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How I learned to die 100,000,000,000,000,000,000 times without a keyboard
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Ernest
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March 17, 2011 - 7:13 am
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So I finally took the plunge.  As you guys may remember, some time back I actually bought a PS3.  I then spent some portion of the little time I have to game complaining about how much I hated a) consoles; b) controllers; c) consoles and controllers.  More of my gaming time I spent crashing into walls in Cars: RaceORama or else having the game reset me because confoundingly I found myself going the wrong direction.

 

Then, recently, for no reason I can remember, possibly due to the large number of times I hit my head (see number in title) after a) falling off cliffs; b) forgetting to move when a weird chuckling fat guy in a clown suit and a hat or a big flying flapping skate blasted me to smithereens; c) falling off cliffs after a weird fat guy in a clown suit and a hat or a big flying flapping skate blasted me to smithereens, I decided to finally, inexorably learn how to play Demon's Souls.

 

The result, after much restarting and researching online, is that I learned how to use a controller!  It no longer feels as though I'm juggling marbles while trying to avoid wasps, and my carpel has subsided to the dull trembles of an underground river.  Plus I've learned how to turn off the PS3 really quickly after dying yet another horrible death (sort of the PS3 version of a cheat code).  And my soldier actually has finished 4 of the 5…whatever they're called.  Zones/areas/some illogical word badly translated from the Japanese.

 

Now if only I had the courage to go back and try Cars:RaceORama again.

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Steerpike
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March 17, 2011 - 10:52 am
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ha ha! Congratulations, Ernest! Demon's Souls is a pretty tortuous way to learn, but learn you will... or die trying. I myself had about that many deaths too. [Image Can Not Be Found]

Life is the misery we endure between disappointments.

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Pokey
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March 17, 2011 - 12:27 pm
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Congrats, Ernest on tackling Demon Souls and progressing so well. I have played Burnout Paradise and Uncharted on my PS3 so far. I liked the driving in BP and got on to shooting with the controller in Uncharted, though it doesn't work as well as on the PC. I have Demon Souls, but haven't gotten up the nerve to start it up. Your experience will encourage me to get on with it.

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Ernest
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March 17, 2011 - 3:06 pm
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Demon's Souls is a tough game to start.  It will help if you remember the very early days of pc gaming, in which a death was a real death.  (Can't tell you how many times I spent dozens of hours in Ultima 2 just to die in a wireframe dungeon and have to start all over.)

It's not quite as severe as that, but you suffer a lot in the beginning.  Your health pretty much perpetually will be at half.  A good thing is the bosses (now anyway, thanks to web sites) aren't really that difficult.  You just have to keep moving and learn to use ranged.

Another good thing is that its programming is very basic.  Some may say intentionally, but I don't believe it.  But as a result the monsters will give up on you pretty quickly.  That makes it easy to charge in, attack once, then run til you're not being chased.  Then charge back in, hit once, and flee again. 

The game takes time.  Can't rush through it.  This is even after you've gotten past the learning curve.

The level designs are compact and well put-together, even while initially they seem enormous.

 Oh also--if you die, then die again before getting back to your body, the money you had at your first death is gone.  So it becomes really important to try to get to where you died before w/o dying again.  Makes you learn to play the game very conservatively.

Once you get to the Shrine of Storms, it becomes much easier, as money begins to flow.  But you'll repeat areas a lot.

You really can create any kind of character you want, which is excellent, a feature missing from far too many games.
I've found that manual targeting with a bow is difficult, but I'm not sure if that's just my controller.

Will be interesting to see if what I've learned in DS/with the controller will translate to other games.

Jakkar
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March 18, 2011 - 5:54 am
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Demon's Souls is truly a respectable game. I never expected that from a PS3 Dungeon Crawler. Innovative pseudo-multiplayer systems coupled with a level of difficulty worthy of Dwarf Fortress. You've my envy and my respect. Keep going. Become a god among gamers! Then donate your console to me so I can do it too! ^^

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Steerpike
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March 18, 2011 - 10:09 am
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One of the things that amazed me most about Demon's Souls, and something that Ernest touches on, is the difference between expectation and reality in size of areas. They do seem enormous. They seem mind-bogglingly huge.

And then halfway through a section you decide to head back to the Nexus to stock up on supplies, and you realize you've gone, like, 180 feet. Every step, every inch in this game is hard-won, agonizingly, and yet you never feel it that way.

Ernest, do you have the Cling Ring and Thief's Ring? Both are almost necessary. I don't know how I'd have gotten through the game without them.

Life is the misery we endure between disappointments.

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Ernest
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March 20, 2011 - 5:47 pm
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Steerpike said:

Ernest, do you have the Cling Ring and Thief's Ring? Both are almost necessary. I don't know how I'd have gotten through the game without them.


Thief's ring in particular is very important.  But oddly (see part about resetting PS3), I haven't died in a LONG time, so the cling ring isn't so crucial.  I've got only 1 boss to go before the end game, so I suppose I've surmounted the learning curve.  The game really isn't that hard--once you learn to play it the way it demands.

But I camped the part with the flying skates for a long time to earn lots of money.  So my char is around 115 or so.  Gonna boost him up some before the end game, which apparently comes after the 5th boss.

If the level limit is 999, theoretically every stat could be raised to 99.  That's something about this game I really like, because I hate having to play as a "class".  Of course those final, say, 700 points, would cost a fortune, as I'm already up to 80k each.

I'm gonna try playing it again after I finish, but I'm kind of thinking it won't be as compelling as other games I've replayed recently (Mass Effect/ME2/Dragon Age/Metro 2033/Dead Space/DS2/Singularity). All of those had good stories, and I still can't tell you what the story is in this one.

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Steerpike
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March 21, 2011 - 8:38 am
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The game really isn't that hard–once you learn to play it the way it demands.

 

That couldn't be more true and it's something I want to touch on if I ever get around to writing about Demon's Souls. People say the game is "hard." It's not hard. At most the gameplay is quite challenging. Compared to a Zanac or Contra or Ghosts 'n Goblins, Demon's Souls isn't that hard.
The hardness comes from the penality for failure, which feeds into learning how to play the way it demands, as you said. And even then, the developers savvily incorporated sections that you're clearly meant to grind a little (like the first two sections of Shrine of Storms).

Still though, if you haven't been dead in a long time you're a heck of a lot better at that game than me, and you've definitely overcome your console controller issues. I was dead 95% of the game. I stopped bothering trying to be alive. I was like Tupac, still putting out records after all these years. Being dead didn't interfere with my career that much.

 

Are you playing this with Ben?

Life is the misery we endure between disappointments.

whitebrice
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March 23, 2011 - 12:07 am
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Bravo, Ernest. I've been using a controller since nearly as long as I've played games and I still haven't figured out Demon Souls. I've finished the first bosses in, I think, the first two worlds but I haven't progressed any further. I'll start it up every once in a while, but I don't think I'll ever give it the commitment it would need for me to finish.

 

I love it when games play with that sense of scale. Liberty City feels pretty big when I'm driving around, but when I step out of the car and find all of the little pedestrian walkways and ladders and such that lead to all the areas inaccessible by car, it feels positively massive.

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Ernest
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March 24, 2011 - 12:01 am
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@SP:

Ben lost interest in it b/c of the sameness.  So I don't play any more until after he's asleep.

I don't think I'm better than you though.  I think maybe I'm just either more willing to wait to heal or just quicker to hit that reset button.  For instance, it took me *many* tries to figure out a glitchy method to kill King Dolan.  But see?  Other games we'd consider that a fault–that we had to take advantage of software shortcomings to do something.  Here, though, well, on the one hand it's a nice throwback to the old days (I mean really old days as in taking advantage of glitches in Ultima Underworld).  But on the other hand maybe we really are giving the developers too much credit just b/c it reminds us of the old days.

I was thinking about this while I was grinding the flying skates.  I'm trying to get my stats up high enough to use the white bow before killing the white king (who is tough for me b/c I'm not so good with the controller (see?)), so I have plenty of time to think about this.  Anyway, I'm wondering if maybe the devs just got lucky and caught lightning in a bottle and then afterward started talking about how oh yeah we intended to make the game just this way.

But so you see I'm not so quick to praise this game.  But of course whether I praise it doesn't matter one whit.  The devs sold however many they sold; it's known all over the world.  Plus like many I have spent a lot of time playing, so I've certainly got my money's worth.

And of course you're right about being dead.  I just figured if I'm going to play this game as a perfectionist (the only way I'd ever stick with it, as it seems to require a significant degree of OCD), then by gum I'm gonna do it.  Or maybe it's just that I really needed that extra health.

In that regard, don't get me started about that first level of the swampy zone.

One thing the devs certainly got right: a lot of the sounds.  (NOT the voices as some of them drive me crazy).  But those big glowing ghost things, the sound of the storm ruler, some of the others are just marvelous.

P.S. I love the Tupac joke.

 

@Whitebrice: to finish it, you have to be in the mindset that it's time to do it and I'm going to see what it's all about.  I've recognized that mindset in myself many times.  As a result I played some games I really came to admire: Anachronox, Psychonauts (lots of leaping=very tough), Planescape Torment.  It's like a willingness to spend time with a game.

It has been 25+ years and I still remember the first time I felt that: Ultima IV.  I'd played 2 and 3 on lots of scraps of paper, but U4 I totally geeked out with–folders, maps, you name it.  To this day it remains the greatest gaming experience of my life.  That game was DEEP.  Which was remarkable given that each character basically only could say 3 things.  So I learned to trust it.  And every single time it's been worth it.

Here, I've done the modern equivalent: relied on everyone else's notes.  In particular http://demonssouls.wikidot.com.  That site has prepared me for every single challenge in the game.  Except maybe the white king.  And how to get over a plank that keeps breaking in that first level of the mines.

One observation: as we've discussed, you have to grind a lot.  You can't race through.  If you're not in the mood for that, then yeah the game's a failure.  But also it's in grinding that I learned how to use the controller and how to play.

But I can't tell you how much money I lost in that first level of Shrine of Storms before I even took on the boss there.  However, I also used that level to finally give myself a fighting chance to survive.

This happens to be an in-between time for me with games.  Fallout 3 I never got to work right.  It's been months (essentially a lifetime for Ben) and he still remembers it as the game that crashed all the time.  And I've never gotten Stalker to work either.  Dragon Age 2, yeah, but I know I'm going to like that, so I'm just delaying it.

But immersing in games is just fun.

 

…At the end of this long post about old-school gaming, I suddenly remembered Questbusters, a newsletter put out in the very early days of computer gaming by Shay Addams.  A guy actually put them all online.  Check them out if you've never heard of it. http://questbusters3.yolasite.com/

That newsletter was a godsend!  Oh boy.

whitebrice
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March 24, 2011 - 3:03 am
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I think the first time I ever had that drive, that deep conviction to finish a game, was the first time I played Final Fantasy VII. I stayed up night and day to finish that beast. I've put hours into games since then—In a little over a week I spent over 30 hours to finish Yakuza 4—but never to that extent.

 

I envy your experience with Ultima 4. Games don't ask for that level of commitment anymore. On one hand, I'm glad because I don't know if I have the intelligence or the patience for that kind of thing, but on the other, I dunno, I think we've lost something there.

 

Anachronox has long been of those games just out of reach for me. I've tried a few times, but I've never been able to get it to run on these modern PCs. It's a shame. I love JRPGs, I love it when a developer gets to make a labor of love, and I love it when a developer on one side of the East-West divide makes a game in the style of the other. Anachronox seems right up my alley. 🙁

 

Eh, one day I'll get it to work.

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Ernest
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March 24, 2011 - 6:24 pm
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Anachronox requires a lot of patches, including unofficial ones.

Here's a thread that mentions some: http://vogons.zetafleet.com/vi.....9b05fe5fde.

This thread's actually from 2010, so it's relatively recent.

The graphics will seem very dated.  Remember the game was released in, like, 2001.  Gee 10 years old already.  But it is a real classic.

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xtal
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March 25, 2011 - 12:24 pm
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You've all gabbed so much about Anachronox, I thought to myself I guess I'll pull it out of my games binder and finally install it.

 

Imagine my disappointment when I realized I owned the game AquaNox, not Anachronox!

 

It's been about 8 years now that I've thought I owned, and had just never played, Anachronox. Hahahaha... [Image Can Not Be Found]

If being wrong's a crime I'm serving forever

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Ernest
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March 26, 2011 - 1:11 am
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Don't feel too bad I think I have Aquanox somewhere.

 

Pretty sure Anachronox may be available on abandonware sites.

Scout
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March 26, 2011 - 7:41 pm
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Amazon US has 7 new and 6 used Anachronox for sale. The issue is getting it to work, I guess. I played it on Win 95/98 machine so didn't have much problem. One of the more memorable games ever.

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Steerpike
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March 30, 2011 - 8:56 pm
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It really is. And I think you might be able to get it on GameTap... though that could be my imagination.

What impresses me about Anachronox is how it manages to be so funny and so sad at the same time. As Scout says, it's one of those games that'll really stick with you. It won't haunt you or anything, it will just be in your memory banks forever. Especially if you grew up on turn-based JRPGs.

Whitebrice, I hope you're able to get it working. I know very little about modern Anachronox compatibility issues, but it's worth some struggle. Especially given what I sense is your taste, based on your posts and such, I think you'll really resonate with the tragi/comedy aspect.

Life is the misery we endure between disappointments.

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