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On this day in music history: June 23, 1982 - “Mirage”, the thirteenth studio album by Fleetwood Mac is released. Produced by Lindsey Buckingham, Ken Caillat, Richard Dashut and Fleetwood Mac, it is recorded at the Château d'Hérouville in Hérouville, France, Larrabee Studios and The Record Plant in Los Angeles, CA circa 1981 - 1982. After the lukewarm reception received by the experimental and eccentric “Tusk” album in 1979, Fleetwood Mac members Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks both record solo projects before returning to the fold in late 1981. Their first album of new studio material in nearly three years, it marks the bands return to their more accessible and radio-friendly pop/rock sound. The albums release is led by the Christine McVie penned “Hold Me” (#4 Pop, holding for seven weeks in that position), which is supported by a visually striking and innovative music video shot in the Mojave Desert directed by Steve Barron (“Billie Jean”, “(Keep Feeling) Fascination”, “Take On Me”), it is inspired by the work of Belgian surrealist artist René Magritte. The intense heat out in the desert combined with strained relations between the band members make the video shoot difficult and tense. It spins off three hit singles including “Gypsy” (#12 Pop, #4 Mainstream Rock) and “Love In Store” (#22 Pop). The album is reissued as a remastered three CD + DVD and vinyl LP deluxe edition on September 23, 2016. The first disc feature the original twelve song album, with disc two includes nineteen bonus tracks including outtakes, alternate versions and early versions of several songs. Disc three includes thirteen live tracks recorded during the Mirage Tour. The DVD features the original album newly remixed into 5.1 surround. The original album is also reissued as a 180 gram vinyl LP on May 26, 2017. Prior to its release and further commemorate the thirty fifth anniversary of “Mirage”, a limited edition 180 gram vinyl LP titled “Alternate Mirage”, featuring alternate versions and outtakes from the deluxe box set, is issued for Record Store Day on April 22, 2017. “Mirage” spends five weeks at number one on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified 2x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

Storm in the Room thoughts

I’m about to go to sleep but I wanted to share a few thoughts on Storm in the Room!

I loved it. Easily one of my favorite episodes of the series (maybe even like, top ten). This meeting between Rose and Steven is something people have been thinking and theorizing about since literally episode one, and I just felt like the payoff was so good.

The thing that cements it as great in my book is the last couple of minutes, when the storm starts. First of all, the storm is so visually striking and the animation is stunning!! Rose’s hair looks great, Steven’s expressions and the framing of everything felt totally perfect. I really, really liked the way the colors of the room changed to a darker pallette that was still colorful. Normally depicting storm clouds in cartoons is so dull, because the only thing that changes is the clouds turn gray. For this, we got a beautifully animated and colored scene that definitely sticks out. The visual of Rose in the center of a storm with Steven kneeled down in front of her was really heavy hitting. And I feel like making peace with his role with regard to Rose will help Steven move forward, for sure.

It seems like he has to come to terms with the fact that he will never *actually* know or have a relationship with his mom. But then, the ending really tied it together by showing that despite not having his mom in his life, he still has a *great* support network and a loving family that will ALWAYS be there for him, so he’s never truly alone. Plus oh my gosh it was adorable seeing them all roll in and cheer Steven up, even though they had no idea what had just happened–it was exactly what he needed. And you know what I need? More adorable fluff, slice-of-life type stuff that includes the Gems. Cuz this pizza party is just so cute?? I also need sleep, so I’m gonna head out. Love you guys!

2

Splitting of The Breast is remarkable for its striking, supersaturated visuals. It’s no accident that the episode is marked by such high contrast, light and dark, when the subject matter involves Shinji embarking on a psychoanalytical voyage within the surrealist confines of a shadow. The “angel of the week”, Leliel, is a massive floating behemoth in black and white – diametric opposites – and likewise the entire episode is built upon complementary inter-textual contrasts: the rational vs emotional, parent vs child, boy vs girl, physicality vs the soul. After 15 episodes of relative tame and exposition, Episode 16′s harsh colors, formalist diagonal structure, and oppressive shadows allow the more arcane Freudian undertones to finally take their command.

[6]

One day Syaoran will get it. 

One day he will figure out what is going on right in front of him, using the explanation that came out of his own mouth less than a chapter ago. 

But today is not that day. 

I can’t tell what’s funnier. Syaoran’s tiny sigh of relief that Kurogane didn’t die in his own flashback? Kurogane’s look of utter dismay that his amazing attack didn’t work as well as he wanted it to? 

Or the fact that it looks like Syaoran is reveling in joy at the sight of Kurogane’s sadness? 

anonymous asked:

Myungsooooooooo please ^^ - squishymyungsoo

Okay @squishymyungsoo and @blacksuffering your request has been heard and here I am to fulfill it!

And by happy circumstance, this concides with Myungsoo’s 26th birthday!

Let’s start out with full honesty here: When people hear INFINITE, people think of Kim Myungsoo. Everyone knows INFINITE’s L, usually for his striking visuals. But I really want to show the different sides of him that others might sometimes miss.

1. VOCAL IMPROVEMENT

Myungsoo debuted in 2010 as INFINITE’s visual member, and it’s not hard to see why. The boy has all-natural, flower boy good looks as if he has stepped out of the pages of a manga. But what may often be overlooked is his vocal ability. He may not have the most lines in songs, but especially in recent albums he’s proven that he’s more than just INFINITE’s visual. He even appeared on King Of Masked Singer and shocked everyone with how good he was. Watch the grand reveal and revel in his lovely voice below:

Then there is his special solo stage from INFINITE’s concert, the Korean version of Love of My Life:

What I’m trying to say here is this: look how much Myungsoo has worked on his voice!! Coming from debut when he was often overlooked as ‘just handsome’; he has overcome all of the negative comments regarding his abilities as a performer and proved to everyone that he can sing, and boy does he do it well!

2. ACTOR L

Where to begin, where to begin? Myungsoo has been acting in dramas since 2011, where he made his acting debut over in Japan. This drama - Jiu - gave us the still iconic line “I’M HERE!”. Since then he has been cast in Shut Up Flower Boy Band, The Master’s Sun, Cunning Single Lady, My Lovely Girl, The Day After We Broke Up/One More Time and more. Not only does he slay everyone with his visuals, he’s proven to be a talented actor, able to portray many different characters with ease. My personal favourite drama Myungsoo has starred in is Shut Up Flower Boy Band, and if you haven’t seen it then pleeeeease do yourself a favour and watch it! 

3. STRANGE LITTLE CUTIEPIE

Myungsoo may have this ‘cool city guy’ ‘chic man’ image, but those of us who’ve followed INFINITE closely for a while know that there is a difference between his L Cosplay and the real Kim Myungsoo. Although he has incredible charisma and stage presence, he’s still a little strange, let’s be honest here. Just a few examples I can think of are as follows: all of this mess on Sesame Player, these clips of him falling over, the time he hit Dongwoo with a water bottle, when he fell over on Birth of a Family, changing from L to Myungsoo and just this incredible image-ruining moment on INFINITE Showtime:

4. AND EVERYTHING ELSE!

There were three main points about Kim Myungsoo, INFINITE’s amazing, strange and talented visual. But what else? Well, let me tell you:

  • Myungsoo plays guitar and he’s good at it and it makes everyone’s hearts flutter tbh
  • He has a really pretty cat called Byul who looks like him
  • Myungsoo does a lot of charity work, but usually keeps it pretty lowkey. Here he is at a home for disadvantaged children
  • His love of photography!!! Myungsoo has released two photo essay books so far, L’s Bravo Viewtiful 1 & 2. They’re full of all his own photos and doodles and comments and they’re absolutely gorgeous. He really has an eye for photography and you can even see that from the arty shots on his instagram
  • He went through a lot of hardships in the past, including a dating ‘scandal’ in 2013 which he spoke about in INFINITE’s movie Grow. Thankfully the other members and the fans stood by him at this time and he got through it
  • He chose the stage name L because of the character in the manga/anime Death Note - he looked a little like him when he had longer hair

And so we have reached the end of this little post full of love for Myungsoo. Hope you guys enjoyed it and #Happy26thLkimDay !! Please give Myungsoo lots of love, ‘cause he’s a precious button who needs it. 

See all the About IFNT posts here.

Good Comics That Had Bad Consequences

The Punisher Volume 1 (1986) & 2 (1987)

What they should have learned: Writers Mary Joe Duffy and later Mike Baron melded elements of men’s adventure novels and VHS-era crime films to superhero comics elevating Frank Castle from a fairly one-note Spider-Man foil to a compelling anti-hero whose popularity continues today.

What they actually learned:  Marvel and DC Comics churned out scores of deadly gun carrying anti-heroes trying to recreate Frank’s success over and over again.

Watchmen (1986)

What they should have learned: Alan Moore’s magnum opus is a one-of-a kind blend of world building, non-linear narrative, and alternative history to create a true mind-spinning work of unparalleled depth.

What they actually learned: Swearing and death scenes makes you “mature.”

Batman: The Killing Joke (1988)

What they should have learned: With it’s sickening violence, lurid nightmarish colors, and elaborate backgrounds Moore’s most controversial DC book is a masterpiece of tension that takes Batman & the Joker’s conflict to it’s furthest logical conclusion and intends to sicken the reader.

What they actually learned: Rather than being the apex of grimdark “The Killing Joke” inspires a generation of readers and writers to decide that Batman should ONLY be grimdark to the point that characters like Harley Quinn and The Mad Hatter have quadruple digit body-counts.  Also Barbara Gordon remains crippled for years despite Moore regretting making that part of the story.

Todd McFarlane’s Spider-Man (1988)

What they should have learned:  A young artist takes some visual risks and becomes popular by eschewing Marvel’s house style of the time creating a unique and striking visual. The time experimenting with Spider-Man gives McFarlane the tools to create his wildly popular original series Spawn.

What they actually learned: Rather than inspire companies to take risks with their artists the popularity of McFarelane, Jim Lee, and Rob Liefeld inspire Marvel & DC to make their house style an amalgam of “The Image Style” resulting in eyesores like “Extreme Justice” and “Force Works.”

Bone (1991)

What they should have learned: By mixing cartoon antics and high fantasy Jeff Smith proved that child friendly comics can reach a wide audience and that cartoonish books don’t have to be simple or boring.

What they actually learned: Once the value of a mint condition copy of Bone #1 shot to $100 in Wizard’s Price Guide speculators started looking at black and white indy comics like they were lottery tickets.

Alias (2001)

What they should have learned: Another genre mash-up this neo-noir mix of violence, sex, super-heroics and gritty story-telling FINALLY gave Marvel a critically acclaimed Mature Readers title that could compete with DC’s Vertigo line.

What they actually learned: Writers see Bendis’s take on The Purple Man and conclude that sex crimes are an easy way to show how bad your villain is. Thus paving the way for sleaze-fests like “Identity Crisis” and “Kick-Ass II.” 

Ultimate Spider-Man #1 (2002)

What they should have learned: By taking a thoughtful slow build a young Brian Michael Bendis proved that with clever dialog and solid pacing that character building can be just as exciting as superhero action.

What they actually learned: You can pad-out a one-issue story to six issues then sell it as a trade.

Winter 2017 Anime Awards!

(From the ones I actually watched.)

Best Overall: 3-gatsu no Lion/ March Comes in like a Lion

Into the light.

With consistent quality during the second part despite a shift in focus, perfectly managed tone that never leads to excess sentimentality or overt levity, and a story that ebbs and flows with such grace that it melts metaphor and direct description like an impressionist painting, Chica Umino’s March Comes in Like a Lion remains the top spot for two consecutive seasons for the simple reason that it tells a rich story of individuals and making meaning.

In the first part, it introduces shogi professional, sometimes student, and introvert Rei Kiriyama and the facets of his life, particularly his close ties with the Kawamoto siblings. At the beginning of Part 2, Rei hugs the youngest Kawamoto sibling, Momo, and says that he has personal and professional matters to deal. While he sees the Kawamoto family as comfort and healing, he understands that he can’t come running to them each time. With a major tournament upcoming he stops visiting them and the narrative shifts to the lives of the Shogi players that he plays against. With their own dreams and regrets, he becomes an observer of their lives as he compares it against his own, not to pass judgement on his failings, but to see the possibilities there is to life and to recognize that in the end, there are no bad guys, just people driven by very different motivations and showing how they cope with the consequences of a lifetime of choices.

With another season later in the year and a two-part live action movie currently showing in Japan, the series deserves all the accolades it gets. And if you’re ever in the market for something substantial, with a deep, beating heart, this is your anime.


Best Drama: Youjo Senki, The Saga of Tanya the Evil

What is a god to an non-believer?

Tanya von Degurechaff is the fiercest, deadliest, and most cunning soldier of the Empire (Not-Germany) as they wage the first World War (Until it becomes muddled when they introduce a Panzerkampfwagen IV.). She’s also under thirteen years old and is hated by God, or a god.

Why is that?

The god sees Tanya has such little faith in him and has therefore cursed her: Should she die a death that is not natural, she will be taken off the wheel of reincarnation and sent to hell.

But why a kid? And why so much hatred for an individual?

While these questions are answered to an extent, the most important thing to consider is that these driving forces are what sets up Tanya as she is placed in conflict for most of the war as she struggles to survive. She puts in as many legal means as possible to leave the war, only to have her end up on the front lines anyway, whether by her own fault, or by divine intervention.

As she leaves a trail of bodies, her actions reverberate throughout the war as everyone slowly pushes down into a black hole, no matter who is winning. And as with the nature of war, there are no heroes, only murderers.


Best Comedy: Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku o!

“This anime is like every insane D&D story I have ever heard.” -henlp

The second season of Konosuba! continues the adventures of Satou Kazuma as he is pulled from the real world into a fantasy world where RPG game mechanics exist in reality. He’s accompanied by a Goddess who drinks too much and wastes her skill points on party tricks, a Wizard who knows only one spell (and collapses after every use), and a Crusader who can tank, but cannot hit any living thing with her sword (not out of principle, she just can’t hit at all). Also, that Crusader is a masochist.

“Insane and crazy” is the proper descriptor for the way the series is plotted, as comedic plot points are introduced and escalated versions of those plot points are put to use later on. The characters are made aware that they are in the mess they are in because of the solution that resolved a previous conflict made ample fuel for another. “It gets worse” is another descriptor as they are battered by bad luck and only somehow manage to escape as even their most competent moments are displays of excellence borne out of their utter stupidity. It’s a show that’s shameless enough to throw everything at a wall to make you laugh, and most of the time, what they throw in, sticks.


Keep reading

Spring Anime 2017 Part 1: woke up late

This time I prepared so I could get to the procrastinating right with the first post! Yay! Let’s get this show on the road.

See also:

• spring anime 2017 part 2: girlfriendship is magic

• spring anime 2017 part 3: comfy and easy to wear

• spring anime 2017 bonus round: things you already knew were good


Alice to Zouroku

So get this, a pretty girl with psychic superweapon powers escapes from a lab she’s been in her whole life and now has to adapt to the real world with the help of a guy she stumbles upon, all while being chased by her superweapon former friends. But in a shocking twist, this is actually better than Elfen Lied! Not being written by someone as brutally incompetent as Lynn Okamoto is a start, but the real change here is that our heroine is less murder machine and more genuinely cute, and more importantly the guy she ends up with is not a harem ringleader dorklord, but a grumpy elderly florist. Yeah, we’re skipping the recent trend of dadfeel anime and diving headfirst into granddad feels (I don’t know if aging otaku are quite old enough to fully self-insert yet, but the same principle applies). It’s a low hanging fruit, but that’s what makes it work; a deliberate, contemplative pace and delightfully whimsical music by TO-MAS also help. So far, so good, were it not for the fact that this is only one aspect of the show. Of course a show like this would have an action half as well, and that one’s pretty garbage. Not only is it directed with zero impact or excitement, it also relies on horrible CG a lot - I really don’t want to be reminded of Hand Shakers this quickly again, thank you very much. Plus, it runs with a Alice in Wonderland metaphor, which is baby’s first literary reference and doesn’t bode well about the intellectual ambitions of the project. So we have one half that’s admittedly effective, but also very predictable and which desperately needs to go somewhere to pay off. The other half just plain sucks and has little chance to improve. I think I’ll give this one a few more chances to sort out its priorities, but it’s definitely not a sure thing.


Busou Shoujo Machiavellianism

A cocky guy walks into a school full of pretty girls with weapons who have managed to sissify all the dudes by forcing them to crossdress. He then proceeds to troll them with his rugged charm. You know, it’s really not that easy to offend me but damn this show is trying. Apart from bottom-tier harem crap setup, this show also looks like ass and is tremendously boring; a few well done action cuts do not in fact excuse “fights” that mostly consist of exposition about special attacks, or terminally uninspired direction. Macchiavellism is the worst of shounen fightmens crossed with the worst of harem LNs, plus some of the worst jokes bad anime comedy can come up with. It’s not even audacious enough in its badness to boggle the mind; I could watch this if I was interested in adding another 1/10 to my MAL, but that’s about all I can appreciate about it.


Frame Arms Girl

Speaking of unholy combinations, here’s Gundam Build Fighters x Rozen Maiden x Strike Witches: A girl stumbles into a sentient mecha musume model kit that spends its time explaining the technical details of model building to her and attracts other model kits that want to fight. It’s an ad for model kits, what do you expect. There’s no characters, the plot is utterly uninteresting, the action’s bad, it looks subpar to bad, and the only high point is how brazenly it reads to you from the manual.


Gin no Guardian

Here’s your latest Chinese webcomic adaptation from your friends at Haoliners Animation League (Shanghai) Inc., whose output has been asymptotically approaching the quality level of a bad Japanese cartoon for years now: Closer than ever, but still not quite there. Maybe they should stop picking bad webcomics with incomprehensible nonsense plots as source material, just sayin’. So this is about a dude who beats up CG zombies in the spirit world but the actual story is how he got there? Or something? It manages to look barely alright and even has some visually striking design work, but its half-length run time prevents it from forming any semblance of coherence and I’m not about to ask for further clarification.


Oushitsu Kyoushi Haine

In a vaguely 18th century Germanic kingdom, a grown ass man with the body of a ten year old and a snarky disposition is hired to become the tutor of an instaharem of fabulous princes. I really don’t get who this is for; obviously the harem is straight out of a PSP otome dating sim, but it’s lacking the obvious self-insert dimwitted main girl, and no, it isn’t gay romance either. Even though it’s a comedy, that aspect does not seem to be played for outright parody. The source material is running in GFantasy, a shounen title (but not one as specifically elementary schooler-focused as Jump, it also carries fujo favorites such as Black Butler). Dubious provenance aside, Haine is moderately funny if nothing else, mainly due to the deadpan reactions of the main character to these ridiculous dreamboats. It just also drags more than a little, with long conversations that aren’t very entertaining all the time. It’s watchable compared to a lot of the stuff out this season, but I remain unconvinced.


Rokudenashi Majutsu Koushi to Akashic Records

After Macchiavellism already obliterated the battle harem bingo, here’s our next winner. The setup’s more or less the same and in some respects it’s even more formulaic (the school is actually a magic school for magic people, princesses, duels, &c), but Akashic Record is not quite as odious simply by focusing on being a comedy first and foremost and pulling that off at least on a technical level - it has good visual execution and comedic timing. The question is just how much credit you want to give it for that when the jokes themselves still suck, and that’s of course ignoring the entire setup being Light Novel as all fuck. Kinda seems familiar actually, because this is not entirely unlike to what KonoSuba did to the isekai genre, and people keep trying to tell me that that was totally great. Well, go watch this one then, motherfuckers.


Sagrada Reset

But there’s always the other kind of light novel, the one where high schoolers talk about life, people and the world. Think Bakemonogatari or OreGairu. Sagrada Reset wants a slice of that pie and starts by stealing the magical realism conceit from classic™ visual novel Wind ~A Breath of Heart~: There’s a remote town in Japan where everyone has superpowers, but if they leave the town they instantly forget about it. Oops, i guess I just spoiled Wind’s midgame, but I have to since Sagrada Reset puts this stuff right upfront because it has to discuss technicalities (at length) to make its plot work. Yeah, that’s how I like my magical realism, thoroughly explained and conceived by people who should write wikis, not fiction. There’s a girl who can reset time, but only once per arbitrary period of time and also including herself, which means she only finds out she already did it once it doesn’t work again. So that’s pretty useless, except there’s a guy whose superpower is having his memory unaffected by this. They have to work together to solve… some problems, I suppose. This whole idea seems to have potential in a JoJo subplot sort of way, but it’s completely sunk by the way the thing is written, since apparently the writer has never met a human being in his life. It’s entirely made of these pseudo-deep highschool stoner philosophy conversations presented in a lifeless inflection by people who stand around like robots on battery saver mode. This seems to be intentional (at least the term “robot” is thrown around a couple of times, which is certainly ominous), but it also makes for an excruciating and interminable watching experience.


Sakura Quest

Since Sakura Quest was announced, I have been gleefully throwing water on the hype of people who expected this to be the next Shirobako. After all, how likely is it for lightning to strike twice, especially considering Mizushima is not in the director’s seat? Surely it was all just wishful thinking, I want a S2 of Shirobako as much as everyone but I just don’t trust anime. Well consider me fucking told, since apparently among the parties wishing for more Shirobako is P.A. Works, and unlike the anitwitterati they can make it happen. The actual brand name seems to be reserved for a Mizushima project, but I would have no trouble believing that Sakura Quest is a spinoff about Aoi’s sister in the boonies; Shirobako Sunshine, if you will. The initial setup is mirrored here; Yoshino is not a young professional starting her dream job, but a young professional unable to score a dream job (or any job) so she settles for a random one she’s very skeptical of, but will undoubtedly learn to love. Apart from that, well, it’s Shirobako: The positive tone, the large cast of likeable oddballs, the relatable writing about post-highschool problems, and it even looks completely identical. I’ll still be realistic about it: Shirobako isn’t great for what its ideas were, but for how thoroughly it delivered in the long run, and this is by no means guaranteed to also happen with Sakura Reset Quest. For an episode 1 though, it’s like a dream come true, and P.A. are setting themselves up for seasonal double domination with this and Uchouten Kazoku S2.


Souryo to Majiwaru Shikiyoku no Yoru ni

Enough gushing, here’s 5 minutes of porn. Okay, it’s josei porn so there may still be gushing involved if you know what I mean, nyuk nyuk. Er, sorry about that. Sooooo there’s a sexually frustrated woman who meets her school crush who’s now a priest, and then they fuck. With a staff made up mostly of (non-josei, but hey) hentai OVA veterans, there is really only one way this could go. I appreciate the brazenness as usual, but I really don’t know how much steamy harlequin romance tailored to TV broadcast standards I want to watch.


Tsugumomo

I’ve seen some warnings about Tsugumomo based on its source material which is a manga with 1. a very high level of art quality and 2. content that has been described as “makes To-Love Ru Darkness look family friendly”. This may explain why it has not been licensed. It doesn’t explain why this first episode is fairly tame though; sure, it’s very much an ecchi comedy, but you get those from time to time and Tsugumomo is not any more raunchy than what I’m used to seeing (and it accomplishes this even without obvious BD-advert censoring). That incidentally also removes any reason to watch it: The plot is as basic “guy gets magical girlfriend for purposes of fights and/or walking in on her naked in the bath” from 15 years ago as they come, and it’s suspiciously well animated, but not well enough for that to be a selling point. Maybe it will get real skeevy eventually, I won’t be around to find out.


Warau Salesman NEW

Warau Salesman starts strong with ultra cool, Saul Bass-inspired opening credits, but that’s about all it has to offer. It’s based on a “black comedy” manga from the 60s by one of the Doraemon authors, and oh boy can you tell. Not only are the character designs 60s-tastic (so at least the Osomatsu-san fujos can schlick to something while they wait for the S2 of that), but so are the sensibilities: The titular salesman goes around tempting frustrated office workers with doing something moderately irresponsible, such as drinking in your lunch break or spending above your means, and then ruins their life when they actually do it. It’s like Twilight Zone written by your HR department. In the 60s. This stuff would have been outdated even in 1989, when it was animated for the first time – hence the “NEW”. I don’t know, it just seems mean-spirited, obvious and pointless, and most importantly I put the “black comedy” in quotes because in addition to not being very black, it’s not funny in any way, and unlike regular anime comedy I can’t even see what’s supposed to be funny. 

7

‘Get lost!’
‘You’re the one who asked me to do it in the first place! What is it? What are you saying I can’t do?!’

anonymous asked:

why is everyone complaining that Mass Effect Andromeda is "big"? how is that a problem when there's more game to play?

The size is not a problem in itself. The problem is that bioware doesn’t know how to work with “Big”. Hear me out.

So bioware obviously tries to move into the open world direction, with DAI and now comparing MEA to DAI in terms of “BIGGER!!!1”, and I think it’s such a shame, because bioware sucks at open world\sandboxes. I don’t even mean it as an insult, it’s just a plain fact - bioware are it’s best at contained, story-driven, linear structure. Their best games have distinctly different locations each with a gimmick and with a linear plotline that starts at the entry point, motivates your exploration of the location so you can pick up the side quests, ideally has a theme and involves one of your companions and culminates in the final decision. After that, the location is finished. You report the side quests and that’s it, you’ve exhausted all your options, you leave the location and never look back. Well, maybe you return once for plot reasons for 5 minutes, but you don’t engage with it meaningfully. And it’s not a bad thing! This is “40 min TV show episode” kind of structure that can work great and it does in the entire Mass Effect series. The story is simple, usually with one or two twists, but it keeps you engaged because it’s tightly knit and clearly presented, the involvement of your crew members gives you emotional stakes, the distinctly ~weird~ location and NPCs there make you feel like you’re actually seeing different places and seeing different cultures. It’s *fun* and that’s what matters.

But if you take out the location-based plotline and add a lot of empty space\padding to the mix, it all starts falling apart. Because bioware only writes superficial weirdness, this weirdness becomes bland real quick, the gimmick wears off and becomes annoying, NPCs blend in into the endless background, and you go “oh thank GOD it’s over” when you leave the location. Imagine if in ME3 Tuchanka had the size and structure of Hinterlands. The hardcore severe planet would turn into a boring wasteland, instead of epic badasses that represent the spirit of a planet Thresher Maws would turn into a boss fight grind (like dragons in DAI), without your friendship with Wrex the stakes are low, without the linear plot creating AND keeping up dramatic tension, you’d just wander around and randomly stumble onto the cut-scenes.

Bioware thinks that you can just make locations big and take out linear structure and boom, you’ve got yourself a sandbox. But it’s wrong. You can’t just take away the scripted plot-line and NOT replace it with anything. Good open world RPG requires you to make locations not just distinct, but layered, interesting to explore, it adds ties between locations that are meaningful, the quests start in one location and run through multiple of others organically, so you have to travel back and forth and when you revisit them, it doesn’t feel like backtracking. Not everything is played out at the moment you enter the location, some NPCs only become important when you get new quests in other places, so the exploration is dynamic, layered in time. You keep re-discovering things, adding new layers to the context. Bioware just cannot write things like that. They can’t make differences between locations subtle, but meaningful, which is why I literally cannot tell any forest locations in DAI apart, they don’t know how to make quest-lines span between places and be layered in time, they don’t know how to keep players’ attention without a strict narrative tunnel. The only distinct thing between locations is visual design, but even that can’t take you far. There’s a location in DAI that is very visually striking - white snow, red lyrium, black rocks. Beautiful, unusual, interesting. But I wouldn’t be able to remember what happened there with a gun to my head. What was my quest? Idk. There was a dragon I think? And for other locations that don’t have such striking visuals, the situation is even worse.

Take the location with Civil War in DAI (I think it’s Dales? But not sure) I literally cannot remember what were the differences between the sides there. Hell, I can barely remember the sides! It’s the Orlesians and… other Orlesians? But they are called “Free”-something. Why, idk. And there are also the Dalish clan hanging out nearby, but they don’t have anything to do with the Orlesians. Why was I in this location in the first place? I have no idea. To be clear, it’s not because I have shit memory. I have great memory, I can remember meaningful details from the games I played once ten years ago. It’s just DAI didn’t give me anything meaningful to remember. The conflict is not set up, they just let you wander around aimlessly, the sides are both boring and bland, the location is just kind of an open field littered with undead and wolves. When you let players discover different factions just by stumbling onto them without a straightforward narrative, you better fucking make sure they are a) very distinct b)very clear about what their deal is. Show me anyone who can mix up the Legion, NCR and House in FN:V.

Imagine the same location done in a traditional for bioware linear structure. You enter the location and immediately see two groups arguing. Each side has a charismatic leader and these guys are yelling at each other, which gives you exposition. One of them is, like, a well-groomed Orlesian noble and the other one is a rude peasant Robin Hood. You enter a conversation and get more exposition, what their deal is and how they are in conflict. One of your companions support one faction and the other one - another. (idk, Vivienne and Dorian vs Blackwall and Sera, frex) Then both of them invite you to their camps and leave. You have a narrative already. You visit their camps, get to know them. Get some sidequests from both sides. While exploring you meet the Dalish, who are bitter because the Dales were THEIR land and now shems are fighting over it. You do some quests for Dalish. At the mid-point the game makes you choose a side and the last plot-arc is about breaking the resistance of the other side and deciding what to do with them. If you do some side quest for Dalish and pass a Paragon speech check, you can find some holy scripture that Andraste made about Dalish owning the land and you can grant the place to Dalish. That’s it. Yeah, it’s cliched and yeah, it’s cheesy, but it’s clear and it has narrative and stakes. It gives you basic framework for roleplay. Bioware never could write complicated plots, but they don’t need to. The plot doesn’t need to be complicated, it needs to function in the chosen form. If it doesn’t function, then big locations turn into empty spaces with fetch-quests.

Also, being “BIG” was never Mass Effect’s appeal in the first place. People loved it for the tight Star Trek-episode structure with a new planet every hour, weird gimmicky aliens and meaningful interactions with the crew. Not for LotR-style of “3 hours of walking through an empty field”.

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On this day in music history: February 4, 1986 - “Control”, the third album by Janet Jackson is released. Produced by Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis, Janet Jackson and Monte Moir, it is recorded at Flyte Tyme Studios in Minneapolis, MN from August - October 1985. Having recorded two modestly successful albums for A&M Records, at only nineteen years old, Janet Jackson finds herself at a career and life crossroad. Having already gone through a short lived marriage with singer James DeBarge, bored with the grind of working on the TV series “Fame”, and anxious to firmly establish an identity of her own apart from her famous family, Jackson realizes that dramatic life changes are necessary to make that happen. She fires her father Joe as her manager, and moves out of the Jackson home in Encino, CA. Musically, Janet is also looking to make a change. A&M Records executive and longtime Jackson family friend John McClain introduces her to Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. Having established themselves as hit songwriters and producers with artists including The S.O.S. Band, Change, and Thelma Houston, after being fired from The Time in 1983. The producers and Jackson hit it off immediately, and agree to work together. While talking with the singer, Jam & Lewis discuss her goals for the project. These conversations form the basis of several songs on the album. Seeing her drive for independence from her family, Jimmy and Terry insists that Janet come to Minneapolis to work, away from the heavily sheltered environment she has grown up in. Accompanied by her childhood best friend Melanie Andrews, Janet travels to Minnesota to write and record the album with Jam & Lewis over a period of six weeks. The results change all previous opinions about Janet Jackson as a musical artist, and the futures of all involved. Edgy, funky and much more mature than anything she’s done previously, “Control” is met with near universal acclaim from fans and from the music industry. Accompanied by visually striking music videos (mostly choreographed by former L.A. Lakers cheerleader Paula Abdul), that showcase Janet’s natural dancing ability, it spins off six hit singles including “What Have You Done For Me Lately” (#1 R&B, #4 Pop), “Nasty” (#1 Pop, #3 Pop), and the title track (#1 R&B, #5 Pop). Of those six singles, five hit number one on the R&B singles chart, and five of the six reach the top five on the pop singles chart, all in different peak position. The album is showered with accolades including four American Music Awards (out of twelve nominations), and five Grammy nominations, including Album Of The Year. “Control” spends eight weeks at number one on the Billboard R&B album chart, spending two weeks at number one of the Top 200, and is certified 5x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.