Tuesday, June 30, 2015

(from long ago and far away) Twilight: My Touchstone

I can't say, "From the archives" because I don't think I ever posted it here.  Instead this was originally a guest post at Ana Mardoll's Ramblings.

(Also, I made reference to this in Epistemological Synecdoche.)

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There is a saying about missing the forest for the trees, the point being that you can get so caught up in the minutia that you miss the bigger picture. It somewhat bothers me that people don't talk about missing the trees for the forest because an attempt to focus exclusively on the bigger picture tends to make you miss a lot.

The person who looks at the forest will see a grove of giant deciduous trees, someone who looks at the trees will tap the first person on the shoulder and say, "You do realize that Dutch elm disease is endemic here and unless we do something this grove is not going to stay on this earth much longer," well before the person looking at the forest notices something is wrong.

Deconstructions are things where we look at the trees. We take it a little at a time and see what others would have breezed by. In so doing we collect points of data that can be put together into a beautiful line that will allow us to understand the whole better than someone who didn't stop to look at the trees.

The down side is that it's slow. When Edward completely contradicts what he said ten pages ago we might not remember, it was how many weeks ago? And so we do run the risk of failing to see how things fit together, of missing the forest while we examine the trees and wonder how the forest can be unchanging when there's a freshly fallen tree right fracking there. (And if you have any idea what I'm talking about, good memory. That was over a year ago.)

The point here is that the entire dichotomy between forest and trees is one that doesn't work well. You need both. You need to be able to see the specific while still remembering the context.

There are multiple ways to do this. In classics, where reading in the original language (Latin or ancient Greek) often forces people into a deconstruction-like pace, a solution often employed is to have a translation in your native tongue on hand so that you can use it to get context before diving into the specifics again. The equivalent thing here would be to reread a large chunk of  Twilight before reading the latest installment in the deconstruction series. That's probably not going to happen.

Another thing to do is to have a touchstone. Something you can go back to to remind you what the bigger picture is. And this has all been a roundabout way to introduce the fact that I'm about to take you back tothe parking lot scene.

For context this is just after Edward talks Bella into pretending to be sick when she's not in order to skip gym. How much is she not sick? This much:

I was still fine. [...] I walked out into the cold fine mist that had just begun to fall. It felt nice -- the first time I enjoyed the constant moisture falling out of the sky 

She is very specifically fine, but she's actually better than fine. She's feeling so good that she's taking joy in things she's spent the entire book, in fact her entire life, hating. She is  up, and anyone with a passing familiarity with Bella Swan knows that this is extremely unusual for her. The next chapter is the one where the sun pokes out and she'll get a shot of joy out of that, meaning that this is the absolute best we've seen her in the book so far.

By Bella standards she's stellar.

Keep that in mind.

We were near the parking lot now. I veered left, toward my truck. Something caught my jacket, yanking me back.On a personal note this is an important passage for me because if she'd veered right the Tardis Truck might never have come into being. But on a touchstone-to-remind-you-what-Twilight-is-about level what's important here is "yanking me back." Bella doesn't even know that Edward has a hold of her yet and he's already yanking. Not a less loaded word like pulling, instead a word that denotes a fast, violent motion. And he's not just yanking her to a standstill, he's pulling on her hard enough to pull her back.

Why is he doing this? We don't know. Seriously, this is what we get by way of explanation:

   "Where do you think you're going?" he asked, outraged. He was gripping a fistful of my jacket in one hand.
    I was confused. "I'm going home."
   "Didn't you hear me promise to take you safely home? Do you think I'm going to let you drive in your condition?" His voice was still indignant.
    "What condition?"


I've cut Bella off in the middle of a quote because there's a need for emphasis, also the rest of it is just logistics of getting her truck home. Anyway, emphasis. "What condition?" indeed. Bella is currently the best we've ever seen her. She's fine, she was happy until someone grabbed hold of her and started yanking on her with enough force to reverse her direction. But more than that Edward knows she's fine. Edward is the one who faked her condition in the first place. It was his idea to have her pretend to be sick when she wasn't in order to get out of gym class and he did most of the work.

He absolutely positively knows that she has no condition and she is fully capable of driving herself safely home. Whatever his reason for overpowering her and forcing her into his car, it isn't what he said it is. He's lying to her.

He's lying to her, he's violating her space and her person (and her jacket), he's handling her dangerously roughly, and yet he's the one who is outraged and indignant. Bella, for her part, is merely "complaining". You'll have to take my word for that because I'm not going to quote every single word and that's in the middle of the truck logistics.

Also note the use of "fistful" instead of "handful." This is written in such a way to make sure there is no mistaking that what we're being told about is violent action.

So what does he do after grabbing the fistful, yanking her and lying to her?

He was towing me toward his car now, pulling me by my jacket. It was all I could do to keep from falling backward. He'd probably just drag me along anyway if I did.

Once again, note the word choice. Towing. He's not guiding or bringing or anything that could possibly have positive connotations. He's doing something that indicates he is in total control and Bella has none. Towing is something you do to wagons, boats to be tugged, broken down cars, and people whose consent and self determination you don't give a damn about.

Dragging is a step down from that because it still leaves Edward with all the control and Bella with none but it is uncomfortable and likely damaging. This scene takes place in the parking lot and on the sidewalk. Neither is something you really want abrading your skin, even if it is through clothing as it probably would be in Bella's case. Edward will later confirm that he is perfectly willing to drag Bella.

And there's still more to unpack from those three sentences. I skipped the middle one. Bella is still traveling backward. She can't see her destination, can't see where she's putting her feet. She hasn't just lost complete control over her own body, she's lost any illusion of control. If he had grabbed her by the arm and pulled her forward she could at least tell herself that she was willingly going along with him because the position wouldn't be that different than if she were. It's a largely meaningless lie, but when you've got nothing, as Bella does in this situation, you take what you can get.

But she can't even get that. She hasn't just been stripped of anything resembling bodily autonomy, she's been stripped of any way to maintain the illusion she still has some control. Instead all she has left to do is to make sure things don't get worse. If Bella the perpetually clumsy can keep her feet under her as she is forced backward toward Edward's car she can at least save herself the pain, injury, and indignity of being dragged across the ground. That's all she has control over. Whether or not she falls over backward. Everything else has been stripped away.

"Let go!" I insisted. He ignored me.

In case there was any doubt, Bella emphatically does not consent to this treatment and Edward emphatically doesn't give a damn.

Bella does manage to improve her situation somewhat. Instead of going backwards the whole way she manages to "stagger along sideways" which tells us a couple of things. One is that even though she tries to turn to face her destination Edward doesn't let her. There's no reason he couldn't. With his vampire speed (faster than a falling van) he could release her and grab on to a different part of her jacket before she had time to respond to being released. Even without his vampire speed he could have adjusted his position and mode of forcing Bella toward his car. A fistful of jacket can be used to push as well as pull.

He chooses not to do these things. Even as Bella is trying to spin to face her destination he's making it impossible.

The second thing it tells us is that Edward is pulling Bella faster than she can safely go. She isn't walking along sideways, she's  staggering. This is decidedly not a safe thing to be doing for an extended period and it's not comfortable. Edward is demonstrating beyond a shadow of a doubt that he doesn't care about Bella's safety or comfort.

Then he finally freed me -- I stumbled against the passenger door.

The exact details of how he freed her are not given. He couldn't have simply let her go, then her momentum would carry her into him, not the car. The implication is that he turned pull to push at the last moment so that she would end up at the passenger door without him needing to preform the physically impossible feat of walking through the car while dragging.

Regardless, she's not stable. First it was all she could do to stop from falling backwards, then she staggered sideways, now she's stumbling. She's being forced beyond her limits by Edward in ways that are clearly unsafe. His powers, it should be noted, are useless here. Alice might be able to tell that forcing Bella beyond her limits won't result in her getting hurt, but mind reading, even if Bella didn't have a mental shield, isn't up to the task.

His admission, in the form of a threat, that he has no problem dragging her is coming up. That tells us all we need to know about how much he cares about Bella's safety (not in the least) but the truth is we don't need to skip ahead to get that. The only thing that could possibly make Bella safe in this ordeal is if he was going to use his vampire reflexes to steady her if she appeared to be about to fall. She stumbled against the passenger door. Edward can't see the future, Edward can't sense her feelings, Edward can't read her mind. He doesn't know if that stumble will end in a fall or not. He doesn't know whether she's relieved she caught herself or in total panic because she's about to fall.

If Edward were planning on doing anything to keep Bella from falling he would do it now. This is where he would steady her, or catch her, or something her. He doesn't do anything until she speaks, which is to ignore her statement and tell her the door is unlocked. If he were concerned about her safety he wouldn't, he couldn't, wait that long to act. As she stumbled against the door there was a point where it would be unclear whether she'd stand or fall. Edward did nothing in this time.

I can't quote a line in the text because there's no line there. It goes straight from, "I stumbled against the passenger door," to Bella speaking which given her words ("You are so  pushy") she wouldn't have done until she was sure she was stable. So the entire time from letting her go, through her stumbling, until she was steady enough to start talking about things other than, "Oh, crap! I'm falling!" Edward did nothing at all.

I cannot emphasize this enough: He does not care about Bella's safety.

   "Get in, Bella."
   I didn't answer. I was mentally calculating my chances of reaching the truck before he could catch me. I had to admit, they weren't good.
  "I'll just drag you back," he threatened. Guessing my plan.


Some people consider the way that Edward acted sexy, Bella Swan is not one of those people. She wants to get away. She's trying to work out if she can. If she breaks into a sprint can she make it to safety before Edward runs her down. Magic 8 Ball says, "My sources say no." She's plotting her escape, she realizes she doesn't stand much of a chance.

She isn't turned on, she's afraid. She wants to run away but is worried that he'll catch her if she does.

And she's right to be afraid.

Edward says he will drag her back. Drag. The thing she'd been worried about when being towed. Dragged across the asphalt of the parking lot from her truck to his Volvo. He's already done violence to her, but violence that didn't cause physical harm. Now he's threatening more violence and the kind he's threatening will  hurt her. She will be injured. Almost certainly not huge injuries, but being dragged across a parking lot, especially at the pace Edward seems to prefer, will  damage a person. That's the threat. "I've already mistreated you, get in the car or I'll injure you."

This is not part of an established relationship, it must be remembered. They don't have one of those until Port Angles at the earliest. That's three chapters away. An argument can be made for it not really starting for another five chapters. That's as much book as there has been up to this point.

This is how Edward treats Bella when they're just schoolmates and nothing more. He has no special permission to do things to her, he has no claim that he's somehow exempt from normal standards of how you treat others in her case because that would require some established relationship with ground rules outside of the norm. There's nothing wrong with those but they don't have one.

Edward and Bella are almost strangers. Whenever she's tried to learn about him he's been evasive, he's even tried to gaslight her. Only earlier in this same day did Edward end his campaign of shunning her. It was at lunch that he floated the idea of taking her from her friends never to have her return. It was mere minutes ago that he discussed her death (thinking Mike had killed her) and the murder he'd commit as a result (because he'd "have to avenge [her] murder.")

All that Bella knows about Edward is that he saved her once, he seems to regret doing so, he's quick to talk about kidnapping her and her death, and he's really, really mean to her.

That's the context for the above.

And that, for me, places  Twilight in context. That's the foundation on which the relationship is eventually (three or five or more chapters from now depending on where you place its start) built, that's the beginning from which they start. After the incident with the van Edward lied to Bella, tried to gaslight her, and then went dark. This is the day he started talking to her again. This is where they start to interact. And the above is that interaction.

This tells you what you need to know about how Edward treats Bella and how much he cares about her (not a lot.)

If you find yourself so deep in the details that you've forgotten what the story is about, remember this scene. It's told with unusual detail, it's exceptionally vivid, and it shows you what the relationship is like right from the moment it started. Edward has been talking to Bella for less than one full school day at this point.

It's not the best for telling you who Bella is. I'm not sure there's a good "This is Bella" scene to keep in mind because I don't think she has a clear idea on who she is. What it is very good at is reminding you who Edward is and what the relationship between Bella and him is like. The book is about the relationship. This is the bigger picture, encapsulated in one scene.

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Sunday, June 28, 2015

Jensen in great grandfather's hat (image post)

I feel like time imbues objects with meaning and value.  I don't know why, I just feel like it does.

On long timescales that is undeniably true.

Look at this. It's worthless - ten dollars from a vendor in the street. But I take it, I bury it in the sand for a thousand years, it becomes priceless.
-Belloq


Belloq was evil, but he was also insightful.

On shorter timescales the proposition is harder to support.

But, anyway, when my grandparents stuff was being sorted into person A keeps, person B keeps, we have a deathmatch to decide who keeps it, and throw out, I ended up taking various things that no one wanted.  Including a hat.

This hat:








Alas, the hat could not stay on forever:


But he picked it up:


And put it back on:




And the thing that makes this all not just random pictures of a cute kid in an old hat (not that there's anything wrong with a cute kid in an old hat) is this:


Robert Syska was my mother's father, thus Jensen's great grandfather.

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Jensen saw the hat, which I had forgotten about entirely, and decided to put it on all on his own.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Won't someone please think of the children

The vocal Splatoon community has been very much in favor of equality.  It's not quite as near to unanimous as it seems because there are, you know, rules.  The g-rated message of "Love wins" doesn't violate any rules.  Saying that some people are lesser beings unworthy of dignity and respect does go against the rules because the rules make that sort of assholistry out of bounds.

You can still be a jerk, in the Nintendo community, but you must be a civil jerk.

That the squids are overwhelmingly in favor of marriage equality, though, is not in doubt.  People against it made up a not against-the-rules way to demonstrate their disapproval and it didn't get nearly the same following.

But there was also another subset of people who stopped short of saying they were against it and instead voiced concern that it should not be discussed because won't someone think of the children?

Please think of the children.  This is a kids game.  (Uh, no.  It is a game that is considered appropriate for kids, but it isn't considered not-appropriate for adults.)  Don't talk about love winning while kids are around.  They shouldn't have to encounter such talk.

Now it would be good, at this point, to explain that the outpouring of support for the ruling generally consisted of, "Love wins," which left some people unsure what the hell people were talking about.  It did not contain detailed descriptions of ... I don't even know what it would be.  Not sex, peoples right to have sex wasn't in the case.  Um, detailed descriptions of the process of obtaining a marriage licence from city hall?

Whatever.

The point is, the message was basically limited to, "Love wins."  Apparently the fragile minds of the children must not be exposed to this concept lest their heads explode and their feeble souls be torn asunder.

No one is suggesting that we venerate hate, you must understand, it's just important that children not be allowed to encounter the concept of love triumphant.  So, you know, no Disney movies.  No fairly tales about the power of true love.  No Princess Bride.  We must, you see, protect the delicate children.

If they thought that love could win then they might extrapolate that it is conceivable, even possible, that good could triumph over evil and then the children would be lost to us.  The horror.

But, the anti-love crowd aside, there's another way of thinking about the children.

Kids play the game.  It is highly likely (as close to certain as it is possible to be without actually asking the players) that non-straight kids play the game.  Those kids got to see people supporting them and their right to be treated the same as everyone else.

But they also got to see people saying that it's inappropriate to be talking about them, discussion of them or people like them doesn't belong in the random, usually meme dominated, community around the game, they are not welcome.

Kids are not stupid.  They can see the actual meaning behind, "It's nice and all, but don't bring it up ever.  If you really have to talk about it do it in a private space because it's not appropriate for a public space."

And, really, it would be nice if people thought about the children, because they learn fast and if the message you're sending to them is that they're lesser-than they're going to get it, and it's probably going to hurt.

One reason (though not the only one) that it is completely appropriate to talk about equality in a public space?  Because of children.

Before you consider silencing the discussion, think of the children you'll hurt by trying to do so.

Of course the people who need that advice won't read this post, or if they do they won't heed it.

Friday, June 26, 2015

"I thought that was the title of some evangelical's book" / news from the inkverse (Love Wins)

So when I heard that the Supreme Court did something not evil I initially thought that it was the news I'd already heard which relates to not fucking over healthcare.  Turns out that in addition to not making things worse they made the country better by doing their jobs right.  Well, five of them did.  55.5(repeating)% is usually the best we can expect from them.

When I say they made the country better I mean that in a very specific way.  In spite of what some people may think a country is not some vague concept that you can support without supporting any part of it, nor is it simply lines on a map.  A country is made up of people.  Without people there is no country, no one to value whatever values the country may have, no one to care about the lines on a map, no one to make policy, no one to ... anything really.

A country is a body of people.  Making the lives of people in the country better without making anyone else's lives worse is pretty much the best thing you can do for a country.  Because the country is the people, so what's good for the people is good for the country.  Normally there's some kind of trade off.  (E.g. Rich people have to pay a few cents more per dollar earned over 100 million so we can have an infrastructure and that would make them suffer so much.)  But sometimes there isn't really.

Rights is one of those things.  The Supreme Court doesn't grant people rights.  People already have the rights.  They're just getting trampled on.  When the Supreme Court makes a ruling such as the one on marriage equality, it's not changing anything in theory, it's instead changing things in practice.  In theory the rights were already guaranteed to everyone by the constitution, in practice certain groups weren't having their rights respected and needed the court to say that they really truly had those rights in order to change that.

The ruling, as all rulings of this nature, says, "These people are people to and thus deserve (and in fact have) the same rights as other people," and what is notable about that kind of ruling is that no one loses.  The "other people" still have the same rights they had before.  The group of people not treated like shit is simply expanded to include "These people" while the group of people treated like shit gets no new inductees.

So, where does the title of the post come from?

Love Wins was a book by an evangelical pastor named Rob Bell in 2011 that made serious waves before anyone even read it because, based on the combination of the title and subtitle it was assumed that he would say that might, conceivably, be possible that no one is going to Hell.  That love would triumph over hate, good over evil, and thus no one would have to needlessly suffer.

"Love Wins" also seems to be the way that people are describing the Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality.  As near as I can tell it was actually equal protection under the law and, perhaps, the impulse to not be a complete asshole that won the case, which is somewhat less fun of a slogan.

Though, that said, Love did win, even if it won based on things that don't actually involve love directly.  Treating people as people while affording them dignity and respect is necessary to love, but it's not sufficient.

But quibbling over wording isn't my point here.  News from the inkverse.

It may have become apparent to people that I've taken an interest in the game Splatoon.

Now, what should happen when I took a look about this game where teenage squid-people compete in a sport that involves covering the ground in ink while engaging in a certain degree of interpersonal ink-combat?

Clemente: *illustration built around the words "Love Wins"*

Brottom: *illustration of the cat who announces the results of matches saying, "Love Wins"*

Bret: *Illustration with "#LoveWins"*

Igel: *illustration of octopus-woman and squid-woman snuggling #LoveWins*

Patrick~: *illistruation of two squid meeting at a heart "Love Wins!"*

Dinosauric: *another squid-woman with octo-woman illustration "Love Wins"*

Samantha: "#lovewins" (The o in "love" and the dot of the "i" in "wins" are both hearts.  Other hearts thrown in for good measure.)

kirstin: IM SO HAPPY THERES SO MANY MARRIAGE EQUALITY POSTS #lovewins yayyy

That was the majority of the handful of messages shown to me from players.  There were a couple of normal game related messages, but only a couple.

There was one dissenting opinion, far nicer than another dissenting opinion that might be in some people's minds today:

Enkou: Forget gay marriage, there's turf to ink.

If it were the case that one had to decide between working on the slow, slow, agonizingly slow, slow, so damn slow sometimes I lose all hope, slow, slow progress toward living in a world where all people are treated like people on the one hand and playing a silly, fun game with squid people on the other, then I think you'd have to forget Splatoon and focus on the other thing.

But here's the nice thing: You don't have to choose.  It's totally possible play games and care about human beings not being treated like garbage.  And it's possible to shoot virtual ink at virtual turf while being happy that there has been some forward progress* in that arena.

Anyway, the squid-people approve of the Supreme Court mandating that governments in the US be slightly less assholic because the level of assholicness they had in place before this ruling was actually illegal (unconstitutional even, which is the worst form of illegal possible in the US.)

It makes a certain amount of sense that the squids would do so given that today I also saw that Cthulhu has dropped out of the race for US President citing that he wasn't evil enough for the party whose nomination he was seeking.  (Here's a hint, it's the one that thinks this ruling is a bad one.)

[Added:] And, of course, going back after writing this post has an entirely different (and rather larger) group of squid.  The vast majority also saying, "Love Wins."  Squid like equality, it would seem. [/Added]


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* That's actually redundant, the "pro" in "progress" means forward anyway.  If you're wondering, the "gress" is to walk.  We're stepping forward.  A lot of steps left to go, but we're stepping forward.

Fun fact: "gradual progress", based on etymology, would translate to "walking-like walking forward".  "Progress" being the "walking forward", "gradual" being the "walking like"  In spite of how different "gress" and "gradu-" look, they're actually forms of the same root word.

In "progress" the emphasis is on the motion of the walking, in "gradual" it's on the speed (walk, not run; one step at a time, not leaps and bounds.)

I think I need a new washing machine

I've known that there were problems for a long time.  They primarily focused on the part that locked the door shut for washing and told the machine that the door had successfully locked shut, but in addition to that assembly I was definitely growing ever closer to the day I needed a new door as well.  Somewhat rusted and hanging on one hinge, with the handle ripped off by some member of my family or other, the door had been abused to no end by people who didn't understand, and probably still don't understand, that while appliances are tough you should never force them.

If it isn't opening, for example, you're doing something wrong.  Trying to rip it open with great force will inevitably have bad consequences and it's somewhat lucky that all that happened there was ripping the handle off.  Of course this still didn't stop the philosophy of force.  It was and is entirely possible to open the handle-less door (the holes where the handle used to be were nicely finger sized and if it takes more than a finger to open the door something's wrong and you shouldn't force it), but since you can't really yank on something that doesn't have a handle my sister solved the "problem" by having a fork on standby that she could stick in the hole to make a temporary handle she could yank on.

So I've known that I'd need a replacement door (including hinges) on the outside, and a replacement door lock/door sensor mech on the inside for a while.

The internal piece being more important because the temporary fixes I was able to implement had the unintended side effect of making the machine stop each time it switched tasks meaning that I had to start it, wait a bit, manually tell it to spin, wait a bit, manually tell it to rinse, wait a bit, manually tell it to spin, and generally do that sort of thing.

That's fucking annoying to do, and so I've taken to going through all of the clothes that I can before, finally, the lack of anything clean forces me to do a wash.  Which was today.

New problem.  It doesn't spin.

My initial hope was that it was as simple as a disconnected belt.

Moving it into a position where I could access the motor left me with ... I guess you'd say gash.  I'd felt the pain, but not realized that it broke the skin until I later noticed my wrist was covered in blood.  the wound is actually very small, but it isn't a cut or a scrape. Some skin (very little mind you) was gouged off.  Apparently that makes the blood flow out of you quite a bit faster than a cut would.

Sweaty from moving the washing machine, a bandaid wouldn't stick.  (Like I said, the wound was small, a normal sized bandaid was of more than sufficient size.)  No problem, that's what ace bandages are for.  Wrap them around the part you can't bandaid.  I don't seem to have any of those.

I ended up with a sheet tied around my wrist holding the bandaid in place.

Anyway, back to the machine.  The belt was fine.  The motor simply does not go.  Not even a little.  Nothing.

So now it's a door, the locking mech, and the motor, and god knows what else.

Oh, and apart from it being a GE machine I can't find a damned thing saying what the machine actually is so I have no idea how to find replacement parts.

Motor repair is almost certainly beyond me.  If I can figure out what model the damned thing is maybe I can buy a replacement motor, and a replacement door-lock-thingy, and a replacement door.  But the more stuff goes wrong, the more it seems like the solution is to buy a new washing machine, if I can figure out a way to afford it.

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[Added:]

Got some good news.  I decided to yank individual parts and check for identifying information on them.  Obvious first part: locking mech.  Turns out it's known that if the locking mech is busted, even if it works enough to start washing a load, the machine will not spin.

That means that the motor is probably fine, which in turn means that the machine as a whole is probably fine save the door which needs to be replaced eventually and the locking mech which needs to be replaced as soon as inhumanly possible (help me out here gods) which means that instead of hundreds of dollars I'm looking at tens of dollars (so more in the realm of $79 than $799) and if I I don't pay retail (which: "Why would I?") I can probably cut that in half at least.

So good news all around except that I have a full load of sopping wet clothes because the machine won't spin and, since I didn't know that, I ran a load.

I've bypassed the locking mech before, I just have to figure out the best way to do it again, especially since I now know it runs two separate checks and it's possible I only know how to bypass one of them.

If anyone knows where to find good internal schematics of a "131763202 FRIGIDAIRE WASHER DOOR LATCH" that show how it was supposed to be to begin with (I only first opened it up after it had been broken) that might help me figure out where my repair of it went wrong.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

How I would do it: Splatoon

Splatoon is revolutionary and freaking adorable, but it could be better.

Before we get to what I'd do differently, we have to talk about the game itself.

When I realized that doing so was really post length itself I cut it out and put it in it's own post.

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The first thing that needs to be understood is that Splatoon, as it currently exists, needs multiplayer bots.  I'm just going to foonote that [1] because it's more a patch on existing things than the fun how I would do it stuff.

Table of contents:


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Ok, so, single player is awesome.  More of it, thank you very much.

Also more integration of it.  This could be purely aesthetic.  When you start the game you're told on the local newscast that the power source for the city is gone, and since the power source is a giant electric catfish (creativity points for inventing the "zapfish" electric catfish instead of making it an eel, by the way) that's kept in public, you can see it's no longer there.  But, other than it not being there as part of the scenery, there's nothing mentioned about it ever again until you complete the single player campaign and return it.

Local newscast says its back, now you can see that it's home.

The local news cast is used to announce stage rotation which happens multiple times a day and also announce any new features added to the game (new weapons, new stages.)  Mixed in with these could be things about the power shortage.  Lights could flicker.  Things could look like a city that has power problems.

As you returned the little zapfish stopgap measures could be implemented to deal with the problems and thus you could see what you were accomplishing.

Like I said, purely aesthetic.

That said, it would also be nice if you could have things that do affect gameplay.  Like bringing some of the gear you buy in the plaza on single player missions.

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Even if the game thinks it's the first time someone has seen this, it should be skippable.  Cutscene?  Be able to skip it.  Newscast?  Be able to skip it.

Results of the match you just played?  Be able to skip it.

It should be always, always, always be possible to skip non-interactive content.

The sole exception is when the content serves the same purpose as, "On your mark.  Get set.  Go!" and that is something that should never take a long time.

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Non-combat inter-player interaction.

When you're walking around the plaza you can encounter other players in a miiverse way.  That means you can see them, as they have chosen to appear (skin color, eye color, clothing) and read any message they've shouted to the world, but you're not really encountering them because they're basically playing the role of NPCs.

I'd be in favor of making this an interactive non-combat multiplayer.  Have it be a chance to talk to your fellow players between matches and such.  Talk could in fact be text so voice chat wouldn't have to be implemented; that said, people want voice chat and for good reason.

Multiplayer is a team of four vs. another team of four.  Working together with your team in a way such that you complement each other is essential.  And yet you can't talk to them.  You can't say, "I can hold this position so no one else needs to wait here," or, "Cover me," or, "I've got you covered," or, "Don't go that way there's a sniper," or, "Everyone attack on 3," or, "If you just tell me what you're trying to accomplish, maybe I can help you."  Or anything like that.

But we'll get to multiplayer.

For now the plaza.

The thing is, you could still do the mii-verse thing that's being done here so that the area looks like it's populated people people doing people things while doing what I'm advocating.  The difference would be that the NPC population would be made of people who aren't in a position to interact here (say people who are logged off, instead of people who are logged on.  Or people currently in matches, or something.)

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The Plaza

In the plaza is a cafe you can't go into (because it's not like your character needs to eat or drink) the shops, an arcade game (not an arcade that you can play arcade games in, a single arcade game machine in the open) the place you go for multiplayer, the place you go for same-system multiplayer, and the Amiibo station.

First the shops.  I was disappointed when I learned that headgear, which includes hats, helmets, glasses, goggles, headphones and probably other stuff (oh: gas mask, head band) is one item only given that I want my character to be able to wear glasses and a hat.

Simple solution: split off eye-wear into a different shop.  The game involves paintball (well ... inkball) it would make sense for everyone to wear goggles by default and the eye-wear shop could be divided between things like cooler goggles, normal glasses, sunglasses, Geordi's visor (but not called that so you don't get sued) and such.

Headphones would also be good to separate out since they're there already but are somehow prevent you from wearing glasses or a headband.

Now, since gear comes with abilities there could be balance issues, but I'm sure they could be worked out.  Before I do quick math on that, consider this:

You can pick your headgear, you can pick your shirt, you can pick your shoes, you can't buy pants.  (We are the squids who wear no pants.)  Instead everyone wears the same featureless, black, form-fitting athletic shorts.

They need a pants, shorts, and skirts shop.

Thus expanded, the shops would be:
Eyewear, hats, headphones, shirts, pants/shorts/skirts, shoes.

Headphones kind of stands out as "Wha?" but they're already in game as headgear.  It's canonical that inklings are known for their liking of music, so each of them having some kind of music thing (doesn't have to be headphones, could be an nondescript MP3 player clipped to a belt) isn't really a stretch.

That's six shops.  If the new things all have the same one primary ability and up-to-four secondary abilities thing going on then you could have every ability as a secondary as opposed to the half you could have before (if the random rolls went just right in either case) in addition to the six primaries (compared to 3) in a single outfit.

I think it's not really desirable for there to be the potential to have everything, but it's not like there was some law of nature that necessitated there be precisely 24 abilities to begin with.

If we double the shops we could double the abilities.  Some of them are already pretty esoteric.  "Haunting" is the one that comes to my mind.  It marks the person whop killed you so that everyone on your side can see where they are (yourself included when you respawn.)  I'm not precisely sure what controls how long this lasts, but it's probably the same as the point sensor and echolocator which do similar things.  If that can be an ability you can imagine how many possibilites there are.

Run speed and swim speed being increased are both special abilities, but nothing about jumps.  Jump length and jump height are both things that could be increased.

I'd like there to be an anti-gravity-in-ink-ability so that when you're in ink on a wall and not moving you stay where you are rather than slide down.

Being able to submerge in enemy ink could be useful, even though enemy ink is harmful to you and has a severe movement penalty.

The point is, the abilities out there to abilities you can have ratio could be kept the same because I'm sure more ones could be thought up.  (Or, alternatively, just don't have as many slots.)

For that matter, you could have a feature where the maximum number of abilities is capped but the amount of gear is variable.  As it stands everyone always has three bits of gear.  You can't go barefoot or shirtless, and if you want there to be nothing on your head the best you can do is buy contact lenses for your head gear.

I'd still want the inklings to be wearing clothes, but things could be made optional.  The shorts currently contribute nothing, have them be the default and still contribute nothing.  Have a similarly bland shirt be the default and contribute nothing.  Have all other gear be optional.

Then put caps on the abilities.  If you think the game is perfect as it is, you can only have three primary abilities (if you have four or more things on some of the primaries, you should be able to choose which, get demoted to secondary) you can have at most 12 secondary abilities, if you've got six things on all of them maxed out, only the first 12 secondaries count (this is easy to figure out because they have a set order) so from the things with non-demoted primaries you get two secondaries each and discard two secondaries each.  From each thing with a demoted primary you have the primary as secondary, the first secondary, and discard the three other secondaries.

My point here is that there are plenty of ways to have more gear without unbalancing the game, so I have no fears about adding gear types and would do just that.

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I wondered, to some degree, if people would find these ideas absurd, the game isn't dress up, after all.  It turns out that there's an online movement to add a pants shop.  People also want a hair salon.

Inklings don't have hair.  The top of their head has something that looks hair-ish from a distance but it's actually a remnant of your squid-form color, the most hair-like part are the still-long tentacles.  You can't get a trim.  It would have to be surgery and I'm definitely opposed to that being in the game.

However the tentacles can be styled in a way.  They can be tied.  The boys all bind theirs toward the top back of their heads, the girls all wear them loose.  A couple of NPCs who are older than the players and have extra long tentacles have theirs bound in ways that are more complex and clearly feminine.

I'd definitely support a tentacle styling shop.  Especially because if we assume that loose tentacles are how you say to the world, "I'm a girl," and bound at the back ones are how you say, "I'm a boy," (which seems to be the case) then someone with long but bound at the back tentacles would openly be a trans boy, someone with short but unbound ones would be a trans girl, and we'd be able to have instant representation just by letting people decide how to do their "hair".

(We probably wouldn't get it, though I'm all for NPCs that look like other players to populate the larger world I'm going to be describing, thus we could ensure that we got it.)

Other styles would be a way of saying that either you're neither gender or you care more about looking how you want to look than people getting your gender right at first glance.

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People also want pets which I don't really see the point of, but ok.  Some specifically want ink-pets that they can use in multiplayer which, I guess, would take the form of a special and ... there's nothing wrong with that, some of the specials are weird.  Or maybe it would be a secondary weapon (throw out your pet) which, again, some of the secondaries were kind of weird so ... sure, why not?

People also want apartments/houses.  This actually makes sense because the loading screen when you start the game is of an inkling's room and if you look at the gamepad you see a map of said room.

In fact, having a home could be really useful for being able to sort your gear.  Right now all your weapons are on one unsorted screen and if they take up more than one screen you have to flip right or left to see more.  There's not rhyme or reason the order they're in (perhaps the order you acquired them?) and it's a bit of a mess to find what you're looking for.

If you actually had a 3D space in which to put your stuff you could sort it in a way that makes sense to you.

Additionally it opens the door to having swag you could collect.

X-Wing Alliance gave you a room (complete with a growing souvenir collection) in spite of the game being a flight simulator.

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People want to see more of Inkopolis than just one plaza and the multiplayer stages.  I'm with them on that.  It would be cool to be able to walk around and look at the place you save in single player and live in regardless.  The multiplayer stages are explicitly normal places that they've cordoned off to make into a match spaces temporarily.  It would be neat to be able to walk around the non-cordoned off version when it's not in use as a match.

(It might also be neat to go to one of the places currently in use for matches and spectate.  Obviously it could only show one match at a time even though many are going on, but: who cares?  Be a spectator.)

For that matter, since I'm basically talking about turning a simple match based multiplayer game into an MMO, it would be cool to arrange unofficial matches where you told people, "Show up at X and bring your ink," and the fight didn't really have rules or time limit and didn't affect your standing or ranking at all.

And being able to wander the city comes back to something about the merchants.  It would make more sense to me if the shops were fully loaded with stuff all the time and it were just the case that certain sections weren't open to you when you hadn't reached a sufficient level.  Furthermore, that would could lead to decisions about various things because if multiple companies are offering more or less the same product, you've got to decide which to get.

And what about if you're choosing how to dress entirely based on fashion and care not about abilities?  We know there's a mall in Inkopolis, maybe the stuff there is cheaper but doesn't have abilities or doesn't have as many.  (Could be everything there is primary only without a single secondary slot.)  The mall could also have stuff you could use to decorate your room.

I'm going to get into travel around this expanded city, but first one more thing on clothes.

What if you really like something in terms of stats, but not so much in terms of how it looks.  There ought to be an alteration shop that will help you change how things look or, failing that, the ability to let some piece of clothing soak in dye of another color until it's something you like.  (Boring white tee?  That's what tie-dye is for.)

Ok, so, bigger city.  The super-jump from multiplayer, or the squid launchers from single player, would justify fast travel from one location to another so that you wouldn't be stuck slowly making your way from point A to point B.  That said, there are other means of travel and the plaza really feels too much like a human design and not enough like an inkling design.

Inklings move faster in squid-form so you'd expect the design of their cities and buildings to reflect this.  The plaza is a no-splat area so you can't lay down a trail of ink to swim through, but there could be channels of some sort of opalesque universal ink that everyone could swim through to move faster than on foot.  Also, in single player a mode of fast travel to difficult places was shown, ink-rails, which are sort of like ... um ... beams of ink projected in straight lines until they reach a joint that redirects them in another direction or their end point.

Both of these things could be ways to travel around larger areas without getting bogged down in travel time.

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Multiplayer game modes.

Right now the multiplayer is a sort of balance between laying down ink and fighting your opponents to hinder them from laying down ink while preventing them from hindering you.  That's fine, I'd add two things though.  One would be a mode in which it's just laying down ink.  You cannot die, you cannot kill.

There are still downsides to someone shooting at you --there's a severe movement penalty on the other team's ink, you need your own ink to refill your ink tank-- but in general the game is primary objective only: ink more territory than the other side.

The other would be the opposite.  It doesn't matter how much ink you lay down, the object is to splat the enemy more than they splat you.  The way squid-swimming through ink changes movement and what it does with respect to stealth means that this would be very different from what goes on in a traditional shooter, but the objective would be the same.

Right now all matches are four on four.  I'd open it up to more possibilities.  I don't think one more person would kill the system and cause horrible things, so three teams of three seems an option.  Four teams of two definitely.  Free for all: eight colors of ink being shot around.

Also, instead of 4 on 4, 3 on 3, 2 on 2, 1 on 1.

And this is part of where the footnote, apparently the only footnote (at least the only one so far), comes in.  Bots really are needed to deal with cases where someone's connection dies, and they could be very helpful when the matchmaking software can only find seven people to put in a match and thus no one gets to play, but if there were significantly more multiplayer options (I just described 42 options of which only one is in the game) then it is absolutely essential that the system has a way to deal with things when there aren't enough human players.

The more options I have, the fewer people playing in each option, which means the more important it becomes that a match can be had when there aren't enough people who want that type of match at that time, which means the greater the need for really, really good multiplayer bots.

Not really, really good in terms of ability to win, really, really good in terms of acting in a humanish way.  Beginners don't need their butts constantly kicked, if they're going to have artificial opponents those opponents need to be on their level.

Further complicating existing multiplayer is that since it's four on four all the time, you're always on a team with three other people and you didn't get to pick their weapons.

Maybe you're great with a blaster provided there are other people on your team with rollers to lay down ink for you.  If you equip a blaster and get stuck on a team where everyone else has blasters ... sucks to be you.

There are four primary weapon types.  I think that leads to 35 possible combinations on a 4 person team.  Basically any level of control over what kind of team you're on will require the matchmaking software to consider all 35.  (I suppose the exception is if you could name only one that you wanted to be a on a team with, then things could be paired off and pairs stuck together, that's two sets of ten combinations so I'm not sure that's any simpler.)

And, again, you start to see how it would be vital to have a supply of players in cans (really good bots) to choose from to fill out any matches.

But it would at least mean that you don't start a match with a feeling of, "Fuck, I suck with a team armed this way."

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Rankings

Levels are just earning your way into being able to buy better stuff.  Rankings are really important.  There are official rankings which happen as a result of "Ranked Battles" (good name there, I wonder how they came up with it) and I'd like to think that there's some kind of unofficial behind the scenes ranking system that tries to keep a bunch of newbies from squaring off against the most experienced veterans of all time in the non-ranked matches.

Too often, in both types of matches, one side never stands a chance.  This is a serious problem.  It doesn't help, it isn't fun, it's just no good.  There needs to be a better system for making sure that the teams which face each other both at least have a chance of winning.

Moreover, ranking needs to take into account something that the official visible ranking does not: there are four kinds of weapon.

If you're the best there is with a roller you'll probably be able to get a high rank, but if you then decide to start practicing your charger skills there's no way in hell it makes sense to throw you into a match against top ranked players.

It needs to be divided by weapon so that you're playing at the right level for you no matter which weapon you have equipped.

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Stages

The places you play are called stages.  I'm not totally sure why.  Maybe it's nomenclature I'm just not familiar with, maybe it's because the game already uses the terms "level" and "map" to mean different things.

Regardless, there need to be more of them (there's at least one more on the way.)

In addition to needing more, though, there's also a need for different ones.

The single player campaign made heavy use of an interactive environment.  The ink rails I mentioned were part of that.  You can see how it would work, and offer a risk/reward combination in multiplayer.  Shoot the start thingy to turn the rail on in your color, then use it, but watch out because the enemy can shoot the start thingy too.  I'm not sure if doing so should turn it off (with a second shot turning it on in their color), or immediately switch it to their color.  Either way you'd be dropped right out of it.  (If it did immediately switch to their color you'd be inked up close to being splatted when you fell.  Or possibly splatted outright, either way.)

There was invisible stuff that you had to ink up to see.  On the one hand, this could be brought in the same way, or it could be made so that not only does there have to be ink on it for you to see it, but it has to be your ink.  Enemy ink doesn't show it to you.

The sponges were a truly interesting thing.  Shoot them with your ink and they grew huge and you could interact with them as you could with any inked surface.  But if the enemy shoots them they shrink back down.  Two possibilities.  One is that all sponges are neutral.  In their uninked state they're just waiting for someone to ink them so they can grow up huge and take the ink's color.  When shot with the other color they shrink back down to the uninked state and then, from there, can grow up huge in the new color.  The other is that some sponges are one color, the others are the other color.  Shooting with the color of the sponge can only make it grow, shooting with the other color can only make it shrink.  You can make an enemy sponge small and useless, but you can't convert it to one of your own.

There were things powered by propellers that you'd shoot ink into to make them go.  generally elevators or things that moved side to side.

Single player also had stages with dynamic parts from simple spinning things to blocks that rearranged themselves.

My point in bringing all of this up is that it's in the game.  The code is already there and it's just waiting for someone to take it and make multiplayer stages using these features.

I'm not advocating turning multiplayer into a platformer like single player, but I do think that the unique features from single player could be introduced to multiplayer.  Should be introduced, in fact.

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Random other thing: I don't know how hard it is to make a very basic skateboarding simulator, but one of the multiplayer stages is a skate park.  It would be kind of cool to be able to try to skateboard there when it's not being used as a multiplayer stage.  It is, after all, a skate park.

I really feel like I should be able to pull at least one other random bit of random out.

Oh, post single player victory it would be pretty cool, in my opinion, to be able to have non-violent interactions with the octalings.  The war is over, you won, they're probably bitter and pissed off, but maybe you could do something to help their situation which seems to, kind of, suck.


[1] Historically this has proven to be an incredibly difficult thing to do because while making an opponent that will be difficult for a player to beat is fairly straightforward, making an opponent that acts like a human being is less so.  Great strides have been made in this arena, but since Splatoon is not a traditional game, it is likely that a lot of what is needed to make a faux player needs to be built from scratch.

In addition to all of the stuff that goes into trying to make a shooter bot, which has traditionally been the problem approached, a faux player would need to be able to decide when to shoot vs when to lay down ink, where to lay down ink, when to switch between the two tactics, when it's best to lay down ink in an area that doesn't matter in order to charge their special, how to use the special, the best way to use things like beacons, when it pays to drop all reason and go for a Hail Mary because you're about to lose, what the Hail Mary would look like, how to best support and complement allies, and so forth.

The reason that Splatoon needs multiplayer bots is that, since the object is not to rack up the most kills, losing a player is devastating.  In a traditional shooter if you lose a player because their connection was lost, they were called away from the game, or whatever it's bad, but not catastrophic.  The reason is that while you have one fewer person on your side trying to shoot the enemy, you also have on fewer target for the enemy to shoot at.  It doesn't make up for a lost player, but it does mitigate the effect.

In Splatoon the object is to lay down ink.  Four on Four and you lose a player means that there are four of them inking the stage and only three of you which means that all things being equal the end result should be that they cover 57% of the stage.  What would be a tie is a loss.  What would be a win is a loss, only what would be an impressive win still constitutes a win.

I wonder if vast strides could be made in multiplayer bot making simply by collecting an analyzing the data that's being produced every time people play.  All games are run through nintendo online so in theory, if they wanted to, the could record every single game, use that to gather data for how human players actually play, run the data through pattern matching software to simplify it into a finite set of machine-understandable tactics and strategies, and then attempt to simulate those tactics/strategies.  (Still using the real life data to create very complex, but basically if-then based, ways to make the decision of which tack to take and when to change tack.)

We're talking about massive amounts of data to sift and analyze, which means ideally you'd be doing this shit on supercomputers (which, more often than not, are being put to better uses), but it does make for an interesting thought.  Every multiplayer match is a trove of data on how actual human beings approach actual gaming.  As far as I know that data is never saved, but it could be and analysis of it could do some very interesting things.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

About Splatoon

I started to write a post on how I would do Splatoon and I realized that I had to talk about the game as it is first, and when I started writing I didn't stop and so split this off into its own post.

Splatoon is revolutionary and freaking adorable.

It's the first time in 14 years that Nintendo made a game with original characters, and that's not even what's notable.

First off, the development was game-play oriented.  That's good.  It's not my general preference (I'm very much a story person) but if games are going to continue to change and expand and grow there needs to be constant work in new and different ways to do stuff.  Splatoon is different.

It's been called a third person shooter because you shoot stuff --or rather: you can shoot stuff if you so choose-- but really that's not right because the idea of a shooter is more narrow than that.  There are turn based RPGs where characters use arrows or blasters and we don't call them shooters.  Splatoon is instead about covering areas.

It started off as just that.  Covering areas in your color.  Despite the appeal of the idea, it did not start off as painting the town red and still only includes that rarely.  In the beginning it had more a Rolling Stones vibe: Paint it Black.  The teams were black and white.  The graphics and interface were extremely basic because at this point it was just testing raw game-play.  The players were represented as boxes.

It was noticed that with these early boxes and basic graphics it was hard to see other players in their own color and the resulting stealth, now that they had seen it in action, was picked up on as something they could purposely incorporate into the final product.

Eventually, when a setting was grafted on, it made sense to choose squids because of the association with ink.  Instead of having stealth-on-your-own-color all the time by accident, they made it so that you could submerge in your own color of ink in squid form and that was stealthy (humanish form not-so-stealthy.)

This leads to a trade off.  In squid form in your own ink you're hard to see (and also much faster) but you can't fire weapons.  Much of Splatoon is about trade offs, and I'll get to that, but first a bit on the setting.

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First, the way-back back-story.  You can skip this part and still understand everything else I'll talk about.

Splatoon takes place 1,200-ish years in the future, not that it's terribly important.  Rising sea levels is a repeated theme in the backstory.  The three big things are that someone afraid of what the sea levels would do cryogenically preserved his cat, that cat being the one that shows up in the game.  Second, they somehow wiped out most life on land allowing sea life to crawl up on land, lose the ability to exist in the sea, and evolve into myriad human-like forms (and do so really quickly.)

Real life evolution does not work like that at all, but it's ok because silly fun is what the game runs on.

100 years before the game was when The Great Turf War between the Octarians (a coalition of octopus descended creatures) and the Inklings (the squid creatures of the game) took place.  This was due to rising sea levels again, which left them with not enough space to coexist.

The Inklings won, the Octarians retreated to underground caverns.  Since the caverns were underground they needed to be sustained without the use of the sun, which takes a lot of energy, and when that breaks down it provides the impetus for the return of the Octarian threat (they steal the Inklings' power source) that the single player campaign is built around.

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The game started as a different kind of multiplayer --fighting to cover the stage in your color instead of trying to kill the enemy-- and multiplayer is what it's built around.

You enter the game in a plaza in Inkopolis, an/the Inkling city.  The plaza is populated by the Inkling version of miis, which is to say that you can see other people who are online in a way that doesn't let you interact with them directly but, if they've left some kind of a message up like, "If we can buy shirts, hats, and shoes, why can't we get pants?  I'm sick of athletic shorts!" or, "This game is awesome!" you can read it.

You can also take a look at them to see what gear (weapon, headgear, shirt, shoes) they have equipped, what level they are, and probably other not very important stuff I'm not currently thinking about.

Other than sex (I talked about potential for using the physical dichotomy to tell stories here), skin color, and eye color all inklings look pretty much alike.  They don't have hair, but for the squidy bit that is where hair would be the color is randomized and has the potential to change every match, so that's not a distinguishing feature.  While two of the tentacles remain long enough to style (after a fashion), boys all have them done one way, girls all have them another way.

There are also usually some blue jellyfish walking around.  They're the only other species you'll see that doesn't appear as an interactive game mechanic, usually a merchant.

There is a jellyfish merchant (he sells shirts and coats) but he's not the only jellyfish around.

The previously mentioned cat will give you advice if you click on him.  He also appears to announce the winner at the end of every match.

Weapons can be purchased from a horseshoe crab person.  A shy, possibly depressed, anemone-haired person and the loud, brash clown fish in her hair run a hat shop.  A shoe shop is run by a shrimp who, oddly, appears to be breaded and toasted in spite of being very much alive and not in any kind of pain.

Out of a back alley works a sea urchin person.  He seems shady.  It's a playful cartoon world so shady doesn't translate to doing anything bad, but he seems shady.  He has no fixed inventory, instead he can get you whatever you want by way of clothes for a steep mark up even if it isn't on sale or the merchants won't sell it to you, and get them pre-broken in so they'll be exactly like the thing you saw and said you wanted.

Before I finish talking about the sea urchin person, I need to say what I mean by 'broken in'.

The creators of Splatoon came up with 24 "abilities" which range all over (more durability, better stealth, being able to track down the person who just killed you, moving faster, et cetera) and each bit of non-weapon gear has a main ability which is unlocked from the start, and one to four secondary abilities which have to be unlocked by earning experience points while wearing the gear.  Once you've earned enough to unlock one it will be selected at random from the list of 24.  Secondary abilities are less powerful than main abilities but still useful.

Part of the reason for urchin-guy's steep prices is that he'll get you gear with secondary abilities unlocked.

The other thing he does, which he will not do for cash, is make after market modifications to clothing.  He can add secondary slots if the gear has less than the maximum of 4, and he can reroll the secondaries if you've got all the slots filled don't like what you've got.  Like I said, no cash on this thing --barter only.

Hence: shady.  He operates out of a back alley, gets you stuff you shouldn't be able to get (gear with abilities unlocked) for a steep mark up, or makes mods to your stuff without even dealing in cash.

To recap the merchants, in a land of humanish squid we have a shrimp person, a jellyfish person, an anemone person (with sidekick), a horseshoe crab person, and sea urchin person doing business.  Only the the Jellyfish person has other members of his species in evidence.

Presumably they all come from places where other members of their species lives and, assuming a lack of tragic backstory, came here for the business opportunities.

In addition to needing the money to buy stuff from the merchants, you also have to attain a proper level.  (There are 20 levels, you can only go up, and they're based on experience.)  For the weapons shop it's a question of what the proprietor will trust you with.  Sure, the weapons all deal in ink, but they're still weapons.

For the others, it's presented as them being snotty (though shy and/or depressed person will apologize to you for holding the policy.)  It would make more sense, to me, if it were presented as brand protection.  Every one of the stores you can visit is run by the owner, meaning they're all small businesses and we know from one of the multiplayer stages that there is at least one mall nearby they have to compete with.

If they only let the cool kids wear the clothes they sell then it associates them with coolness, and if you have to earn the ability to shop with them then wearing the stuff they sell is proof that you did earn it.  It's not a particularly nice practice, but under the right conditions it could make business sense.

In addition to the merchants you can look in on where the newscasters (who happen to be local pop-divas) are taking a break from being on screen.  There's a place for same-system-multiplayer, and the place for internet multiplayer.

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First, basic multiplayer gameplay:

There are two modes of play (at least one more will be added) and both are about covering an area in your ink.  One, called Turf War, is about making it so, at the end of the match, the entire level has more of your color than the other.  The other, called Splat Zones, is concentrated on a specific area (or specific areas) and involves having that area (or those areas) in your color for longer.

Either way, the point is not to take out your opponent.  That can help as they can neither ink turf nor take you out while they're re-spawning, but the point is to ink up the ground.

During development this led to debate over whether it should be possible to ink walls.  Walls don't count towards winning or losing so inking them seemed like it could be a pointless distraction.  When they realized that applying the swim-through-ink mechanic to ink on walls would open up entirely new movement possibilities the debate was over and ink on walls was in.  Now there are parts specifically designed with being able to use inkable walls as pathways in mind.

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A quick thing on life, death, reincarnation, metaphysics, and reloading your weapons:

In theory the inklings descend from squid yada-yada-yada [we don't need explanations, we have lampshades]{handwave}.  In many ways it makes more sense to think of their squid form as made of actual ink.  Their humanish form too, though to a lesser extent.

There's a bit in single player where your mentor warns you not to fall in the water because, as you know, sea life such as inklings can't swim.  In fact, though, lack of swimming ability doesn't have time to come into play because they dissolve in water.  When one spatters ink on a wall or on the ground, it's like it would be in real life: almost zero thickness.  Yet your squid form can submerge in it.  Your squid form can also move through pretty much anything a liquid could move through.

The things that hurt you are things that would dilute ink (water; other ink of another color) and falls from a great height (which would splatter you.)  Also weaponized colored sound, which I'm not going to think about too much because I think colored sound is in the "wacky fun" category that gets a pass for making no sense.

When there is too much of [thing that hurts you] you die in an ink explosion (of your opponent's color) or dissolve (if you fell in water.)  A few seconds later you're back at a respawner.

That's standard multiplayer / checkpoint singleplayer fare.  But, in the single player campaign (where dying sufficiently often will earn you a game over screen, however temporary it may be) it is canonical that after you've splatted the enemy leader to *poof* he isn't dead, just captured.

Thus it seems logical to conclude that it is canonical that inklings and octarians who are inked into *poof* do not die but instead respawn somehow, which the mutliplayer respawners make use of.

Now, back to your own ink.  What's a good way to quickly heal yourself from being hit with enemy ink?  Take a dip in your own.  This also (slowly if sitting still, more quickly if swimming) reloads the ink canister on which your weapons run.

Does this mean that if you've got only enough ink left for one shot you can fire it at your feet, change into squid form, drop into the ink-spot you just made, and sit there for a while to completely refill your ammo?  Yup.

Does this violate the conservation of energy?  Yup.

Inkopolis runs on that sort of thing.

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Trade offs.

The inventory system in Deus Ex was designed to foster resource management, the inventory system in the Resident Evil games was designed to foster desperation.  The extremely limited inventory-esque system of Splatoon is designed to be about making trade offs.

Now I tend to be a single player person most of the time, and I tend to cheat.  I don't like having to choose, I like to be able to do ALL THE THINGS.  So trade offs aren't my first choice.

That said, I understand that in multiplayer you don't want to let people do all the things.  I get the idea that a jack of all trades is a master of none.  I get that if you let someone be an √úbermensch who can do everything as well as someone who specialized in that thing then you've eliminated the benefits and rewards of specializing.

So I can understand where making trade offs comes from and appreciate when it's done well.  I can even appreciate the concept when its not done well.

Splatoon tries to make every choice involve compelling mutually exclusive rewards.  Fast and stealthy by swimming through ink in squid form, or slower and quite visible by staying in biped form because it allows you to have your weapon out and thus quickly respond to a threat?

The primary weapons are divided into four categories.  Each individual weapon has its own balance of attributes (e.g. fire rate, power, range) and weapons are sold in sets of primary/secondary/special.

The big thing that represents a choice on the part of the game developers is the fact weapons are sold as sets.  If you could pick primary, secondary, and special then you'd never have to choose the benefits of having your first choice of primary vs. your first choice of secondary vs. your first choice of special.  And the choices do make a difference.

There are secondary and special ones that don't do damage or spread ink.  Classifying them as weapons at all is somewhat iffy.  Mind you they can be incredibly useful.  The point, though, is that if you're not good with those then maybe it means your preferred primary isn't a part of a set that's for you.

It seems like the developers were trying to make it so there would be choices like this.  You want the best of A combined with the best of B combined with the best of C, and instead you just have to pick one, good and bad together.

I've already mentioned that gear comes with abilities.  you have to decide what to wear which means balancing:

  1. Primary abilities
  2. Secondary abilities
  3. Style

And before that you have to decide what you're going to spend your money on.  Do you want that really nice looking hat with a primary you need and four secondary slots, or do you want to buy a newer better gun as part of a set that better suits your style?

It is important to note that choices made can't lock you in to a style you dislike.  You can always earn more money to buy something else if it turns out you made a bad choice.

It would be terrible if you initially thought that you'd be best off customized for speed and up close interpersonal attacks and then realized that you're better at sniping from a distance but, too late, you're stuck with an optimization that totally clashes with your skills.  So it's good that Splatoon doesn't do that.

You can always earn more coin with which to buy different weapons or gear, and unless you're in a match right now, you can always change the gear and weapon you're using.

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Things that go splat.

There are four types of primary weapon:

There are melee weapons: giant paint rollers and paint brushes that can cover a lot of area fast but leave you extremely vulnerable to foes with longer reach.  They can be used to cover a very short range by swinging them to send the ink on them airborne, but everyone not using them has a longer reach.  They're very powerful in terms of taking out the enemy since ink-equals damage and they've got the most ink of anything.  The problem is that you have to get in really close to do it.  Unless you're sneaky and stealthy, these are really for putting down ink, not combat.

There are blasters: short range ranged weapons with incredible power but a slow fire rate.  They will help you cover ground in ink, but they're specialized for taking out opponents in as few shots as possible.  Thus if you pick these you'll be choosing combat (a secondary objective) over laying down ink (which is the primary one.)  Combat is useful because a respawning enemy can't do anything, but unless you're really, really good combat alone won't win.

There are mid-range weapons, they do a good job of covering the area in front of you in ink and they have a fast rate of fire.  They're great for actually doing your job (laying down ink) and pretty decent at the secondary job of stopping the enemy.  If you let someone with a blaster or melee weapon get too close you're probably screwed, but since you have a longer range if you see them coming and do things right you can probably defend yourself.  These are second to melee weapons for the primary objective, and not that bad for combat.  They're basically the balance in the middle.

Finally there are chargers which are in a class of their own.  They're long range weapons which are great for snipers.  They've got the power to take out the enemy, and they lay down a path of ink from you to the end of their range.  The thing is, as the name suggests, they have to charge up.  It takes time, which means that other people can lay down ink faster and it means that other people can target you while you're charging.  If you can survive the charging, they're good at both laying down ink and combat, but you have to survive the charging.  In close range combat they're all but useless.  If you try to charge up you'll be taken out fast, if you fire without charging the power is minuscule.  So they're good at either thing, but only if you can keep the enemy at distance.  The enemy, of course, is going to be trying to not be at a distance.  (Unless they have a charger too in which case they'll be trying to shoot you first.)

Secondary weapons include three types of ink bombs, beacons (discussed below), bombs that slow down enemies in range (but cause no damage), bombs mark enemies in range so they can't hide from you or allies (but, again, no damage), a "shower" that sets up a wall of ink which you can shoot through but, since it isn't their color, enemies can't, and an ink sprinkler which will spurt out ink in a circle while you go elsewhere and do other things.

Special weapons are:

  • an ink missile (inkstrike) that you can target at anywhere on stage, covers a sizable area, and can't be stopped
  • the Killer Wail, which fires a blast of colored sound (remember me mentioning that?) the length of the stage and takes out any enemy in its beam-ish path
  • the inkzooka which ... honestly why a combination of "ink" and "bazooka" would send out small tornadoes of ink with enough power to splat any they meet is kind of lost on me, it doesn't cover much area, but you can aim it with precision and fire it repeatedly
  • the kracken which transforms you into a larger than normal invulnerable squid that can swim through anything (laying down its own ink in its path) and can attack by jumping
  • the bubbler which surrounds you in a bubble that bounces enemy shots back at them
  • bomb rush which, for obvious reasons, is only paired with bomb-secondary weapons.  It lets you throw ink bombs really fast without depleting your ink supply
  • the echolocator, which finds (and marks for the duration) all of your opponents so you and your allies can know where they are.
Special weapons have to be earned by laying down enough ink without dying to unlock them.  (When you die the meter takes a penalty.  When you use them the meter resets to zero so you have to unlock them again.)

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One thing that one might realize (or might not, I won't judge) is that if the game is about covering an area, an uncontested area of your own ink is a useless place to be.  Now your own ink you can squid-swim through and none of the stages are that big, but the developers recognized the need to get to where things are happening more quickly (possibly because the most likely area to be uncontested and covered in your own ink is your respawn point.)

Thus the super jump.  By touching an ally or friendly beacon on the map, you can launch yourself in a very large leap to that spot.  The down side is that the enemy can see you coming and since they have an interest in both your allies and your beacons (they can see your beacons on the map) they might very well be there waiting for you and could, possibly, ink you to *poof* before you've had a chance to orient yourself.)

It's risky because they could be waiting for you, but it lets you get somewhere quickly and it lets you get there without going through the space between here and there (so if your opponents are blockading a bottle neck, if you've got an ally or beacon on the other side you can get through anyway.)


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The meta game

Multiplayer is divided into two modes.  One is open to everyone and sorted based on I-don't-even-know-what, the other is open to only level ten and up and sorted based on rank.  Your rank goes up or down as you wink or lose in this mode.

The first one involves smaller rewards, but unless you stand around doing nothing you're pretty much guaranteed to get something.  The second tends to be all or nothing, but has significantly higher rewards.

So if you need money to buy that awesome hat you saw, one can definitely get you there, the other might get you there much faster but also might not get you there at all.

In standard (non-ranked) mode your score --thus your experience points, thus your cash reward-- is based on what you personally score plus a win bonus if you win.  No penalty for losing, just a lack of a win bonus.  (Well, technically there is an expires at the end of the day ranking that does take into account how much you've won vs. lost.)

Here's the thing: your personal score is based off of how much ink you laid down.  Not how much ink you laid down that stayed there until the end (which is a good thing because that would suck) but how much you laid down total.

That means that in terms of your personal score you're be better off putting down ink in places you know will be covered over because then you can ink those places again (and it can be covered again, repeat) and thus put down a lot of ink fast because you don't have to move that much.

In fact, in terms of personal score your ideal scenario is probably running in a circle putting down ink while an opponent runs behind you covering up your ink.  With the exception of time spent to reload you get to lay down ink non-stop.  Your score just keeps climbing and climbing.

This, though, helps your team not at all.  It does tie down one opponent, if that's really how your ink gets covered up, but because the ink will be covered up it isn't going to contribute to the final score.

So you have to choose between helping yourself and helping the team.

With gear, if you want to unlock secondary abilities the fastest way is probably to put on an outfit made entirely of gear where the secondaries are not unlocked, play in it to unlock them, and switch out a piece as soon as it is completely unlocked.  This, however, means that you'd always be playing in pieces with locked abilities, which means that you'd always be playing in less than your best, meaning you'd probably lose more often.

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Multiplayer tends to take place at ground level or close enough that falling doesn't kill you, so it might be a bit surprising that single player is a platformer.

(A platformer with bright colors?  I'm already imagining a Mirror's Edge crossover.  Modders: do this thing.)

The single player game is, unfortunately, almost entirely disconnected from everything else.  The gear you can buy?  You can't use it in single player.  The weapons you can buy?  Ditto.  Nothing carries over from the multiplayer side (which includes everything else) to the single player side.

During single player you can find "Sunken Scrolls" which reveal tidbits of setting/backstory or, in the case of the boss battles, have weapon blueprints you can bring to the gunsmith horseshoe crab.  Bringing the blueprints to the weapons maker is the only place where single player carries over into multiplayer.

If you have the Amibos then you can also unlock exclusive gear.

Single player has you becoming an unsung hero (unsung mostly because the only person who knows what you're doing is someone who was an adult during a war 100 years ago, and no one really pays attention to him) fighting off the octarians and recovering the city's power supply (a giant electric catfish.)

Somewhat surprisingly, single player isn't just multi-player with bots instead of players and the barest hint of a story tacked on.

That's not to say that the story which is tacked on has more than the barest hint to it, because it's definitely not a story game, but it does make a certain amount of sense:

The bad guys stole the great zapfish and various little zapfish too.

They're using the little ones to power the defenses keeping you from reaching the big one.  They're doing it in layers, no less.

So first you have to steal back the non-critical little ones in an area, which shuts down the defenses of the spot holding the critical one.  Cue boss battle.

The critical one was powering the defenses keeping you from the next area, so once you've got it (once you've won the boss battle) you can move to the next area and repeat.

Since they do have a power shortage going on, the octarians are also using the captured little ones to power R&D, it would seem.

Thus explaining whatever weird things you might encounter.

It's still only the barest hint of a story, but the up side is that it makes a degree of sense (except when it's deviated from) and, probably more importantly, it uses maps and mechanics that aren't in multiplayer.

Invisible pathways that you can't see unless you've inked them, sponges that expand into platforms when shot with your color and contract when shot with the opponent's.  Ink geysers you can set off for various purposes.  Platforms that move powered by propellers you shoot with your ink.  Rearranging landscapes.  Ink streams that allow for fast travel to areas that you can't reach by normal means.

All of these things would be very interesting in multiplayer.  They're not there, though.

It's not that they'd have to turn multiplayer into platforming where you fall and you die, it could easily be fall and you're on ground level.

But, that's more of how I would do it territory, which this post is not for.