most elegant solution to Load and Carrying Capacity I've seen outside of "ignore them." Good job.

* Hmm, under Make Camp you reference Dutiful Prayer, with capitols so I would think it's actually a thing, but I'm not sure what. Based on its proximity to Prepare Spells, was this an old version of the Cleric's Commune?

* Okay, so the adventure moves thing is modified love letters. Gotcha, that's cool, I enjoy the love letters concept.

* I still will probably marginalize Draw Maps, Leave Blanks a bit, at least as far as literally drawing maps goes. One Skype player and the rest of us at the table makes drawing things like that kinda complicated, and drawing non-battle maps has never been a real part of our gaming experience. I'll try a bit, especially when Kris is in town, but I suspect it will get left behind a bit more often then the others.

* And the rest of the text, and effectively the entire Advanced Delving section, is excellent. Outstanding job on it, I can use any of it easily and understand all of it and the reasonings.

That's it!
Wait, what's that? I finish this and within an hour you guys post Beta 2.1? Seriously?! Fuck you guys! Nah, the changelist doesn't look ridiculous so I'll just review the shifts real quick. I'll just review the changelist itself while looking at the text:
    Slight rephrasing in End of Session from "defeat" a monster to "overcome."
* Wait, what? I get the idea, but looking at my text, it doesn't actually look changed. I checked and I AM looking at the 2.1, but it still says "Did we defeat a notable monster or enemy?"

    Clean up legacy references to Arcane Music (now Arcane Art)
* Sure thing.

    Remove spell references to monster level
    Most damaging spells now ignore armor
* Fair enough, and ignoring armor makes sense.

    Remove spell references to monster level
    Most damaging spells now ignore armor
* As Cleric.

    Use "Coin" instead of "Gold" as the unit of currency
    Revise and amend price entries. We used to keep costs very low to make first level equipment shopping easy, without that we have the option of more closely matching other editions. Most prices are now in line with the average cost of the same item in several different editions of D&D.
    Add crossbows, horses, boats
    Add Thrown tag
* Coin, huh. All right. Also, thanks for the thrown tag. The rest of the price modification looks fine to me.

Blood and Guts
    Add rules for multiple monsters attacking at once (short version: roll damage dice for each, take highest result)
    Details on handling death and playing multiple characters
    Add rules for dealing with starting Bonds not chosen
* I like that way of damage for multiple monsters quite a bit. The "After Death" section is really really nice. I'm very happy with how we aren't crippled at all by one of the pre-set bonds not fitting, and the advice on writing new bonds is strong enough that I don't feel disadvantaged if I have to write one.

    Rewrites for clarity
    Diagram of Fronts
* It's like you just knew that I was going to be a bit unclear on Fronts! And clarify you did - I feel like I understand them way better, and you've actually convinced me to really try them. And the example? Really cool.

The World
    Edits and clarifications
    Notable renamed to Personage
* Fair enough. Not really going through to look for the clarifications here, I already understood this well enough. I'll read again later.

    Remove dangling reference to static monster damage.
    Add a monster treasure system
* Typo in the treasure page "Roll the monster's damage die plus any added dice to FINE the monster's treasure:". In general, cool stuff.

Cavern Dwellers
    New monster setting
* Cool stuff. Mmm, Gelatinous Cube.

    New monster setting
* Do I like the use of the concept of "monster setting" to model undead? Yes, yes I do.
Wait, Wight-Wolf? Is that an actual, like, legacy D&D thing, or is that just a new invention? Because it sounds hilarious.

Alright, well at least 2.1 didn't obsolete most of my comments here. Cheers folks, I'm just glad that I finally got through all that!
Well, if you're curious what to expect next, I beat Bastion yesterday and it's filling my head with inspiration- the art kind. I'll have a review up for it soon, but I'm gonna find it hard to say anything other than "It's perfect. It's only shortcoming is that there's not ENOUGH of it!"
But I should have that up soon, plus the art I'm doing of Bastion, plus a side piece featuring a bunch of indie game characters, plus I might upload the card I drew for my Dad's birthday (it's pretty cool).
And then, hopefully, we'll game next Friday.

Also, if you're curious, Kris is actually doing some spare time game design work of his own. He's mostly building a mechanic so far, and trying a find a world to put it in. The mechanic is heavily inspired by Final Fantasy X, probably his favorite game. I'm helping out a bit when we chat, so maybe I'll have some stuff to post about that. If you know anything about FFX's battle system and can think of a good way to integrate it into a game world, please suggest the setting. The main hurdle is that he wants to preserve the idea that not every character is on the field at the same time in a battle. I came up with the idea of each player having 2 characters and having to pick which one to use in a fight and then actions being used to switch out if wanted. The issue is why the other members aren't able to help all the time - where do they go? FF itself just glosses over it as a game mechanic. If you have any potential revelations or ideas, please help!

Anyway, see ya'll next time.

Holy shit, this post is almost 10000 words long.
End Recording,