Tuesday, October 11, 2022

Tuesday Tapas (Does That Work?)

After a run of hefty posts it might be time for a grab-bag, don't you think? Why should Fridays have all the fun? Let's start with the bad news and get that out of the way first.

Chimeraland Server Merges.

It seems the global launch of Level Infinite's excellent creature-crunching mmo/survival mashup hasn't gained the traction the developers might have hoped. We're looking at server merges after just three months.

It's a shame the game hasn't received more attention in the West but for all we like to pretend the genre is in steep decline, there's actually a glut of mmorpgs right now. New additions to the select roster of AAA titles that still dominate the press cycle may be few and far between but new mmorpgs from other territories or independents seem to throw themselves against the cliffs of indifference almost weekly.

I have to admit to being part of the problem rather than part of the solution. I really like Chimeraland but I haven't been playing much. In years gone by I'd have been happy to have made it my focus game. I'd have spent twenty or thirty hours a week playing it, probably for months. I'd have been willing to pay a subscription, too.

These days, the sheer choice on offer makes a commitment like that feel silly. Even so, I still might have bedded down in the game, had I not already put in a stint on the SEA servers and had Chimeraland's global launch not clashed with another new mmorpg, one I hadn't already worn the shine off - Noah's Heart.

Three months later, here I am, still playing Noah's Heart every day. Chimeraland fell out of my rotation very quickly, slipped back in with the "Please Come Back - We Miss You" event, then dropped out for a second time as soon as I'd bled said event dry. 

This sort of thing always makes me a tad anxious for the prospects of the games I enjoy. They're all fragile, dependent on fashion as much as quality. Playing both games over the last few months, despite getting slightly more attention in the specialist media, I'd have to say Chimeraland always looked the more at risk. Although the SEA server I used to play on didn't feel exactly busy, I did see other players most times I logged on. By contrast, on the global server where I occasionally play now, I hardly ever see anyone - and if I think back, I never really have. It's always felt deserted, even at launch.

In practical terms, it makes no difference to me whether Chimeraland has a slew of servers or just the one, so long as there's a place for me. I play solo and never interact with anyone. I don't even know how many servers there were to begin with. I just picked one at random and never looked back.

As for the possibility of losing my house, should someone else's structure be merged onto my plot, that really doesn't matter either. I've barely started working on it. It's one room, a patio and a rooftop viewing area. It would take me a short session to rebuild and I could make a much better job of it.

Even so, server merges are rarely a good sign and Easten imports don't generally have the longevity of local product in the West. I can't help but feel this is a harbinger of worse news to come.

Keeping Busy In Noah's Heart

Noah's Heart, by comparison, seems pretty busy. There are people in all the towns, zipping around on motorcycles and llamas, stacking on top of each other at the crafting stations or just standing around in clumps, doing who knows what.  

The community in Noah's Heart, if you can dignify it with the term, is perforce quite "active". The whole game revolves around something called Activity Points, which monitor and reward your level of engagement with the manifold opportunities available. The very first thing you see each day as you log in is a tally of your activity, although since it's always zeroed at the start of a session I'm not entirely sure why it's there. It would make more sense to have it pop up when you log out.

How busy you keep yourself in the game as an individual is up to you but as I mentioned briefly in a previous post, Guilds are expected to stay on the treadmill. As expected, my previous Greek-speaking guild was forcibly disbanded by the server for inactivity a couple of weeks ago.

I'd found being in a guild surprisingly useful so I immediately began looking for a replacement but every guild with a recruitment drive had strict activity quotas. You can't really blame them, when the penalty for slacking is oblivion.

In the end I decided to go with the method that worked so well the first time, namely doing nothing and waiting to be headhunted. It took a few days but eventually a drive-by invite popped up and I accepted it without a moment's hesitation.

My new guild, which I think, from memory, is called Guardians, is almost full and rates "High" on the health meter. Guild chat is quite lively and this time it's even in English. There are no specific activity requirements that I've seen other than making your daily Donations, something I would always do anyway because there is literally a daily for doing it. 

The big crime is inactivity. If you're offline for more than three straight days without a note from the Guild Leader, you're out of the guild. Since I've logged into Noah's Heart every day since launch, that's not a problem for me at the moment. If I take a break at any point I doubt I'll bother to petition for vacation time. I'll just wait to get picked up by another guild when I come back.

Edgerunners and The Last Bus

By utter co-incidence I found myself watching two very different SF series on Netflix side by side. One was the high profile Cyberpunk 2077 spin-off, Edgerunners, about which I posted right before I began. The other was the made-for-Netflix British kids show, The Last Bus.

The first season of each series just happened to consist of ten approximately thirty minute long episodes. For a week and a half I watched an episode of one followed by an episode of the other, which has to be some kind of object lesson in the breadth of field of which the genre is capable.

Everyone's probably familiar with the ultra-violent, foul-mouthed, hyper-sexualized content of Edgerunners but I imagine the homespun, love-is-the-answer, child-friendly The Last Bus has probably passed most of my readers by. Imagine something the Children's Film Foundation or the National Film Board of Canada might have made in the 1970s, give it a very slightly higher budget and update it for the 21st century but not too much. That's about where we're landing. It's almost literally a SciFi re-imagining of Here Come The Double Deckers, ffs.

I really enjoyed it. As some of the surprisingly positive reviews suggest, the characters and the acting are the series' greatest strength. By the end, I came to appreciate every one of the straggling, random selection apocalypse-dodging schoolkids, although god knows Misha made it hard work at times. I did genuinely shout at the screen more than once, when she was doubling down on her paradoxically apathetic sarcasm.

The special effects were generally acceptable, although whoever signed off on the "bus goes over the cliff" scene clearly needs to think seriously about their choice of career. I mean, how hard is it to drive an actual bus off a cliff? The script was decent and the plot solid. The whole thing ends with an unapolagetic lead-in to a second series, which I very much hope Netflix gives them. I'd certainly watch it.

I imagine Netflix would be only too pleased to give Edgerunners another season. The anime's racked up five star reviews across the board from critics and viewers alike. Having watched it to the end, I'm thinking a second season might be somewhat problematic but I can't really even hint as to the reason without giving some massive spoilers, so I'll just stick to what I thought of Season One.

I liked it a lot. I'm tempted to say I loved it but it would be more accurate to say I loved certain scenes and a couple of whole episodes. That's not to say the whole thing isn't good - it is - but some of it is truly excellent. As Naithin said in a comment (Which I forgot to reply to - sorry, Naithin!) last time I mentioned the show, "I wouldn't put it on the masterpiece pedestal." I felt the structure was a little baggy in places and some of the fight scenes were a tad self-indulgent.

As I said in that post, the only reason I came to watch Edgerunners at all was the involvement of Let's Eat Grandma's Rosa Walton on the soundtrack. Her tune, "I Really Want To Stay At Your House", crops up twice, both times to devestating effect. The whole soundtrack is great, especially the song that plays over the end credits, Let You Down by Dawid Podsiadło.

I let the credits run to to the end after all ten episodes just so I could hear that play. The Franz Ferdinand song that backs the intro sequence is pretty damn fine, too. I watched that through about half the time as well.

Perhaps the obvious comparison would be with Cowboy Bebop, although that may just be because it's the only remotely similar anime I happen to have seen. The two series share a number of key elements, though, including but not limited to a corporate dystopian setting, a crew of characters so cool it's physically painful to watch them, an overwhelming sense of ennui laced with hopeless romance and a nested maze of secrets and betrayals. All it's missing is the dog.

Not being quite as good as your influences doesn't invalidate the attempt, of course, or we'd pretty much have no popular culture at all. Edgerunners is very, very good and that's more than enough.

And that's probably more than enough for this post, too. I'll just end by mentioning some

Music News Snippets

I saw this week that Taylor Swift's upcoming album, Midnights (Already topping my Amazon wishlist) features a collab with Lana del Rey. Given they share a co-writer and producer in Jack Antonoff, himself in the news for snapping back at the increasingly unmoored Kanye over his supervillainesque stance on, well, you name it, it probably had to happen sometime. I'm just glad it's now. 

The new track's called "Snow On The Beach" and I only wish I could bring it to you here but since the album's not out for another ten days and for once nothing's leaked, I can't. We'll just have to wait until Friday week. 

Now all we need is a date for Lana's next. It's only been a year but, man, it feels so much longer...

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