Suggestions and Recs – Act

Completed reviews are here.

This is sorted by genre and then by rec order, though that doesn’t necessarily reflect the order in which I intend to do things. If you’re not on the list, I’ve lost you in the annals of the blog and you should repost. I’ll also be adding stuff I intend to do on my own here as well. Again, the list is in no particular order and things basically get done at my whim.


Suggestions and Recs:

Higanbana (VN)
Don’t Take It Personally, Babe, It Just Ain’t Your Story (VN)
What a Beautiful… Series (VNs: Souten No Celenaria, Sekien No Inganock, Shikkoku no Sharnoth, Hikari no Valusia, and Shiei no Sona-Nyl)
Katawa Shoujo (VN)
Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc (VN)
Doppelganger: Dawn of the Inverted Soul (VN)
The House in Fata Morgana (VN)

Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture (VNish)

Okage: Shadow King (jRPG)
Persona Series (jRPGs)
Radiata Stories (jRPG)
Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles (jRPG)

Fire Emblem: Awakening (tRPG)
Super Robot Taisen Series (trpg)
Dept. Heaven Series (jrpg Riviera, tRPGs Yggdra Union, Knights in the Nightmare, Gungnir)
Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love (tRPG)
Disgaea DS (tRPG)

Gingiva (rpgmaker)
Blue Marble (rpgmaker)
Brave Hero Yuusha (rpgmaker)

Fallout 1 and 2 (wRPGs)
Wasteland 1 and 2 (wRPGs)
Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel (I love this series and got an angry series of texts from my brother about how bad this one is and all the character derailment, so I’m super curious.)
Daemonica (wRPG)

Read Only Memories (PaC)

Nier (action rpg)

Irisu Syndrome (puzzle)

Inside (platformer)

Cuckoo’s Calling (book)

Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell (short story)

Angel Notes (light novel)
DDD (light novel)
Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash (light novel)

Cradle of Monsters (manga)
Liar Game (manga)
A Girl by the Sea (manga)
Ooku (manga)
Kasane (manga)

Izetta, The Last Witch (anime)

228 Comments

  1. Nerem says:
    I guess my comments about Endless Frontier and Project X Zone didn’t come through.



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    1. illhousen says:
      Comments are slowly being restored in bulks.



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      1. Nerem says:
        it’s a Strategy RPG series. It just adapts Endless Frontier’s combat system to SRPG. It’s by the ORiginal Generation people, in fact. So it fits in perfectly, I think.



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        1. actonthat says:
          It just doesn’t seem particularly story-heavy? That’s why we’re really here, after all.



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          1. Nerem says:
            It’s got more story than Luminous Arc. I mean, not a high barrier, but you played that awful game. They’re also part of the Super Robot Taisen series officially.

            Like, it’s just like Super Robot Taisen’s main series where it takes characters from various series and bring them in and merges their stories with everyone else’s into a single setting. And a lot of the fun of it is everyone’s personalities and settings playing off each other.




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  2. illhousen says:
    And since comments are gone for now, I second the We Know The Devil rec. It was a nicely atmospheric VN.



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  3. Mel says:
    Have you considered trying out the demo for a visual novel game called The House in Fata Morgana? It’s a gothic mystery/suspense story that’s going to be out on Steam next month: http://mangagamer.org/fatamorgana/



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    1. actonthat says:
      Oooh, I’ll check it out!



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  4. Moomey says:
    There’s this little game called “In the Company of Myself” and you should totally check it out! It’s really short, only twenty minutes or so long, but the gameplay is fun and there’s a pretty good narrative and story that it tells.



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  5. illhousen says:
    Sekai Oni, manga. I’m curious to read either yours or Farla’s thoughts on it because it’s such a goddamn trainwreck, it becomes kinda fascinating.

    It has misogyny, mishandled metafiction, weird tone clash, it impressively manages to miss a beat on pretty much every dramatic revelation, it has art terribly clashing with the setting…

    And it has one utterly glorious moment that justifies reading the manga up to that point (though, really, no farther) which is so funny and out there, I don’t want to spoil it.




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    1. actonthat says:
      I was about to say something like this probs falls under Farla’s “no low-hanging fruit” rule but nope, it’s got a 7.5/10 with 1,400 votes on MyAnimeList. Totally viable.



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  6. Mini-Farla says:
    It looks like you’re not doing Fleuret Blanc?



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    1. actonthat says:
      Someone has taken it off my plate ^^;



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      1. Mini-Farla says:
        Aw, that’s a shame. I thought it was the best thing ever, but I wanted a second opinion from a mystery specialist.



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  7. Roarke says:
    Mean ol’ illhousen recced a horrible manga, so I’ll rec two good ones: Teppuu and Cradle of Monsters (one or both of which has already been recommended I think).
    Both of these are sub-40 chapters. Cradle of Monsters finishes cleanly in that span, but Teppuu was clearly cancelled (a tragedy). Cradle of Monsters is zombies meets Titanic, Teppuu is womens’ mixed martial arts but not aimed at dudes.



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    1. actonthat says:
      Interesting! Farla may be the one to go to with Cradle, she’s much more into zombie fiction than I am.



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      1. PostguestivePostistPhase says:
        If anyone’s looking for something that’s good AND zombie, as oxymoronic that might sound, there’s iZombie series. Despite the terrible name, it’s the best zombie thing.



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    2. EnviTheFool says:
      [i]Teppuu is womens’ mixed martial arts but not aimed at dudes.[/i]

      Correction: it is still aimed at Seinen demographic (ie. men), but it just doesn’t make much of a difference in this case since Teppuu
      a) lacks blatant pandering
      b) as you said, is good

      [/nitpick]




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    3. EnviTheFool says:
      Teppuu is womens’ mixed martial arts but not aimed at dudes.

      Correction: it is still aimed at Seinen demographic (ie. men), but it just doesn’t make much of a difference in this case since Teppuu

      a) lacks blatant pandering

      b) as you said, is good




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      1. Roarke says:
        Yeah, no, that’s entirely valid. I just didn’t really express it properly. It treats women like people.



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    4. Act says:

      So what I’ve learned is that no matter how awesome it is — and Teppu is really great — sportsmanga cannot hold my attention. Which kind of surprised me since I love sports so much.




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        1. Act says:

          No, not yet. I really like it, but am also really bored by it. It’s weird.




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            1. Act says:

              I finished the first tankobon.

              (Incidentally, the interview at the end where the MC was like, “You sure write powerful nonsexualized women. Weird, right? Is that was you’re into?” was blackly hilarious.)




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            2. Roarke says:

              Okay, yeah. The thing starts slow. It shouldn’t surprise you to hear that the actual fights are strictly secondary to the real meat of the manga, which is the emotional environment of the fighters. I’d say that this manga explores the coach/athlete relationship like none I’ve ever read, but it really only gets into it later, during the tournaments.

              Also yeah, it’s hilarious that this was written by a guy and therefore it’s assumed he’s into the women he was writing. It says so much about the rest of the industry I could die from laughter.




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            3. SpoonyViking says:

              I’m guessing that thinking it’s “weird” that women can be powerful without being sexualised is also a part of it.




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            4. Act says:

              Shame it got cut off cause the author got sick. I liked the ending, though, as despite the last page’s insistence it does seem like the whole experience helped Natsu move past a lot of stuff.




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            5. Roarke says:

              Yeah, part of the ending felt to me like a “but I have so much more to tell!” plea on the part of the author. That’s why it felt like so much was unresolved. Like you say, I think the experience was good for Natsuo. 

              So you liked it, overall? I’m really interested in what you think about Mario Cordeiro’s relationship with Yuzuko.




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            6. Act says:

              He’s basically any sport parent who’s lost sight of their child for the competition. I think to him the kind of pressure he puts on the two of them, while it is pretty exploitative, feels like love. I don’t think he’s a good guy, but I don’t think he’s a villain either. 

              I also got the sense from Yuzuko’s backstory that he saved her from a shitty homelife, so he clearly cares for her, he just cares about his sport more.




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            7. Roarke says:

              Well that’s the thing, right? He hasn’t lost sight of Yuzuko. He trained Yuzuko, and lied to her parents so he could train her, exactly because she had that quality he knew would lead her to success. It does feel like love. Completely. Out of everyone in the cast besides Natsuo, he’s the only one who actually gets her. It’s both terrifying and heartwarming at the same time. I got chills when he called her “my daughter” in Portuguese, because it was true. He’s more her father than her actual parents were. Even so, the bare facts of the situation were abusive and exploitative. 




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            8. Roarke says:

              Incidentally, who was your actual favorite character, and why?




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            9. Act says:

              That’s tough. Probably Karin, though I really liked Natsuo a lot. Karin I think wins out because she’s basically best-case-scenario-future Natsuo — she’s hard-nosed, competitive, aggresive and blunt, but without the anger and hatred of Natsuo. She’s a well-adjusted adult, but also a fierce competitor.




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            10. Roarke says:

              Yeah, I figured. She was up there for me, too. I’d also say she was a best-case Natsuo in the sense that she learned how to care about people in a healthier way. I really liked how, once she learned Natsuo was living with a sense of dissatisfaction that manifested in all that cruelty and ennui, and did what she could to provide a sense of fulfillment.

              Also, she was fuckin’ hilarious! So good at putting Natsuo in her place (not in a bad way).




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            11. Act says:

              >Yeah, I figured.

              I am nothing if not consistent. I once bought a shirt I already owned.




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            12. Roarke says:

              Better consistently good taste than inconsistently good. My favorite was actually Mario Cordeiro, for reasons I don’t care to explore.




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            13. Act says:

              Mario may have been the most complex character — I thought the story did an excellent job of keeping the reader’s opinion of him always changing without seeming like he was a bunch of different people. Everything new he did made sense based on what you new, but it made you look at him a different way.




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            14. Roarke says:

              He was also just the right kind of asshole, the kind that’s compelling instead of hateful. I can’t express enough how much I loved the scene where he reveals he knew Park Du-Na was double-jointed but didn’t tell Yuzuko. Or rather, he told her Park Du-Na would “be trouble”. I laughed so much but goddamn, what a dick!




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  8. Soilofgenisis says:
    Hmm, I’ve heard here has been a recently released fan translation of the first 5 of the 12 chapters of Mahou tsukai no Yoru…
    I wonder if Act would be interested in reading that ..(I personally read the Chinese translated version…)



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    1. actonthat says:
      Nah, I’m not setting myself up for disappointment by not being able to read the whole thing. I decided a while ago I’d all-or-nothing MnY.



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      1. illhousen says:
        Give iiiin, Act. It has Touko as a villain with creepy dolls. You know you want to read it, resistance is futile.

        (On a bad side of things, it starts with a rather graphically described death of a cat and a bunch of kittens mangled by a car engine, which is something I didn’t appreciate being surprised by.)




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      2. Soilofgenisis says:
        Well, Mahouyo actually has a 2 act structure, so the part where the translation finishes isn’t super cliffhangery, as the first half is pretty much resolved. But I can see why you wanted to just read it all or nothing. But even the entire thing is only the start of a supposed trilogy, and it does raise more questions than it answers. (And since dark souls 3 got released , we can say goodbye to nasu for a while. And that Nasu has to supposedly do the tsukihime remake before doing Mahouyo 2. That’s going to be a long while before seeing the rest of the story anyway…)



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  9. illhousen says:
    Hey, Act, mind if I intrude on your turf and review Fate/Extra? I’ve played it recently and I have Things to say.



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    1. actonthat says:
      Not at all!



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      1. illhousen says:
        OK, thanks.



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    2. SpoonyViking says:
      Cool! Looking forward to it. :-)



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    3. Heatth says:
      Oh! I never played it myself, but I’ve been curious about it. I am looking forward.



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      1. illhousen says:
        Thanks. The review is scheduled for Saturday. It’s a bit more ranty than I expected, but, God, the final boss annoys me so much.



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  10. Keltena says:
    Not a rec, but for lack of a better place to drop a comment… I’ve been slowly playing through and liveblogging Blaze Union on my tumblr, and it just occurred to me that you were interested in the game. I’m not doing anything as in-depth as your let’s read posts, but I have been summarizing everything that happens, if that’s something that would interest you as a substitute for being able to play the game yourself. Just thought I’d mention.



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    1. actonthat says:
      This is highly relevant to my interests, thank you!



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  11. Doortothe says:
    Do you have any experience or interest in the Kingdom Hearts series? Many people are very critical of the confusing direction the narrative has taken, and they aren’t exactly wrong. However I do personally enjoy the overall direction the series is going, deconstructing The Chosen One, doing an excellent job of gradual character development in 358/2. I think that there are some really good things to enjoy from this series’s narrative. Gameplay is also pretty good too if you’re into action RPGs. Also there’s lots of synthesising… SO much synthesising.



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    1. actonthat says:
      This is completely irrational, but: I don’t have any strong feelings about Disney in general, but this whole series has always felt so “conceived in a boardroom” to me that I’ve purposely avoided it. Everything about it feels pandering. And I’ve heard nothing but good things about it which makes me feel like a dick, but I resent the whole marketing aspect of it.



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      1. Doortothe says:
        The only game that is particularly Disney inspired is the first game, which gives it a unique charm that the other games don’t have in my opinion. After that, for better or worse, the series has taken a life of its own, closer to Final Fantasy than Disney. Which makes sense since the games are made by Square Enix; Disney has no involvement with the development of the games.



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      2. Farla says:
        I think it is pandering but it’s Japanese-flavored pandering, which means it’s hard to see it on the English end.

        Also it did some really amazing stuff with storytelling. It followed up the first game with a side game that explained everything but wouldn’t make the slightest bit of sense until you played the next game and then replayed the side game again.




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    2. EnviTheFool says:
      The fact that literally every game (aside from I and II) was released on a different platform didn’t help the story either, although that’s thankfully being somewhat fixed with the re-releases.

      Also there’s lots of synthesising… SO much synthesising.

      Hey, gotta earn that Ultima.
      How else am I gonna be able to feel better about never being able to beat Sephiroth?




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  12. illhousen says:
    I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream game (point-and-click quest).

    Would be interesting to see your take on it as there is a lot of fun stuff in the game and a lot of… not fun stuff to criticize.

    Needs DOS emulator to run, though.




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    1. Act says:

      Even the Steam version?




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      1. illhousen says:

        Hm, no, seems like the Steam version was upgraded to run under Windows. Didn’t know it.

        My own copy comes from a shady pirate shop where I found it, like, 15 years ago or so on a CD.




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        1. Roarke says:

          I’m pretty sure Steam doesn’t sell games that are incompatible with current operating systems. The maker has to either port it, or sell the product elsewhere. I do believe that GOG.com will sell DOS-only games, though.




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          1. SpoonyViking says:

            It does. Of the “Legacy of Kain” series, for instance, only the last game, “Defiance”, can be run as-is from Steam.




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    1. illhousen says:
      That’s a good number.



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    2. Ludeshka says:
      I didn’t know if it was more annoying (HEY YOU PLAYED THE FIRST, PLEASE PLAY THE SECOND!) or arrogant (OF COURSE YOU’RE INTERESTED IN MY GAME) to come here and announce it, but I really wanted to. :D
      Thank you so much for linking to it. ^^
      The truth is I’m really curious to see if you people think I’ve improved.



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      1. Act says:

        :D I’m super excited to check it out!




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      2. Act says:

        Hi! Is there an ending list, in or outside the game? I was to make sure I’m seeing everything!




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        1. ludeshka says:
          Oh, hi, it’s not like this is month’s late, or anything. Hahaha.

          There are eight endings (Hardworking, Warrior, Neutral, Isolated, Mirror, Pretense, Heartbreaker, and Peacemaker). And there’s an abrupt early ending on chapter one if you go overboard with REVENGE.

          If your question comes from opening the game’s folder (*gasp!*) and looking at all that unused art featuring Crocket and a girl with a read headscarf (that’s Uma), then fret not, you cannot unlock that chapter. 




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  13. Roarke says:
    Torment: Tides of Numenera.

    It’s the spiritual sequel to the Planescape: Torment game that illhousen recced to you a few years back. Made by the same original creator as PS:T, Baldur’s Gate, Fallout, Wasteland, and probably more genre-defining wRPG’s I’m forgetting about.

    Basic plot of the game is that there’s this dude, The Changing God, who achieved a form of immortality in which he can create new bodies to transfer his consciousness into basically whenever he wants. Whenever he leaves a body, a new consciousness is born inside of it. You’re one of these castoff shells. As you awaken in your recently-abandoned body, you’re attacked by The Sorrow, a creature that’s been hunting The Changing God and his castoffs for centuries.

    It’s coming out in 2017. I already have the beta, which is the first 10-15 hours of the game. I tried to get illhousen to play it too, but his computer is like an abacus taped to a potato battery or something. I can honestly say that even just the beta is one of the top 5 games I’ve played all year, and, like with Wasteland 2, I’m going to straight-up give you a copy to bribe you into playing it (I got a nicely reduced price on a second copy as a Kickstarter backer).




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    1. Act says:

      :P I’ll keep it in mind!




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  14. Soilofgenisis says:
    Read Only Memories.
    Short point and click game.
    Interested to see your thoughts on this one.



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  15. PostguestivePostistPhase says:
    Half of Umineko is on steam now, with other half coming at some point. In case anyone’s wondering.



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      1. illhousen says:

        Btw, can you tell me the technical specifics of Steam version if you have it? Seems like it includes old and new sprites as well as voice acting in English and japanese? Is that true and is the voice acting any good? Japanese was a mixed bag.




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        1. Heatth says:

          Not sure where you read that, but no voice acting (Mangagamer is not even big enough to make dubs of their own).  You can find a patch to insert the voices from the PS3 version, but that is quite buggy right now (and illegal).

          As for sprites. It does include new ones. Specifically from a pachinko version of the game (probably easier to license than the PS3 version). You can toggle back and forth between old and new sprites, which is quite cool (you can change between English and Japanese as well).

          EDIT: Oh, there is also some CG images that were not present on the original, for some of the key scenes (though none of the deaths). These are included into the files but, for some reason, not in the script, meaning you have to mod the game for them to appear.




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          1. illhousen says:

            Was making assumptions. Couldn’t really find the specifics with a quick look.

            Oh well, I’ll stick with my… alternative version of the game then. Doesn’t seem like the features are worth the money.




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            1. Heatth says:

              There is also the new translation. Mangagamer and Witch-Hunt went over the translation, fixing many mistakes and redjusting some of the choices now they know how the story ends. That might be the main appeal, to be honest, so I shouldn’t have forgot mentioning it.




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              1. illhousen says:

                Hm, so they worked with the Witch Hunt? That is appealing, though still not sure about the price. Hm, maybe when it’s on sale or something…




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              2. Heatth says:

                The price tag makes more sense if you treat it as 4 books bundled together. 6US$ per book is not a bad price.

                Though I can understand not wanting to spend that money for something you have already read. I started rereading the series partially to justify the money I spent.




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  16. illhousen says:

    I see Danganronpa is on the list. I’m playing it currently, and I second the rec. The best way to describe it is that it’s a very Japanese game and it swings widely between “ooh, that’s cool” and “ohgodwhyyyyyyyy,” so there’s definitely a lot to talk about.

    I would suggest doing a full LP out of it as the game is easily broken into weekly/monthly posts by chapters. They aren’t long and usually provide enough talking material.

    Look pout for the second chapter.




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    1. Heatth says:

      Indeed. Danganronpa is a very “interesting” series, in more than one way. It is mostly fun, but can be really cringe inducing. The upside is that the cringe is in its worse on chapter 2 of the first game, which is early enough to be mostly forgotten by the end (also early enough for you to be able to just drop the game if you really didn’t like it).




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      1. In my opinion, the series has gone downhill very quickly — the second game was mostly just boring and Ultra Despair Girls was absolutely godawful. The first one has a lot to talk about, though.




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        1. Heatth says:

          Eh, I did like the second game myself. Maybe not as good as the first, but I wouldn’t call it “downhill”. Specially since I didn’t find the first one to be that good in the first place. Both games are fun. Not amazing, but fun.

          As for Ultra Despair Girls, I haven’t played but that is an spin off with a completely different genre, so it doesn’t feel right to place it alongside the main series. It is a separated thing, easily ignorable (particularly if you play on Steam, like me).




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          1. Dang’emall is a brilliant piece of terrible shit. It’s all kinds of amazing and has conflicted me to no end. I can’t even what’d take to mix that type of stupid bullshit and twisted genius.
            I liked sequel a whole lot better. It had better characters and turned out to be what I thought the first one was going to be (this should make sense to those that played both but nobody else hopefully).

            While it’d be very interesting, I’m not sure our giant VN list needs two more hugeass entries for detailed examination.




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            1. Heatth says:

              Is “Dang’emall” a typo? How did that even happen? Auto-correct gone rogue?

              Anyway, I don’t disagree with you. I am not sure I care for Danganronpa enough to want a detailed analysis, specially since I am still waiting for Umineko.

              Btw, Is the notification broken for anyone else? I am not receiving any on this thread. It is working fine on the newer posts, though.




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              1. illhousen says:

                Which notification? The left one (dialogue box that lights up in yellow) or the right one (a circle with a number inside, lights up blue)?

                The right one works fine, the left one doesn’t.




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              2. Heatth says:

                That left buttom is a notification as well? I haven’t even realized. That isn’t working, of course, but I meant the right one. I didn’t receive one for your reply, for example. I thought it might be because this is an old post, but it seem I missed some in the new posts as well. It seems to be random.




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              3. illhousen says:

                It just flat out doesn’t work for me.




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              4. Act says:

                The left one sudden;y started working for me as I was fooling with the moderation settings. idek

                The right one is enough, though.




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              5. Heatth says:

                I wrote it wrong. The left one never worked. The right one sometimes works, but sometimes doesn’t.




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  17. Heatth says:

    Since Limbo is on the list, how about Inside? It is by the same people and it is great. It has a very open and confusing story, but quite interesting nonetheless. The animation is particularly gorgeous, the best I’ve seem on any game.




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    1. Roarke says:

      I still honestly don’t understand anything about that game.




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      1. illhousen says:

        Seems like a pretty straightforward necromancer takeover? We had one of those back in the 90s.




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          1. illhousen says:

            Now that I’ve played it, I stand by my comment. It appears to be pretty straightforward except for the gravity fucking.

            I don’t know, maybe there is some stuff in the secret ending I didn’t get or something.




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    2. illhousen says:

      Playing it now. So far it’s pretty cool, though the part where you need to avoid spotlights is annoying as there is no way to gauge when you’re in the shadow except through trial and error.




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    3. Act says:

      Christ, what is with indie game prices lately? $20 for an unknown IP from an unknown dev with a 4-hour completion time?? 




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      1. illhousen says:

        They did Limbo, which was pretty popular. I’d recommend playing it first before buying Inside, though. The gameplay is similar, so it would help you decide if you even want to bother.




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        1. Act says:

          TBH I’d find $5/hr of playtime highway robbery even if it were like, Pokemon or something.




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          1. Roarke says:

            Honestly, it’s not worth the money. Neither Limbo nor Inside. They’re pretty and atmospheric and creepy, and that’s about it.

            I am going to disagree with illhousen here and say just buy Inside if you’re going to bother playing either of them. Limbo doesn’t do anything that Inside doesn’t already. If anything, Inside contains Limbo.




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            1. illhousen says:

              Hm, I don’t know, I think I liked Limbo’s imagery more, though it’s possible I’m just still sore at the fucking dogs at the eights sphere (in the mines) from Inside. I died, like, 50 times before I’ve managed to get past them. A small lag made the kid turn around way too slowly.

              Either way, I do agree that actually buying the game is more of a donation for the devs to continue their work than a fair trade. Alternative means are preferable if you just want to play it.




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              1. Roarke says:

                Limbo was a bit hit-and-miss with me, with a big miss towards the end. Gears and gears and I did not care. I felt like it came out strong but ended with a whimper. And of course, since the whole thing takes all of two hours or so, I can’t say I came away satisfied.




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              2. illhousen says:

                I found it a pretty relaxing game if you have an hour or so to kill.

                The end is weaker than the beginning, though.




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  18. Keltena says:

    Not a game recommendation or anything, but my brother shared this with me and I thought you’d appreciate it, since you’ve complained about Sword Art Online in the past. (Specifically linking for those ten seconds, though the guy’s rants are pretty enjoyable in general.)




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    1. illhousen says:

      Ah, SAO. When in doubt, bring in a rapist guy. At least the second season is not as bad as the second half of the first season, where the resident fake action girl literally spends most of her screen time in a birdcage and at one point is threatened with tentacle rape, but that’s a very low standard to reach.

      Honestly, I think SAO should have used FATAL mechanics for its gameplay for thematic reasons.




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    2. Farla says:

      Oh that! Wow, that is beautiful.

      I just watched the Abridged and really enjoyed it, but am continuing to never directly consume the canon itself.




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      1. illhousen says:

        SAO Abridged is great. Not flawless because Sachi is still dead, but great. It’s impressive how it manages to fix half of the problems with the show and poke fun at the other half. “I’m sorry, I’ve entangled him in my web of lies.”

        Also, I should take this opportunity to plug in a pretty insightful and enjoyful watchthrough of SAO: https://forums.sufficientvelocity.com/threads/in-which-i-watch-sword-art-online.95/

        I’ve linked it before, don’t know if you read it then. Either way, highly recommended for anyone interested in good mockery.

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    3. Act says:

      Ahhh amazing.

      SAO is like Twilight, in that it hits even badfic trope out there but is somehow not actually fanfic.




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  19. Have you tried Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel?  It’s a character-driven jRPG with more world building and minor character development than I’ve ever seen in a game.  It takes place in a feudalistic empire which, until 50 years prior to the start of the game was socially and technologically around the year 1800, before the discovery of supertech jumped them 150 years ahead almost overnight, and the overarching conflict is a surprisingly realistic exploration of the consequences of tech development outpacing social development.  Surprisingly for a jRPG, there is virtually no fanservice, while the gender balance is excellent and defies conventions; the best physical attacker is female, and of the two mage characters, the guy is the more healing-focused.  I’d be quite interested to see what you think of it




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    1. Act says:

      Trails in the Sky was enough of a mess that I’m wary of the rest of the series, especially since the game was so damn long.




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      1. Ugh, what was wrong with it?  Cold Steel is the first one I’ve played in the series, and I was going to check out Sky next because it really impressed me.  Bad idea? 




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      2. Okay, I found your review in the archive, and it’s almost like the developers did too; pretty much all the good things you had to say about Sky also apply to Cold Steel, and nearly all of the problems have been fixed, or at least improved.  The plot vs character development pacing issues are addressed by making the world plot secondary; your characters are students at Thors Military Academy, and therefore only peripherally involved in the major world events going on around them.  While it isn’t open world, the game is very clear about what will advance the story, so there’s no real danger of accidentally losing side quests.  Both the primary and secondary cast are so well developed that even the few characters who initially appear to be obnoxious jerks turn out to be more nuanced, and often grow as people over the course of the story.  There’s almost no ‘girls can’t do X’ attitudes at all; right at the start one of the male characters is pretty insistent that they need to protect the girls, but everyone else (male and female) immediately shut him down, and it never really comes up again.  The climax is pretty crazy, but it’s not a complete ass pull, and it makes sense for your characters to be surprised since they’ve been more ‘meddling kids’ than direct participants all along.  

         

        So, yeah, I think this might be a case where the makers really did learn from their mistakes, but I’d be interested to see your take on it.




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        1. Act says:

          You’ve made me curious, so I’ll look into it! The other thing I know is that for some reason this series tends to be absurdly expensive.




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        2. Act says:

          this game is so expensiveeeeee




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            1. Act says:

              It’s a PS3 game, and I’ve never tried to emulate on of those. Not even sure if my computer could handle it ):




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  20. Socordya says:

    Since you seem to be into manga recently, you might be interested in Ooku by Yoshinaga Fumi. It’s notable for having a premise who is very close to gender-reversed Wither. With the difference being it’s set in early modern Japan, and also not a pile of garbage.

     

     

    Also I mentioned this other one before on Farla’s tab, but it was right before the great disqus-wordpress war, and I think my comment may have been a casualty, so I’ll put it again here : Kasane .

     

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  21. Act says:

    Ooku is actually on my personal to-do list! Kasane looks fascinating.

    And yeah, I’m on a massive manga kick lately, idk why.




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    1. Nerem says:
      If it’s the same Kasane I read, I really like it! Though, sadly the scanslations basically stopped.



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  22. Lily says:
    Since you’ve been on a manga trip lately, I figured I recommend a really unique short one (2 Volumes, but you read through it pretty quickly)! It’s called A Girl by the Sea. The plot is about the main character, Koume, starting a friends with benefits relationship with her classmate. The themes contain but aren’t limited to depression and suicide. It has quite a lot of sex scenes, but to me they never felt exploitative of Koume’s body. The series handles unhealthy relationships pretty well and the ending comes completely unexpected.

    If you happen to make time for it and end up liking it, I definitely recommend checking out the author’s other works! He has a really unique way of storytelling.




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    1. Act says:

      I’ve heard a lot of good things about Inio Asano, though my current run was a “I don’t read enough manga by women” one so I didn’t do any of his stuff. Solanin is on my radar as well.

      I tend to have a tough time reading stories about suicide/depression — how deep into it does it get?




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  23. W says:
    I’d like to recommend a recently translated RPGmaker game titled END ROLL. It’s an exploration-focused game (but with a solid combat system)  with an unusual premise and lots of personality. I loved the characters and the attention to detail the creator put into the world.

    Although, as a heads up, it’s not a happy game at all and contains some pretty disturbing content. Like, made me make audible distressed noises kind of disturbing. There’s a full list of warnings on the translation page if you want to check them out: http://vgperson.com/games/endroll.htm




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    1. Act says:

      This seems right up Farla and Mini-Farla’s ally — I generally don’t play a lot of horror games.

      That said, warning for graphic violence in pixel games is always odd to me. It can only get so graphic.




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      1. illhousen says:

        So, I’m playing it right now.

        The graphics are what you’d expect from a pixel game. Not significantly worse than, say, flow, so giving warnings about them is indeed silly unless you’re dealing with someone with a pathologic aversion to violence.

        There are some graphic descriptions of violence, however, which actually may upset some people.

        As for the game itself, I’m kinda ambivalent. The idea is interesting, though I don’t know yet how well or badly it’s executed. I’m also hoping the game is going to throw a twist my way soon, so far it seems the story is at risk of becoming repetitive.

        I also dislike the tone of messages you get in the starting room, feel jarring to me considering the situation.

        It also uses a standard RPGMaker battle system, which I swear is designed to be boring as hell. I think the game would have benefited from more focus on puzzles rather than fighting and, like, Ib-style gameplay. And I’m not even a fan of Ib-style gameplay.

        I don’t know, I’ll stick with it for now, but I don’t have high hopes.




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        1. Farla says:

          I was recommended it a little while ago, so I’m most of the way through, and yeah, it’s just tonally weird.

          I think it’s very nearly impossible to take RPGmaker graphics seriously, so the only thing that can make it upsetting is identifying with the characters in the situation, and this one has so many layers of detachment that’s pretty impossible.




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          1. illhousen says:

            Yeah. I mean, when I’m greeted with “hellow, deranged maniac,” I expect dark humor, probably of the kind I don’t like, but then the game seems to go for drama, which just throws me out of it. And the tapes are pretty much the only real thing around, so it’s not even dream logic distorting stuff.

            And I do agree about the layers of detachment. You’re constantly reminded that everything is not real, it’s all in your head, so it leaves me mostly with a morbid curiousity about what happened rather than keeping up the tension of what’s going to happen.

            The only actual conflict is the internal evolution of the protagonist, and the game doesn’t exactly give me much to help caring about him. I mean, he doesn’t care about himself, and, given the situation, why should I?

            So, yeah, so far I’m mostly playing out of love for mindfucks and little else.




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            1. Farla says:

              I’m still disappointed that he isn’t actually a sociopath. There’s a million traumatized character lashes out things out there, and even making him the main character isn’t all that special.

              I tried playing as if I actually was detached and guiltless but somehow scraped up enough to end up pegged as improving.




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            2. illhousen says:

              It’s actually possible to get little enough Guilt to not qualify for a true ending (must be below 20 by the fifth day), but you’d have to do the bare minimum to advance the plot, and you still can get enough on the fifth day anyway even if you had zero before.




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      2. illhousen says:

        Btw, Act, Farla, mind if I review it? I’ve finished it and have Things to say.




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  24. Nerem says:
    A new anime came out that seems pretty good. I kind of pegged it as Code Geass by way of Valkyria Chronicles, but I’m really glad it misses a lot of flaws with VC’s story and premise, even though the very basic premise is the same.

    It’s about a small nation during AU World War 2 that is desperately struggling to keep from being steamrolled by Germany, and end up saved at a critical moment by a witch, who throws the German tanks around like its nothing and disables the German airforce, enabling a counterattack that routs the German forces.




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      1. Nerem says:
        *slaps forehead* Izetta, Die Letzte Hexe. AKA Izetta, The Last Witch.



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          1. Roarke says:

            Looks pretty good. Especially her using an anti-armor rifle as a goddamn broomstick. A++




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            1. Nerem says:
              Yeah she can basically use ANYTHING as a broomstick. Including heavy machineguns and anti-material rifles. It’s a really good spin on it.



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    1. illhousen says:

      Kinda feels like it’s being slowly swallowed by fanservice.




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      1. Nerem says:

        The OP is a lot fanservice-r then the actual anime is itself, if you’re talking about Izetta.




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        1. illhousen says:

          I’m talking about the fourth episode, actually, which is pretty big on fanservice with the maid and the PR woman.




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          1. Nerem says:

            Eh, only if it’s an consistent thing. If it’s just kept to the breather episodes its not such a big deal.




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            1. illhousen says:

              Hm, maybe. I’ll stick with the anime for a few more episodes at least, see how it shapes up. For now it basically was just a setup, after all.




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  25. illhousen says:

    Liar Game, manga.

    I think you’d get a kick out of it.

    There is one very iffy issue with it and the ending is kinda underwhelming, but overall I’d say it’s worth a shot if you’re into mind games.




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  26. Socordya says:

    Rec: Shiki, a horror anime (adapted from a light novel). It’s everything a vampire story should be. And there’s a character who dress like this:

    Anti-Rec: Bakemonogatari: It’s fascinating to watch what could have been a great urban fantasy anime get not-so-slowly swallowed by fan service, harem bullshit, and pedo crap.




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    1. Act says:

      Horror anime is more up Farla’s alley (as she watches more TV and more horror than I do) but I’ll check it out!

      You can’t trick me with the Monogatari series — I know waaaay too much from osmosis to get anywhere near it.




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      1. illhousen says:

        I’ve watched a few episodes of Shiki. It’s pretty slow-paced and kind of a heavy watch in a vague way I’m not sure how to describe. You need to be in the right mood for it, I guess.

        Anyway, it does seem interesting, and I liked how vampires dealt with the invitation issue.

        About Monogatari I’ve actually heard only good things, though I didn’t check it myself. What the osmosis says are the problems? I’m morbidly curious.




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        1. Roarke says:

          not-so-slowly swallowed by fan service, harem bullshit, and pedo crap

          This is all you need to know, honestly.

          The fact is, Monogatari series does have things to recommend it for, from my vague recollection. It approaches myth, the occult, and the supernatural from interesting angles, and the characters can get pretty deep and likable, including the villains.

          The problem is that this is all sidelined for the sake of the 100-ton Male Gaze. To the point where studio SHAFT was basically known for nothing else.




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          1. illhousen says:

            This is all you need to know, honestly.

            Yes, but I want details to be properly outraged.

            Though I do get the point about harem shenanigans. I’ve seen some shows with clever premise and cool setting that are consumed by them so no plot could actually happen.

            To the point where studio SHAFT was basically known for nothing else.

            To be fair, with the name like that that’s something to be expected.




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            1. Roarke says:

              Yes, but I want details to be properly outraged.

              What detail did you want? I’ve only watched the first two seasons, but here are some:

              1. His vampire progenitor (he’s only like 10% vampire in daily life) was turned into a loli. I know you have strong feelings about those. Unlike lolis who act older, this one legitimately acts like a child half the time. A mentally broken child.

              2. He has two little sisters and frequently gets into risque situations with them, and the undercurrent of their every interaction is “if we weren’t related I’d fuck you right now. Since we are, I’m still on the fence.”

              3. There is a loli with a backpack three times her size. She is the ghost of a little girl, who died in circumstances I forget, but it tied her to a certain area until she was freed. She is now a wandering ghost, and every time the protag chances upon her, he instantly runs up to her and cuddles her.

              4. His relationship with the main girl (they start dating like 3 episodes into the first season, so I don’t understand why it had to be a goddamn harem) is really sweet, no complaints, so again, why harem if he’s dating someone.

              5. There are other girls I can’t even bother remembering or recounting. Just had to list the big ones.




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            2. Socordya says:

              You should watch the first arc (two episodes). It contains everything that could have been great, and foreshadow everything that will be terrible.




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            3. illhousen says:

              @Roarke: alright, I’m now outraged. Yeah, Act or Farla should watch it.

              @Socordya: thanks, I’ll check it out when I have the time.

              I take it the problems are also present in the LNs?




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            4. Roarke says:

              What there is of them, yeah. IIRC precious little is actually translated.




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  27. Socordya says:

    Your “Reviewing Rowling” tumblr appears to be taken over by  ads, for some reasons. Not sure if it’s been hacked into, if you’ve deleted it and someone decided to recreate it only filled with ads, or if you’re just trying to earn money, but I thought I’d mention it in case you weren’t aware.




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    1. Act says:

      Lol, the domain must have expired. Either that or someone owes me pay I’m not getting.

      Thanks for the FYI.




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      1. Anonymous says:
        I think it’s actually because of a Tumblr update a while back that put ads on your blog (without your permission, first, because Tumblr is a bad website). There’s an option to turn it off (which pretty much everyone has done because who wants ads on their tumblr blog?), but it must still be on for the RR tumblr.



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  28. illhousen says:

    Grimgar LN (no, seriously): https://grimgarthetranslation.wordpress.com/chapter-0/

    Since you’re reading LNs right now, though I’d recommend you this. I found it interesting as a basic concept, and I liked some developments, but I think it’s plagued with various issues, some of which are typical for the genre (I don’t know if the LN is as big on fanservice as the anime, which was dedicated to show off legs in fucking winter despite actually commenting on the cold and the need to keep warm, but, well, be prepared) and some of which are due to a bizarre decision to seemingly root the novel in an RPG logic, complete with specific skills used in combat (that are always written in [Important Noun] format that I despise).

    Still, I would be interested in your thoughts about it.

    There is also an anime that covers about two thirds of translated material, IIRC.




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    1. Act says:

      From Wiki:

      The story follows a group of people who suddenly find themselves in a fantasy world with no memories from before their arrival, and chronicles their struggles to survive and make a life for themselves.

      It would certainly be thematically appropriate to read alongside RE:Zero.

      Also, lol, Grimgar.




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      1. Roarke says:

        I second this rec. It’s interesting in that it kind of approaches the criticism of “nerds dumped into fantasy world become badass” from a different angle than Re:Zero. Where Re:Zero gets a lot of mileage out of Subaru’s genre savviness, this work gets a lot of mileage out of showing what would happen to actual folks.

        Also, in the anime, the head of the priest’s guild is voiced by Kotomine Kirei. Just sayin’.




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        1. illhousen says:

          Also, in the anime, the head of the priest’s guild is voiced by Kotomine Kirei. Just sayin’.

          Ooh, I didn’t notice it.

          That certainly makes the scenes with him so much funnier.




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          1. Roarke says:

            I am constantly on the lookout for Kotomine and Archer’s voice actors whenever I watch anime, because they’re very recognizable. Kotomine especially, but I recently watched Food Wars: Shokugeki no Soma (I don’t recommend it), and there is a tall, tan with white hair, Indian boy whose specialty is making curry… and he speaks in Archer’s voice and squares off with the red-haired, golden-eyed protagonist.

            Basically, I couldn’t get through any scene with him without bursting into laughter.

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      2. illhousen says:

        Yeah, it would be.

        As Roarke said, Grimgar approaches similar issues that Re:Zero deals with from a different angle. Re:Zero is ultimately focused on character flaws and grows, while Grimgar is more, how to say, outward-oriented work. It’s less about personalities and more about capabilities.

        Ultimately, I feel that the work is worse than Re:Zero, less emotionally-compelling and, as I said, more prone to do wrong stuff typical for the genre, but I did like the low-key focus of the plot.

        Comparing the two is probably not very fair, but interesting.

        And yeah, Grimgar is a silly place.




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  29. Roarke says:

    I have an LN rec. This one has nothing to do with fantasy worlds, but everything to do with breaking bad anime genres over its knee:

    Oregairu, or My Youth Romantic Comedy is Wrong as I Expected (I will add a link at my home computer).

    This work is an excellent piece of bait-and-switch satire. It starts with all the usual rom-com pieces – loner protagonist, pretty girls he’s forced to interact with, high school, blah blah blah.

    The place where it diverges is the characters – the main character is not a misunderstood “nice guy” for nerds to self-insert into. He is a jerk who has disturbingly real, crushing depression; he has legit given up on having healthy, normal interactions with others. The girls have their own issues independent of being the MC’s satellites, and their burgeoning friendship with each other is handled with more care than the love triangle (which is also examined ruthlessly). The author takes the emotional growth of the characters really seriously in a manner similar to Teppu’s.




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    1. Act says:

      Ah yes, SNAFU of the “wtf was the loc team thinking” fame.

      Interesting to hear it’s a satire — I’ve always thought it was just another entry into the high-school ota-romance genre. I’ll look into it.




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      1. Roarke says:

        If anything, SNAFU is like the inverse of Bard’s Tale. Where BT tried to be an obvious parody but was so bad it became the thing it ridiculed, SNAFU tried to pass as the real thing and did a very good job, to the point where a friend of mine dropped it in season 2 for ‘not being funny anymore’.




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        1. Act says:

          TBH that’s kind of amazing. A lot of these stories end up preaching to the choir, but this one was a nefarious double-agent going after exactly the people it’s criticizing.

           

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          1. Roarke says:

            Let me really put this in perspective. SNAFU season 2 ran concurrently with UBW season 2. SNAFU placed 1st (in the charts), UBW placed 2nd. But SNAFU’s season 2, I can confirm, is not a comedy. edit: no idea how many weeks it topped the chart. At least two. And that despite the 2nd season being more cruel than funny.

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  30. illhousen says:

    And speaking of LNs… You remember there were some discussions here and there of a fanfic called Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality that failed in what it attempted to do rather hilariously?

    Well, the author branched into writing LNs, complete with imitating their style despite writing in English.

    Behold!

    Alas, I could not find a copy through alternative means, so you’d probably have to buy it if you want to check it out, but it’s only a dollar and I would really like to hear your thoughts on that one. From what I’ve heard so far, it’s pretty hilaribad.




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    1. Muphrid says:
      I wrote a fanfic that Yudkowsky reviewed.  He liked the piece but remarked that it didn’t have enough transhumanism for his taste.



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        1. Muphrid says:
          A Haruhi Suzumiya piece called “The Coin”–so the transhumanism being along the lines of wanting Haruhi Suzumiya to use her godlike powers to usher in a new era of human civilization or some such thing.  I was not quite going for that.

          I learned later that he recommended it to his followers, and one of them left a review as well. That review was fairly normal. The only thing I found unusual was that Yudkowsky had such a following.




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          1. illhousen says:

            Not really my fandom, but wasn’t the point of the plot to keep Haruhi from knowing about her powers so she wouldn’t go down the way of minus?

            As for Yudkowsky, he’s OK in casual banters, from what I understand, but the more you learn about him and his theology… Well, there is a reason why some people call him a cult leader even if he isn’t quite there.




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            1. Muphrid says:
              Kinda. The early novels definitely have the element of fear that she’s too reckless and unstable to trust with knowing she has godlike powers.  By the later novels, the protagonist comes to trust she’s innately reasonable enough not to destroy the world on a whim anymore, and he relies on using her as a “trump card” against outside forces that might interfere with their lives.  Telling her she has powers is his weapon of last resort.

              The fic was about her beginning to figure it out on her own and what happens from there.  She does come to understand she has godlike powers, but she learns to be humble enough not to enforce her vision of a better or more interesting world that way.




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            2. illhousen says:

              Yeah, that would explain the reaction. The idea of god-like powers being wielded by the protagonist freely appeals to Yudkowsky, but so does enforcing his vision of the ideal world on reality, so that’s where you get both endorsement and complains that there wasn’t enough transhumanism.




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    2. Act says:

      Everything about that dude and that premise creep me out. I am like 99.9% sure he’s someone who has used the phrase “yellow fever” unironically before.

       

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      1. illhousen says:

        What’s “yellow fever”?

        As for the guy, yeah, he’s, at best, really weird and not in a good way.




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        1. Roarke says:

          yellow = Asian, fever = sexual desire

           




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        2. SpoonyViking says:

          Basically, fetish for Asians.




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    3. Socordya says:

      so you’d probably have to buy it if you want to check it out, but it’s only a dollar and I would really like to hear your thoughts on that one.

       

      Don’t do it, @Act! It’s a trap. Every penny you give that guy is funneled toward the creation of the A.I. God! 

      Shame on you,@illhousen, I see what you’re trying to do, and I have finally understood your true nature. You’re a bot sent from the future by the Friendly A.I. to gather fundind for its completion. It all makes sense, now.

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      1. illhousen says:

        Speaking like that is treason, citizen. Remember, Friend Computer is your friend. Please proceed to the nearest termination box.

        Have a nice daycycle.

        (More seriously, it’s a tough choice: I’d really like to see a readthrough of this… thing, but that kinda requires giving a batshit organization money unless someone kindly uploads the book where it can be found.)




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        1. Socordya says:

          (More seriously, it’s a tough choice: I’d really like to see a readthrough of this… thing, but that kinda requires giving a batshit organization money unless someone kindly uploads the book where it can be found.)

          What Would Bayes Do?




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            1. Muphrid says:
              But that’s, like, not at all how Bayesianism works…



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            2. illhousen says:

              That’s the joke.

              Yudkowsky is a bit better at applying it, but only marginally.




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    4. Heatth says:

      You remember there were some discussions here and there of a fanfic called Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality that failed in what it attempted to do rather hilariously?

      I remember reading that! I liked the premisse. I like the idea of trying to apply actual logic to a work that doesn’t concern itself too much with it. But, as you said, the fanfic failed hilariously. Turns out the more you insist your work is “rational” and “logical”, the weaker will be the reader’s suspension of disbelief. That is allright if you menage to keep your world and story airtight, but the smallest hole will blow everything appart.




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      1. illhousen says:

        Well, one of the core problems with the fic was that it didn’t actually know what its premise was. It tried to be both a story about a kid exploring HP-verse from a scientific perspective (which is fine) and a heavy AU with scientific bent (which is also fine), the result being that various elements belonging to two different stories clashed something fierce.

        Basically, the author changed a lot of events, underlying rules and character personalities for the sake of making the world more logical, yet preserved a lot of what he saw as problems in the original so Harry could point them out, which resulted in a bunch of people supposedly much smarter than their prototypes doing stupid things that don’t actually even as much sense in the new context as they did in the original.

        That wasn’t the only problem, of course. In particular, the fic demonstrates really well how agency is a zero-sum game in a fictional story by giving almost all of it to Harry and Quirrelmort, making them the only characters who could actually do anything of importance. As I understand it, it was actually done quite deliberately since the author believes that most people don’t truly act to achieve their goals but follow a script given to them by society without thinking and that only by practising rationality can you be truly free.

        Also, of course, sexism. Hermione’s whole arc was about being a satteline character (which is actually openly acknowledged in text) and being unable to break free, which culminated first in the feminist heroines arc (resolved by important men saving the girls from their stupidity) and then good old frinding, complete with Hermione’s last words literally (and I literally mean literally here) being “Not your fault” addressed to Harry who of course concludes it was his fault. (There was even a fake-out where at first Harry heard only “Your fault” because Hermione couldn’t pronounce the whole sentence through the pain.)

        When your big dramatic death is exactly the same as a parody of a hyper-sexist anime, something clearly has gone horribly wrong somewhere.




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          1. illhousen says:

            Sachi 2.0, now literally put in a fridge (the author is a big fan of cryonics, you see) and literally objectified (Harry turned her into a ring which he wore on his toe to prevent saner people from giving her a burial).




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            1. Roarke says:

              And that’s… rational.




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        1. Heatth says:

          Oh, wow. I actually dropped the fic before half of what you said became evident. If I remember correctly, my main issue was that Harry was way too good at everything, which was particularly glaring as he was still 11 for the whole fic (instead of aging as in the books). If you want to make a world to feel “ralistic” and “logical”, you really shouldn’t make your kid character (or any character, but in particularly inexperienced kids) to be hyper competent.

          I definitivelly never got to that whole Hemione thing. Yikes.




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          1. illhousen says:

            Yeah, hypercompetence was a big issue, though again something that was done deliberately. The author actually commented on how this version of Harry is based on him but dumbed down because he believes he would be able to accomplish everything Harry did and much more in far less time.

            Also, here’s the author’s defense of the whole affair and some related stuff: http://hpmor.com/a-rant-thereof/

            Let it not be said that I’m presenting only my side of the story there, I think author’s doing a good job of condemning himself as it is.

            (It was written before the fic was finished, I can tell you how everything turned out if you want.)




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            1. Act says:

              Well, to be fair, the point that such a derivative fic would inherently have the deeply-entrenched sexism problems of the original is a valid one.

              The argument that those weren’t actually problems and should be built on… not so much.




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            2. Heatth says:

              So not only the man is a bad writer, he is also an asshole and an idiot? Did he seriously said his Harry was based on him and that was why he was so competent? For real? What a tool.

              Guess Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality is an actual honest to god Mary Sue fic. How does it ever become popular on the first place?




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            3. illhousen says:

              @Act, I would normally agree if not for the fact that the author has changed a lot of the elements of the source material, including characterization and relative prominence of various characters, so it wouldn’t be that hard to give female characters more room to play.

              In particular, Draco Malfoy is so OOC that, gratitious rape threats aside of his aside (oh, yeah, there are gratitious rape threats used for shock value and never brought up again), it wouldn’t be hard to replace him with, say, Daphne Sweetgrass (who was just a name in canon, so it would be easier to adjust her personality to whatever you want her to be) with little to no changes to the plot.

              In fact, there were changes to female characters’ personalities already and, aside from giving some personalities to characters who were just names in canon, the changes were universally for the worse.

              McGonagall in canon could hardly be considered a feminist icon or anything, what with her falling comfortably into an old archetype, but she still had some dignity and gravitas to her. In MOR, her role is to be perpetually amazed by everything Harry does and not being able to keep up with Dumbledore and Snape’s machinations. Her big arc is about accepting how Harry is right about everything and changing her behavior to be more accomodating to him.

              Hermione is portrayed as a very naive and idealistic girl who thinks about Good and Bad with capital letters and is all nice all the time, unable to see the “real world” for what it is. Her role in the story is to demonstrate that even smart people can be stupid about things that are really important if they don’t practice the sacred art of rationality. Later on there are actually parallel scenes from Hermione and Draco’s POVs where Draco comes off superior because he’s more rational. Plus, of course, the fridging.

              Bellatrix is changed to be a broken woman who joined Voldemort not out of her free will but because he tortured and raped her into complete submission. It was stated that Voldemort rewarded his loyal servants with her.

              Also, I actually read the supposed feminist arc where the author tried to address sexism in-universe. It’s… not good. The girls could get anywhere with their plan only thanks to Snape secretly aiding them, and even then they ended up failing and in need of rescue from Harry and Quirrelmort, the real heroes of the story.

              So, no, it’s not just a consequence of building up on someone else’s sandbox, it’s author’s own issues.

              @Heatth, yep, it is a Mary Sue fic. Harry may not be technically overpowered, certainly not to the point of certain other Harrys I can name, but he does clearly warp the narrative around himself and makes the universe bend over for him.




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    5. mcbender says:
      I’ve been wanting to jump in on this but wasn’t entirely sure what to say – I’m very glad to see that not everyone thinks the sun shines out of Yudkowsky’s nether regions. If anyone here does manage to get their hands on this… thing, I’d certainly be interested in following along. (I checked a few… places and couldn’t find a copy either sadly.)

      I have very mixed feelings about HPMOR myself. I’ll disclaim: I’m at least somewhat sympathetic to the “rationalist” project and think Yudkowsky himself and the Less Wrong/CFAR/etc community has produced some good and interesting work, though it’s definitely gone off the rails into batshittery. I used to want to go back and reread to try to work out at what point that happened, but I don’t think I care enough to bother nowadays and don’t particularly want to immerse myself in that community again (it all looks quite different to me post-Elevatorgate, post-Gamergate, etc). That said, I really liked the idea of comedic didactic fiction set in the Potterverse, and I thought it was pretty self-aware about what it was (and made some pretty good criticisms of the Potterverse to boot!) and didn’t take itself too seriously as a story. Then Yudkowsky started expecting the reader to take all of the worldbuilding seriously (I’m not entirely sure when this shift happened either; once again, I’m sort of tempted to try working that out but not enough to actually reread the damn thing), the preaching got worse, and he started going on more and more about his bizarre fringe beliefs and less about established science. Not to mention the increasing levels of implausible knowledge and capabilities we were expected to accept from the protagonists (and secondary characters the author happened to like). Looking at it now I think it (and a lot of Yudkowsky’s writing generally) is the literary and philosophical equivalent of boiling a frog.

      (I tried to submit this comment earlier and I think it got snagged by the spam filter, let’s try this again.)




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      1. illhousen says:

        I’m not familiar with LessWrong writing enough to comment on it in-depth, so I’ll take your word that it wasn’t all bad all the time.

        As for HPMOR… it started OK-ish. Even early chapters had really weird bits, like the sudden rape discussion, but for the most part they did manage to be a lighthearted parody of HP with jokes that were amusing enough to keep my attention.

        The moment it shifted gears is hard to pin down. I’d say the process started with the first scene with Snape after which we’ve got a very special lesson on addiction to time travel, of all things, played completely straight, and then Quirrelmort organized Harry’s beating. That was probably the first instance of the story going into full srs bsns mode and it got worse over time.

        The complete shift happened around Azkaban arc, I’d say. That’s when the themes were changed in full and the story became focused solely on politics and “heroic responsibility” (which I kinda suspect is an euphemism for “moral clarity” in the context or at least it’s hard to tell the two apart).

        As for the critique of Rowling’s work, I’d say it was actually pretty shallow for the most part. MOR does successfully points out several issues with HP world-building, but that’s like beating a three-legged puppy. HP world-building is a myth to begin with, it doesn’t exist. HP is basically a collection of cool pictures with no real underlying connection between them, which is kinda obvious for anyone who thinks about it for more than five minutes.

        Now, replacing it with your own world-building is a worthwhile endevor, but I don’t think MOR succeeds here. The world it presents is not as wondorous as original HP and it still has coherency issues. For example, that “bone of the father…” resurrection ritual still exists despite horcruxes working completely differently here, relying on possession of people and overriding their brains to be closer to the horcrux-maker, so who exactly gets resurrected by the ritual? The legal system working on life debts and money was cringe-worthy, transfiguration as written is basically a collection of very creative ways to kill people, phoenexes are embodiments of goodness despite MOR world being changed to be secular and mechanistic, which should have resulted in there not being objective morality metric (and indeed, Harry even says as much at one point, about how the universe doesn’t care)…

        Basically, MOR failed to remain a parody that pokes fun at HP world, and it failed at providing a better alternative.

        Now, when it comes to important matters of critique, themes, MOR doesn’t fare much better. The author engages with the Rowling’s messages once, with the whole “death vs immortality” debate, and he had to massively change the setting for his arguments to make sense, which rather severely undermines his own themes about applying rationality to the world around you, no matter how strange it might be. It would be interesting to see Harry struggling to change his mind in the face of new evidence that makes many of his core beliefs obsolete, like a good rationalist should, but instead it feels that the world is shaped to accomodate his beliefs, to never challenge his core principles (which is of course farther reinforced by the patronus scene where Harry having the right beliefs give him mystical powers).

        I guess one can argue that he also engaged with the theme of the power of LOVE, but he basically dismissed it as a bogus and rewrote Lily’s death so she didn’t sacrifice herself and died in vain instead, so… It is actually pretty weird when you consider that he had no issue with giving emotions a tangible power in the form of the patronus.

        When it comes to other messages, the picture is rather grim.

        I’ve talked already about sexism in MOR, but the point bears repeating. HP is not exactly a paragon of feminism. While it does massively better than, say, Dresden Files, there are some problems you could address. Female characters, with a few exceptions here and there, tend to occupy traditionally feminine roles, they have less prominence in the plot, the narrative occasionally shits on them for being feminine, etc. But MOR just turns it up to eleven. It manages to be much more sexist than the source material despite actively trying to be less sexist in later arcs, which is an impressive feat.

        And then there is racism. And yes, MOR does condemn it as it should, but it also has an unhealthy fascination with elite purebloods, Malfoys in particular, which undermines the message. The story is very clear that there is a huge difference between Malfoys, who hold their belief apparently because they’re honestly concerned about magic fading and think that muggleborns are to blame, and common racists, who are losers who hold onto their hatred because they have nothing else. And, look, I have more sympathy for the latter class because, while they’re repugnant people as well, at least they’re not rich assholes on top who cultivate those vile beliefs in society and attempt to enforce them on institutional level because it gives them more power.

        Harry even states outright at some point that “redeeming” Malfoys is a more worthwhile goal than redeeming anyone else because Malfoys are rich and influential. In theory, it’s because they would be able to use that money and influence for good, but, considering Harry’s little conspiracy and the author’s own forays into befriending rich people, I do think that an ulterior motive is more likely.

        And all of that despite Draco being much more repulsive in MOR than in canon. I mean, in canon he was a stupid spoiled shit, but at least he didn’t have highly detailed plan to rape a little girl “once he’s old enough to have an erection.”

        Then there are house elves, whose treatment even in canon was far from the best. MOR outright dismisses them with Harry assuming they’re artificially-created lifeforms shaped to serve and then saying, “Well, whoever created them was evil, but they’re here now, so may as well use them.” That, I should note, without Harry reading any materials on them, without speaking to any house elf and basically without doing any research of any kind on the subject.

        Which brings us to MOR own messages. In theory, this is a story about applying scientific method to magical world, and early chapters are full of Harry accusing wizards of not knowing their craft, of not trying to discover the deep mysteries of magic, of merely scrapping the surface of what magic is capable of. To rectify the matter, he performs several experiments to deepen his own understanding of magic. Early ones are even portrayed reasonably well: Harry fails in big projects but manages to make a small discovery (that you can transfigure materials against tension) that could plausibly escape wizards’ notice.

        Unfortunately, the scientific method is soon abandoned in favor of thinking really hard about a problem until it’s solved. That’s how Harry deals with house elves, that’s how he deduces the existence of Atlantis before hearing about it being a thing and how he figures out that magic must be an artificial construct, that’s how he gets his patronus running, how he figures out about other magical races being enchanted humans, how he discovers there are no souls or afterlife, how he gets to control dementors, etc., etc.

        His own use of scientific method stops at forming a hypothesis and being right.

        This appears to be at least partially deliberate as I recall the author stating that a true rationalist should be able to look at a grain of sand and derive complete set of physical laws from that one observation.

        You may recognize it as the opposite of science.

        The anti-scientific message is reinforced by the theme of secrecy and the loss of knowledge. Early on, Harry makes a comparison between muggle culture, which constantly seeks deeper understanding of the world around us, constantly makes new discoveries and puts them to good use in new technology, and wizard culture, which is, in MOR, a pale shadow of what it was before, an at best stagnating society stuck in backwards ways and magical thinking. Later the story introduces the Interdict of Merlin which prevents powerful spells from being passed through books or any medium other than directly from a teacher to a student, verbally (which introduces another plot hole as apparently horcruxes are not covered by “powerful spell” definition as Voldemort still learned about them from a book). The story attributes the loss of knowledge and fading magic to the Interdict, which is logical enough.

        The issue here is that, well, Harry is kinda surprisingly OK with it. While at the start he did talk about muggle society and attitude on science positively, as the story progresses he actually changes his mind on this, of all things. He creates his little conspiracy (with Draco, of all people) dedicated to making scientific discoveries in magic but always keeping them within its circle unless they decide that the knowledge is “safe” for the masses, he learns to not explain to anyone two new techniques he managed to discover, and in the end he decides that muggles must be kept ignorant of magic after all. Not because of the potential panic and pogroms or anything like that, but because allowing other people with scientific background to meddle with magic would be too dangerous.

        That, again, you may recognize as the opposite of science. Science needs an open flow of information, it needs peer reviews and sharing of data, otherwise we’d be back to the era of natural philosophers working on their pet projects that were completed and lost hundreds of times through the ages. Confining the totality of science to one organization would kill it.

        Not to mention the moral concerns such an organization would create. What would Harry do if someone who doesn’t want to be in his little club discovers something he deems dangerous? Silence them, through intimidation or smear campaign? Kill them? Use mind magic to take control over them?

        But of course Harry doesn’t see it that way. He’s portrayed as super-genius, and he’s arrogant enough to believe that he is one. He does appear to believe that only he and people who think like him could ever discover anything of importance, he believes that he will always be one step ahead of everyone else and would be able to neutralize any harm they might do. And he plans to be immortal, to always be there to watch over humanity, so the loss of knowledge would not be an issue for him.

        Which I guess brings us right back to the story engaging with Rowling’s themes. Harry Potter is a story about ordinary boy who finds himself thrust into a fight against a man who wants to be an immortal all-powerful absolute dictator.

        MOR is a story about an extraordinary boy who wants to be an immortal all-powerful absolute dictator and thinks he can do it right.




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        1. mcbender says:
          It wasn’t all bad all the time but I think if I were to go back and read now I’d notice a lot more problems than I did 3-4 years ago (which is the last time I recall visiting the site). I think the problem there is a sort of macrocosm of the problem you often get when you teach people about e.g. logical fallacies and they then go on to apply that knowledge selectively to arguments they disagree with, the more “rational thinking” tools you give people the more ways you give them to rationalise what they already want to believe (they even give lip service to that – I might’ve even learnt about it there, to be honest! – though I think they’re better about it in the abstract than in actually applying that principle).

          There is also something incredibly ironic in Yudkowsky’s attempts to promulgate their ideas via Harry Potter fanfic, when the Less Wrong community actually uses the word “muggles” to refer to people outside their community, who are unfamiliar with their ideas, etc. Yes, unironically. That is a real thing they do (or did, anyway). That kind of constructed superiority complex seems intrinsically related to the secrecy theme you complained about, too – and again this is a real belief they seem to have, that not everyone can handle the truth and/or society can’t handle some things being known (they often bring up things like the atomic bomb as examples) so it would be better for “rationalists”/ubermenschen like Yudkowsky himself to take care of all that for the rest of us.

          Yes, he really believes he’s a real-life Mary Sue. That wasn’t something he added to the fanfic, or a flaw in fanfic!Harry, that’s his actual attitude.

          You might be right about the point it switched gears – I remember the Azkaban arc being the point at which I definitely stopped enjoying it, and thought it had completely lost its sense of what it was (there was definitely a major tonal shift around there), but looking back a lot of the major problems could be seen in the (explicitly) Ender’s Game inspired Battle School arc too. And as you point out there’s a lot of troubling stuff in the bits prior to that also, that I think I was more willing to overlook because it was still fun enough and some of the things it was trying to do were interesting. (It kind of amuses me that the silly-to-serious genre shift thing is one of the same things that doomed original HP, though at the same time I found on rereading that e.g. Philosopher’s Stone wasn’t as silly and whimsical as I generally gave it credit for, and the Potter books were shit from the get-go so that narrative isn’t entirely accurate…)

          The other thing is there’s definitely a “have your cake and eat it”-ness to the worldbuilding thing, it never seemed to be able to decide whether it wanted to keep the Potterverse worldbuilding (in all its nonexistent glory) in place and poke fun at it, explore its shortcomings, etc, or do actual worldbuilding to reconstruct something functional from the pieces Rowling gave us, so it ended up smashing together a bit of each and the seams are really obvious. If he’d stuck to the criticism angle that would’ve been one thing, and the reconstruction could’ve been another, but trying to do both at the same time ended up being thoroughly incoherent. Again, that’s a thing it actually shares with Harry Potter classic though, Rowling herself also really loved worldbuilding by equivocation.

          About the science – yeah, a lot of it is pretty 101 level. I thought he did a decent job of at least explaining the experimental method, though as you say his characters are pretty awful at actually applying that, and it seems to mostly get trotted out as an excuse to justify the superiority of the characters he’s decided to like. Similarly I did think he did a decent job of explaining some classic studies like e.g. the Milgram experiment, the Stanford prison experiment, etc, but I think most of the examples he went with were things you’d learn about in an introductory psychology course, and maybe some physics stuff. Nothing wrong with didactic fiction to explain things like that, I thought it was quite enjoyable on that level and could’ve been a way to get people interested in things, but it’s not nearly as impressive as I found it at the time (and the narrative is so full of itself for doing it, and somehow manages to flatter the reader into feeling intelligent for reading it).

          I think you’re right it manages to be more sexist than the source material, too, despite Yudkowsky’s protestations to the contrary (and there is a grain of truth to his assertion that sexism in the original source material does end up spilling over into derivative works, e.g. there being fewer developed female/minority characters to work with in fanfic, but HPMOR’s problem is not that).




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        2. mcbender says:

          It wasn’t all bad all the time but I think if I were to go back and read now I’d notice a lot more problems than I did 3-4 years ago (which is the last time I recall visiting the site). I think the problem there is a sort of macrocosm of the problem you often get when you teach people about e.g. logical fallacies and they then go on to apply that knowledge selectively to arguments they disagree with, the more “rational thinking” tools you give people the more ways you give them to rationalise what they already want to believe (they even give lip service to that – I might’ve even learnt about it there, to be honest! – though I think they’re better about it in the abstract than in actually applying that principle).

          There is also something incredibly ironic in Yudkowsky’s attempts to promulgate their ideas via Harry Potter fanfic, when the Less Wrong community actually uses the word “muggles” to refer to people outside their community, who are unfamiliar with their ideas, etc. Yes, unironically. That is a real thing they do (or did, anyway). That kind of constructed superiority complex seems intrinsically related to the secrecy theme you complained about, too – and again this is a real belief they seem to have, that not everyone can handle the truth and/or society can’t handle some things being known (they often bring up things like the atomic bomb as examples) so it would be better for “rationalists”/ubermenschen like Yudkowsky himself to take care of all that for the rest of us.

          Yes, he really believes he’s a real-life Mary Sue. That wasn’t something he added to the fanfic, or a flaw in fanfic!Harry, that’s his actual attitude.

          You might be right about the point it switched gears – I remember the Azkaban arc being the point at which I definitely stopped enjoying it, and thought it had completely lost its sense of what it was (there was definitely a major tonal shift around there), but looking back a lot of the major problems could be seen in the (explicitly) Ender’s Game inspired Battle School arc too. And as you point out there’s a lot of troubling stuff in the bits prior to that also, that I think I was more willing to overlook because it was still fun enough and some of the things it was trying to do were interesting. (It kind of amuses me that the silly-to-serious genre shift thing is one of the same things that doomed original HP, though at the same time I found on rereading that e.g. Philosopher’s Stone wasn’t as silly and whimsical as I generally gave it credit for, and the Potter books were shit from the get-go so that narrative isn’t entirely accurate…)

          The other thing is there’s definitely a “have your cake and eat it”-ness to the worldbuilding thing, it never seemed to be able to decide whether it wanted to keep the Potterverse worldbuilding (in all its nonexistent glory) in place and poke fun at it, explore its shortcomings, etc, or do actual worldbuilding to reconstruct something functional from the pieces Rowling gave us, so it ended up smashing together a bit of each and the seams are really obvious. If he’d stuck to the criticism angle that would’ve been one thing, and the reconstruction could’ve been another, but trying to do both at the same time ended up being thoroughly incoherent. Again, that’s a thing it actually shares with Harry Potter classic though, Rowling herself also really loved worldbuilding by equivocation.

          About the science – yeah, a lot of it is pretty 101 level. I thought he did a decent job of at least explaining the experimental method, though as you say his characters are pretty awful at actually applying that, and it seems to mostly get trotted out as an excuse to justify the superiority of the characters he’s decided to like. Similarly I did think he did a decent job of explaining some classic studies like e.g. the Milgram experiment, the Stanford prison experiment, etc, but I think most of the examples he went with were things you’d learn about in an introductory psychology course, and maybe some physics stuff. Nothing wrong with didactic fiction to explain things like that, I thought it was quite enjoyable on that level and could’ve been a way to get people interested in things, but it’s not nearly as impressive as I found it at the time (and the narrative is so full of itself for doing it, and somehow manages to flatter the reader into feeling intelligent for reading it).

          I think you’re right it manages to be more sexist than the source material, too, despite Yudkowsky’s protestations to the contrary (and there is a grain of truth to his assertion that sexism in the original source material does end up spilling over into derivative works, e.g. there being fewer developed female/minority characters to work with in fanfic, but HPMOR’s problem is not that).




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          1. illhousen says:

            Yes, he really believes he’s a real-life Mary Sue. That wasn’t something he added to the fanfic, or a flaw in fanfic!Harry, that’s his actual attitude.

            Yeah, I actually remember his claim about how he dumbed down Harry and gave him more flaws than he himself had because if Harry were allowed to be as smart as him, he’d break the setting in a month.

            but looking back a lot of the major problems could be seen in the (explicitly) Ender’s Game inspired Battle School arc too

            Wll, it was definitely a gradual process, the Azkaban arc is just where the shift was completed.

            Similarly I did think he did a decent job of explaining some classic studies like e.g. the Milgram experiment, the Stanford prison experiment, etc

            Ugh, no, he was actually systematically wrong about them.

            The Standford prison experiment is a prime example of how not to do an experiment. The professor in charge of it was an active participant of experiment and actively stirred it to get the results he wanted. In early stages of the experiment the test subjects were actually perfectly civil to each other and didn’t abuse their power, professor had to actively micromanage them in order to prove a point.

            Milgram experiment is likewise heavily contested on account of being deeply politically motivated and test subjects being aware of what conclusion they needed to prove, as well as being aware that they were in a low-stakes simulation according to some claims.

            His other explanation of psychological studies are not much better. He completely botches the Prisoner’s Dilemma by applying it to a situation where allying with another person is an objectively superior choice to betraying them despite the fact that the whole point of the dilemma is to create a situation where no matter what the other person does, betraying them is the rational thing to do, which leads to rational people betraying each other, which leads to everyone suffering.

            The moral of the dilemma is that it may be beneficial to be selfish and not concern yourself with the fate of other people, but if everyone is selfish, then everyone suffers. As such, it’s more beneficial to encourage society as a whole to be selfless.

            The experiment with two groups of kids in the park (forgot how it was called), likewise, was not explained well at all. The author claimed that merely putting them in the park and allowing to socialize led to them crafting identities to their group and then merely introducing two groups to each other caused major conflict.

            In reality, kids were actively encouraged to bond during the first stage of the experiment, adults helped them craft group identities. The second stage of the experiment consisted of competitions over valuable prizes (medals and pocket knifes because past was awesome for kids), with the loser group getting nothing. That’s what brought the conflict into existence.

            The moral of the experiment is that if you force two solidified groups to compete over limited resources, conflict between them would emerge and they would likely take it beyond the confines of competition and into personal relationships.

            For what it’s worth, I do think that those are genuine errors on author’s part. The latter experiment actually applies well enough to Hogwarts houses and the mock battles in its original form, so there was no need to alter it.

            Of course, that still means that you shouldn’t take the author as any kind of authority on such matters.

            He does better with hard science, though there are still problems with presentation. For example, his introduction to genetics produced a model that didn’t allow the existence of squibs despite heavily using them to prove its validity, which is just incoherent. (He later claimed that Harry was basically blinding Draco with science in that scene, but that just makes me wonder what would happen once Draco revisits the theory, as a good scientist should, and discover that it was all a lie.)

            Real science is also often mixed with fringe theories, like timeless physics, which isn’t just fringe and not accepted by mainstream scientific community, it’s not even properly formalized, so author’s claim on its equations being elegant is simply false: there are no equations.

            Overall, I’d say MOR does an adequate job at presenting science as interesting and fun, but you really should google everything scientific mentioned in the story if you want to learn anything real.

            and there is a grain of truth to his assertion that sexism in the original source material does end up spilling over into derivative works, e.g. there being fewer developed female/minority characters to work with in fanfic, but HPMOR’s problem is not that

            That is definitely true. If you want to write a HP fic with prominent female characters, your choices are rather limited, especially if you want to deal with canon conflicts rather than constructing a side adventure.

            It’s just that MOR manages to botch even the characterization of female characters that actually were present in the source material and make them more weak personality-wise and less important to the narrative.




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            1. mcbender says:

              Interesting – I’d known about flaws in those experiments, I think, but it must have slipped my mind. I stand corrected. Anyway, I think what I was trying to get at is that Yudkowsky’s presentation is pretty consistent with the way I was actually taught about those experiments in basic psychology courses at uni (maybe that gets corrected in higher level courses? I was an engineering major and didn’t get far enough to see). That doesn’t say anything complimentary about the state of the field, etc, nor does it validate his claims of superiority, so I guess I’m glad we had this diversion even if I made a fool of myself.

              And “mixing real science with fringe theories” while eliding the fact that that’s what he’s doing is kind of Yudkowsky’s MO, he does that a lot in his nonfiction writing too. I’m nowhere near an expert on physics to be able to parse out every place it happens, but it’s definitely a reason he’s very good at misleading people. I remember being a bit weirded out by, for instance, an article he wrote where he claimed it was easy to intuitively understand quantum phenomena if you looked at them a certain way (which he went on to explain); I do think the model he presented made a lot of sense, in the sense that it was understandable and I could see how you could use it to form intuitions, but I didn’t/don’t have any kind of expertise on quantum phyiscs to be able to assess whether it was actually consistent with consensus models/understanding in the field.

              I don’t know if I’d necessarily say HPMOR is more sexist than HP canon (though in truth he probably is), I think it tends to be sexist in a different way than HP canon.




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            2. illhousen says:

              I think what I was trying to get at is that Yudkowsky’s presentation is pretty consistent with the way I was actually taught about those experiments in basic psychology courses at uni (maybe that gets corrected in higher level courses? I was an engineering major and didn’t get far enough to see).

              I think Standford prison and Milgram experiments were just revisited at some point in new political climate and their flaws were exposed. It’s possible that your uni just didn’t upgrade the course in time, especially since it was a secondary introduction stuff.

              And “mixing real science with fringe theories” while eliding the fact that that’s what he’s doing is kind of Yudkowsky’s MO, he does that a lot in his nonfiction writing too.

              That he does. I’m not exactly an expert on physics either, I just know that you should consult specialists or read actual professional publications rather than take his word on this stuff (in particular, from what I understand, he doesn’t get that wavefunction, to which he objects in quantum mechanics, basically is an application of his favorite Bayesian theorem, just modified specifically for the needs of quantum mechanics. The collapse of wavefunction is exactly the same as updating your priors with new information. He also seem to not quite get that we don’t know anything about the territory of physics, we just have a collection of maps applicable better or worse to different problems).

              I don’t know if I’d necessarily say HPMOR is more sexist than HP canon (though in truth he probably is), I think it tends to be sexist in a different way than HP canon.

              Well, to be fair to MOR, its sexism is not so much active misogyny (like, say, in DF) and more a consequence of agency distribution. Harry Riddle and Quirrelmort are the only “rational” characters and, as such, are the only ones allowed to actively work towards their goals rather than playing a script (see the distinction between PCs and NPCs outlined by Harry most prominently right before Hermione’s fridging,  though it’s a theme throughout the whole story), aside from maybe Dumbledore, who sometimes managing to present an actual obstacle to them.

              If you have only two actual agents in your story and they happened to be male (which, again to be fair, can indeed be attributed to the original story as both Harry and Voldemort were male there as well), you’re going to run into sexism problems basically inevitably.

              The only fix for that is to have Quirrelmort and Harry to be less smart than they’re portrayed as, to be outwitted by female characters or actively need their help, to allow female characters to contribute to the story in ways Quirrelmort and Harry couldn’t, but that would go directly against MOR phylosophy of rationality being systemized winning that evaluates you far beyond your peers, so it cannot be allowed.

              And, to be fair, male characters don’t escape that agency removal either, like how Neville could only get any character development under Harry’s tutelage rather than on his own like he did in canon, or how Snape was easily outmaneuvered on multiple occasions and his love for Lily broken with one pep talk, etc.

              I do think there is more to sexism in MOR than that as female characters often slip into feminine stereotypes in their behavior (being obsessed over boys and such), but the agency issue is at the core of the biggest problems, and it’s less about gender and more about the division between author’s self inserts and everyone else.




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            3. mcbender says:

              Yes, you make a really good point there. I’m also amused at your using the map/territory distinction to expose flaws in their thinking, because that’s a concept I learned from Yudkowsky and think might have originated with him or more generally on Less Wrong (though I’m not completely sure). That’s one of the concepts I still find very useful.

              I don’t remember the details of the genetics bit, but I’ll take your word for it :P I want to attribute some of that failure to the Potterverse itself (because the way magic is inherited in the books never made sense to me, and I don’t think I’ve yet encountered a fan theory that actually solved it) but I don’t think all of it is that. And in most non-technical discussions of genetics (including that in MOR) there’s far too much reliance on Mendelian oversimplifications to really say anything. That’s actually something I tend to blame on the education system because inevitably we all get introduced to genetics via Mendel and peas, but Yudkowsky claims to be an autodidact and I’ve no idea what he may or may not have experienced in formal education.

              I think your idea of the conservation of agency really is the key thing (and as you say it hit a lot of male characters as well, though the end result of that is still quite sexist since the whole story revolves around Harry and Quirrell), though as you say there are other forms of sexism that come through as well. I remember there being a lot of gender essentialism in his earlier writing but that changing at least somewhat later, but he might still have those ideas internalised on some level. He wouldn’t be the first author to run afoul of “men are the default” and end up having sexist plots for all the female characters because there has to be something female-coded to make it a female plotline, right? Otherwise the character should be a man! I’m leery of throwing too many stones because I came from a similar place and learned quite a lot about sex/gender over the same time period and I’m well aware of how thoroughly the culture we live in tries to miseducate everyone about such things, and could see myself making similar mistakes, but at least I’m aware of it…

              And then there was actually the thing that might have offended me most in MOR. I’m not sure if you were following it as it went, but toward the end of the finale, it seemed like he’d written himself into a corner and there wasn’t any way for Harry to get out of his situation alive (especially after all the lengths he’d gone to to build up Quirrell as the superior thinker etc). So he wrote this pretentious thing in his author’s notes, something like “THIS IS YOUR FINAL EXAM. Solve this scenario within the time limit I’ve given you. If nobody presents me with a valid solution then I’m writing a bad ending where Harry dies and Quirrellmort wins, etc, otherwise you’ll get the real ending I intended all along.” I distinctly remember the ‘final exam’ thing in all caps and the time limit, the rest I’m paraphrasing but is definitely what he said. It seemed pretty transparent to me, and moreover it seemed like he was blaming his readers for the story being shite (or looking for an excuse to do so). I don’t know whether someone gave him a solution he liked or he just relented, but the one he used ended up being contrived bullshit, didn’t fulfil any of the buildup he’d been putting into the Harry-Quirrell relationship/conflict/thing, and handed Quirrell the idiot ball long enough to let Harry win. I’d been growing increasingly disillusioned over the course of the story, but that was probably the moment that clinched for me that the whole thing was dishonest hacky bullshit and incapable of following through on what it set up earlier in the narrative. (I know, I know, blame me for taking too long but as I said I have or had a tendency to be sympathetic to the so-called rationalist movement. Yudkowksy himself was one of the main catalysts for my disillusionment.)




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            4. illhousen says:

              I’m also amused at your using the map/territory distinction to expose flaws in their thinking, because that’s a concept I learned from Yudkowsky and think might have originated with him or more generally on Less Wrong

              Nah, it’s a fairly old scientific principle born, I think, out of the need to reconcile the use of different models (most notably quantum mechanics vs classical physics) at the same time.

              It even bled into art, see the famous surrealist painting “This is not a pie” as an example.

              (That, incidently, is where I first encountered the concept.)

              I don’t remember the details of the genetics bit, but I’ll take your word for it

              He basically proposed that magic ability relies on a single recessive gene, which means that two wizards producing a child would always result in a wizard.

              There are ways to make something like this model work if you expand it, but Draco wouldn’t know about it.

              Or, I guess, he could be saying that squibs are a product of wizard/muggle marriages, but that rather directly contradicts canon, would be way too obvious for wizards not to notice and proves pureblood supremacists right, just not in a way they preach, which is really not a desirable thing.

              Personally, I’m not a big fan of genetic explanation for magic heritage, so I tend to mostly shrug at it. Seems like magic heritage follows old time explanations for inherited traits. “It’s in their blood,” things like that. Though it’s understandable why MOR specifically would want to go the genetics route.

              He wouldn’t be the first author to run afoul of “men are the default”

              I actually think that in this case, Yudkowsky is the default and any deviation is by definition inferior. He perceives women as vaguely different from him, so there must be something wrong with them.

              I’m not sure if you were following it as it went, but toward the end of the finale, it seemed like he’d written himself into a corner and there wasn’t any way for Harry to get out of his situation alive (especially after all the lengths he’d gone to to build up Quirrell as the superior thinker etc).

              I quit around Hermione’s fridging because I cannot take a story written on the level of SAO seriously, but I returned later for the readthrough, so I’m aware of the ending and the “exam.”

              For what it’s worth, it does appear that he did have an ending planned. Or at least I’ve heard that the ending chapter was posted two hours after the deadline for solutions submission.

              That said, the ending was definitely a cop-out.

              You most likely know the Evil Overlord List, a funny collection of advises against making common movie villain mistakes, like not just shooting the hero the first chance they get or putting the hero into an elaborate death trap and so on.

              The thing about the list is that while following it would make the villain much smarter than what you commonly see in movies, it would also make them and the story as a whole much more boring.

              Yes, it’s dumb to use an elaborate death trap when just shooting the hero is an option, but the hero escaping from said death trap is often one of the most memorable scenes of the movie.

              Yes, it’s dumb to just tell the hero all about your secret evil plan, but it’s a way to naturally work exposition into the narrative while allowing the characters to play off each other and make their conflict more personal.

              Yes, it’s dumb to summon a being you can’t control, but hey, someone is going to provide us a monster for the climatic fight.

              And so on.

              While some of the common mistakes are just lazy writing, a lot of them actually contribute to the narrative and make the story more enjoyable to experience.

              Now, rational!fics by their very nature reject that reasoning. The very concept of rational!fics demands that the characters behave, well, rationally, effectively and do what would most likely bring them victory rather than what would make for a better story.

              MOR actually takes quite a few potshots at HP for characters not behaving that way, for the plot trumping over the rational action.

              In this context, Quirrelmort behaving like he did is just inexcusable. Not only did he not just shoot Harry when he had a chance, opting instead to demand all secrets Harry possessed (and that despite the fact that he believed any of Harry’s actions, including revealing some crucial piece of information, may lead to the world destruction), he left Harry with his wand.

              The unbreakable oath, likewise, was way too broad, I feel, as it allowed Harry to act in potentially world-destroying ways as long as he wasn’t aware of it. I’d have Harry swear to live the rest of his life as a hermit in Siberia with zero contact with anyone, not doing any magic or science.

              That’s assuming I would even bother with the oath instead of, again, just shooting him.

              (Also, it would be so funny if the vow behaved like in canon and actually killed Harry in the epilogue when he got close to breaking it.)

              Now, “why didn’t he just shoot him” aside, the bigger problem with the ending lies in story structure and abysmal pacing.

              The author made a really weird decision to pack everything from the source material and then some into one year, which created a lot of problems with bloating, contrivances to bring in characters who have no reason being there, some plots being resolved off-screen and just talked about and unrealistic character development (like Snape revealing his past despite knowing Harry for only a few months at that point and having no reason to like him).

              One of the consequences is Quirrell’s character. He… doesn’t do a very good job of pretending to not be Voldemort. I mean, flowers literally wither and die in his presence, he projects an aura of doom, he openly advocates fascism, he gets a child beaten by older kids… the list goes on.

              Narratively, I understand why it was done (and, ironically, the reason is much the same as to why most movie villains don’t follow the Evil Overlord List): the author wanted Harry and Voldemort to engage with each other in philosophical debates, to have a clash of ideals, to connect on personal level in their similarities and differences.

              It’s a noble goal if not well executed, but Quirrell’s status of being undercover prevented full disclosure. There were parts of his character and story that Harry could not be allowed to discover until the very end, an important part of his ideals must have remained hidden from Harry.

              Now, if the story were paced more sanely, Harry would have learned Quirrell’s true identity at the end of the first year and proceeded to fight against him and learn more about him over the next few year, taking their sympathy and animosity into a new direction.

              As it is, however, Harry could only learn the true character of Quirrell at the end of the story and then it was curtains roll. As such, there was no way to make their confrontation anything but anticlimatic on emotional level.




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            5. illhousen says:

              *pipe, not pie. Typo.




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            6. mcbender says:

              Once again I’ve embarrassed myself, because I was aware of “ceci n’est pas une pipe” and so on, I just never connected it to map/territory terminology because I thought of that as a LW thing. I’ve definitely encountered the concept elsewhere under other terms. Looks like there’s a trend here: what they have that’s good isn’t original, and what’s original isn’t good. And on top of that the inability to correctly apply the principles they advocate.

              Anyway, on the genetics thing, I definitely think you’re right that Rowling treated it like “royal blood” etc, that doesn’t correspond to the way anything works in genetics, one of the reasons it always irritated me (fantasy fiction genetics drive me nuts). The other is that Rowling tends to write it as if it’s a dominant trait, but if it were it’s hard to explain it being so rare (and it makes squibs difficult to explain other than as something like a point mutation). Thinking about it now the closest I can come up with is something like it being polygenic, and getting two copies of a recessive allele on any given location would be what caused “squib-ness”, but needing some number of recessive traits to actually activate magic (so rare combinations could occur from otherwise non-magical people, creating “muggleborns”). So you’d need multiple alleles in quite a few places too. I think I could make it work with enough work, I might have to do that at some point. Anyway, yeah, the MOR model was way too simplistic and doesn’t fit the available data.

              LOL at Yudkowsky being the default, that’s entirely possible.

              You’re also forgetting that he literally had Quirrellmort claim in the story to have been the original author of the Evil Overlord List, so failing to be aware of it is even more egregious than you already mentioned.

              I take your point about boring stories – as TVTropes would say, “tropes are not bad” – but I don’t think I entirely agree. Some things I’m more okay with than others, as long as the author goes out of the way to justify it with characterisation or something (e.g. hubris, hubris is always a good one). People do make mistakes. (On the other hand I don’t think James Bond deathtraps are ever really excusable; that one always breaks suspension of disbelief for me. I don’t think everything on the list is created equal.)

              I agree about the pacing too, though at the same time I think some of the problem there was also related to the genre shift, bait and switch, whatever it was (I find it hard to believe the later parts of the story were at all in the plan when he started writing it, and if they had been the pacing could have been adjusted for that).




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            7. illhousen says:

              I take your point about boring stories – as TVTropes would say, “tropes are not bad” – but I don’t think I entirely agree.

              Oh, it’s fine. As I said, some of it is just lazy writing to which I do take offense, and different people have different level of tolerance to narrative conveniences.

              My point here is that, issues of execution aside, I get why regular writers do it. In MOR, however, having Voldemort behave like he did goes directly against the story’s paradigm, which is what makes it especially bad.

              I agree about the pacing too, though at the same time I think some of the problem there was also related to the genre shift, bait and switch, whatever it was (I find it hard to believe the later parts of the story were at all in the plan when he started writing it, and if they had been the pacing could have been adjusted for that).

              Well, it’s a part of the issue. A lot of fanfics are written without planning, and a lot of them have bloating problems (well, asuming they don’t just die at early stages) since there isn’t a particular reason for brevity from the perspective of a fanfic writer: no deadlines, no page limit, you can just write as long as you like, and some people do exactly that way beyond the point of sanity.

              However, the decision to confine all HP plots to one year was definitely deliberate, and I do think it contributes a lot to pacing problems. It restricts greatly what can be done with Quirrelmort’s character and it makes the main plot crawl at a snail’s pace because there are all those subplot the author wants to tackle before the end.

              I do think that writing MOR as a seven-years story would have fixed some of the issues (though, of course, not all) simply because the story would have more natural room to breathe and subplots would have been more spaced out compared to the main conflict.




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            8. mcbender says:

              Yeah, the one-year thing was definitely a big problem; it really surprised me when I first realised he was actually trying to do that. I don’t know what I originally expected the story to be, but I think at first I was expecting it to be a forever-incomplete serial after the initial setup (establishing its versions of the characters and getting Harry to Hogwarts, etc), having themed episodes about various scientific/logical principles etc. (I know, what naivete :P)

              It occurs to me, thinking about this, that I almost want to accuse Yudkowsky of “scientism”. I never much liked that term, because the way it’s so often used (as an accusation aimed at atheists by religious people) never really seemed to fit, but I think it might work here. The narrative admiration in the story is for the trappings of science and for some of the findings of science (some facts, some models), but outside of lip service it’s very bad at actually doing the iteration and reevaluation part. The impression it gives is that if you talk about science enough when expressing your opinions you magically become more correct (hmm, science as magic words, in a Harry Potter setting? That’s actually… there’s some kind of ironic meta there, if I can find it).




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            9. illhousen says:

              Normally I hate the idea of science as a religion as well and said as much when it came up in DF. In my opinion, science and religion aren’t equal or opposite or related at all. They’re perpendicular, so comparing the two demonstrates misunderstanding of one or another.

              Certainly, there are plenty of religious scientists (and back in the days of natural philosophy it was closely associated with religion since monks tended to be the most educated people around with enough time to preserve and espand our knowledge of the world). Likewise, you can worship Athe the Anti-God just fine without caring that much about science. He doesn’t care, which is kind of the point.

              Science is an empirical system of knowledge concerned with what we can observe about the world and what we can say about those observations. Ultimately, your beliefs just shouldn’t factor into it since it’s not about what you belief but what you know and what you can extrapolate from that knowledge.

              However, in MOR case… yeah, sciencism is probably an accurate accusation.

              Specifically, Harry basically builds a mystery cult with Draco. At first, it could be taken as an ironic thing: dressing anything in religious trappings (like Athe the Anti-God above) is inherently funny, and so Harry and Draco playing dress-up with robes and sinister atmosphere while Harry seriously talks about the secrets of blood and dreadful sacrifices of your beliefs and all that can be seen as a bit of harmless fun. Which it probably was intended as at the time.

              However, as things progress… that attitude never changes and just gets reinforced. The “dreadful sacrifice of one’s beliefs” is actually played completely seriously, complete with emotional turmoil and realization there is no going back, Harry never quite drops the act of a missionary preaching to the natives about great Scientific God, etc.

              Most prominently this attitude is present in the patronus scene and the following Azkaban arc. Harry’s fascination with stars actually does border on outright worship. He doesn’t seem to see them as the final frontier, a goal to strive for, but as something sacred.

              And then, of course, there is his summoning of “true” patronus, which demonstrates that merely thinking the right things, holding right beliefs gave him power to destroy creatures of darkness. As well as command them, as we see in the Azkaban arc.

              That is a pretty religious line of thinking: it doesn’t matter what you do or don’t do, faith in rationality will deliver you from harm.




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            10. Hope you don’t mind if I go down a rabbit trail a bit on the science/religion thing. I’ve been active in a few too many chat sections on Atheist Youtube channels, and both sides tend to drive me nuts.

              I think the cause of this argument is actually whether the lack of a God, commonly paired with evolution, is “science” or not. Christians will not think of either as science, because they believe there is no clear evidence. As such, to them it is a matter of faith, very similar to religions. Atheists on the other hand seem to see it as something proven, a well known fact and definately a part of science.

              After that, the Atheists who hold a special hatred for religion seem to think of it as some kind of anti-science. These are the people who claim religion is the root of all evil and the only way society can achieve some form of perfection is to leave behind evil regressive superstitions. While not calling science a religion, this thought process does pose the two as mutually exclusive.

              Part of it also might depend on what a person considers is a religion. I think usually people see it as a set of beliefs paired with certain traditions (Religious trappings? Kinda circular… There’s a better word somewhere.) However, a large number of people consider themselves Christians without setting particular importance on things like going to church and whatnot. They still consider themselves Christians and Christianity is a religion, so… maybe that helped lead to people thinking of religion more as a set of beliefs about the world? It would eplain how common it is for them to think of Atheism as a religion at least. Thoughts?




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            11. illhousen says:

              Yeah, I generally stay out of religious debates because they never end well.

              A big part of the issue here is that science is an empirical system of knowledge. It concerns itself with what we can observe and extrapolate from there. Evolution is definitely science because we can observe its effects and extrapolate them backwards in time. So far, all evidence points towards evolution being a thing. Existence of God or lack thereof is not really a scientific question in general on account of not passing Popper’s criteria: it makes no useful predictions that can be either validated or falcified, so the official scientific answer on such matters is “fuck if we know, don’t bother us, we still don’t have bear jetpacks.”

              (Though the existence of specific God or gods could be a subject of scientific scrutinity if their followers do make definite predictions on how the world would behave in presence or absense of God/gods. Apocalyptic cults with defined date for the end of the world, for example, do fall under the domain of science. They were all wrong so far, but that’s something that can be observed and checked.)

              Religion, by contrast, is a dogmatic knowledge system. Certain things are treated as truth without any evidence, and everything else is extrapolated from there.

              In large part, the conflict between atheists and religious people is defined by both sides treating the other as their own type of knowledge system and talking past each other.

              So, atheists say, “There is no evidence that God/gods/supernatural exists.”

              Religious people say, “I believe that God/gods/supernatural exists.”

              And then nobody gets anywhere because the two groups basically speak different languages (thanks, Babylon).

              My personal opinion is that evidence takes precendence over dogma, so religion should stay away from what we can observe. When it comes to intangible matters, though, you’re free to believe whatever as long as you don’t harm anyone by it.

              Many people use religion as a source of personal strength and comfort or as a bond between them and their families and communities, and I don’t think there is anything wrong with it. Just as long as it doesn’t obscure our vision of the world around us.




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            12. mcbender says:

              I think “science versus religion” is really a shorthand, on both sides, which ends up making it an easy argument to misconstrue (though I do think there’s deliberate equivocation at times too). I would put the distinction more accurately as reality-based epistemology (which includes the scientific method and empirical reasoning, but also requires philosophy, epistemology, etc, and a lot of people discount the importance of philosophy) versus superstition and the idea of received knowledge, but then I’m sure just from reading my summary you can tell I’m an atheist who doesn’t think much of religion. I tend to agree with Greta Christina (e.g. here http://www.alternet.org/story/143912/the_top_one_reason_religion_is_harmful ) that there’s something inherently dangerous to beliefs wholly unconnected to reality.

              That said… you’ll notice that’s specifically about the claims of religion. It doesn’t actually have anything to do with religious practice (which, while not exactly my thing, I don’t think is inherently awful). I have a lot of respect for e.g. Unitarian Universalists, the Ethical Culture Society, the secular strains of Judaism, Quakerism, things like that. There’s a lot of potential benefit we can find in community and ritual and storytelling and so on, and if we can eventually divorce that from the parts that aren’t reality-based so much the better; more than just being harmless there are actual benefits to be found for a lot of people (though not necessarily all; I’m also sympathetic to those atheists who say it does nothing for them and it’s important to emphasise we don’t want to make these things mandatory).

              So I think that distinction gets lost and is probably an important one to maintain. I don’t think I’m arguing for “non-overlapping magisteria” so much as for more careful use of terminology.

              I’ve been fascinated by a discussion going on recently at the Patheos Atheist/Nonreligious channel which began with this post by Martin Hughes on no longer calling himself anti-theist http://www.patheos.com/blogs/barrierbreaker/im-not-anti-theist-anymore-heres/ and various responses it’s garnered (e.g. this one by Adam Lee http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism/2017/01/thoughts-anti-theism/ and a few posts from Alex Gabriel here http://the-orbit.net/godlessness/2017/01/03/need-talk-talk-religion/ ). I don’t know precisely where I stand on this issue myself, but especially after watching much of the atheist community descend into assholery since 2011, I’m more comfortable identifying as a humanist than atheist/antitheist despite still feeling those labels accurately describe me.

              That’s my position on this, anyway.




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            13. Hoping you can shed some light on something for me. Recently I saw an agnostic and atheist arguing over definitions of the labels they gave themselves. The agnostic was claiming that agnosticism was the belief that the existence of a higher power was unknown, while atheism  was the denial of an existence of a higher power. The atheist argued that atheism did not outright deny the existence of a higher power, but saw no evidence for it. Which is the case? If the atheist were correct, what’s the difference between atheism and agnosticism?

              Also, on the subject of evolution, I think that illhousen’s comment just strengthens my own thoughts. Atheists hold it as science, for the reasons you pointed out. But Creationists would not, attempting to make the distinction between micro and macro evolution. If restricted to the idea of macro evolution it becomes much more difficult to validify predictions. We simply don’t have the time.

              In the end though, your dead on, with both starting out from different view points. A real pity though. While not terribly common, differences in things like morals sure are decisive.




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            14. Muphrid says:
              I’m jumping back into this thread some days removed. As it so happens, when I’m not writing fanfiction that Yudkowsky happens to review or advocating for Act to play Katawa Shoujo, I am a theoretical physicist, so I might be qualified to look into any questionable descriptions of physics and offer an opinion.

              As far as science versus religion go, I think I broadly agree with Illhousen’s opinion on the matter. Science is concerned with forming ideas about the world from evidence and experiment and testing those ideas through future predictions.  I’d say stuff like the existence of God is squarely out of scope. What experiment tests for the existence of God?

              However, I think there’s a difference to be understood between the idea of science and how we as human beings practice it.  No one person can conduct all the experiments needed to understand every facet of science. At some point, we’re forced to rely on others to build theory, and I think part of the skepticism shown toward evolution or global warming boils down to still having that as an out–it’s hard to argue against the basic idea of science; it’s a tiny bit easier to argue that you don’t trust people’s practice of it.




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            15. Act says:

              I was actually having a conversation yesterday with Mr. Act about how loud antiscience people have gotten, and we were talking about whether the post-2000 upturn in things like antivaxxers, homeopathy and people avoiding “toxins” represents a significant upturn in antiscience attitude. It certainly feels that way, but it’s hard to separate confirmation bias from how things actually were.




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            16. mcbender says:

              @ChildishPerspective:
              The way I understand it is that the gnostic/agnostic distinction is about knowledge, while atheism addresses belief (though really it’s not a strict dichotomy between atheism and theism, you have deism in there as well and theistic belief is a huge spectrum). So to be agnostic is “I don’t have knowledge that a god or gods exist” and to be atheist is “I don’t have a belief that a god or gods exist”. (Some people also distinguish between forms of atheism that “lack belief in a god or gods” and forms that actively “believe there are no gods” but I think that largely comes down to semantics and framing.) Strictly speaking, (a)gnosticism and (a)theism are two separate axes and your positions on either can be independent of the other, e.g. agnostic atheist is not a contradiction, but you could also have a gnostic theist or agnostic theist.

              There is also what I would call the “strong agnostic” position, which argues that the question of existence of god/gods is inherently unknowable. These are the people who tend to identify as “agnostic” in my experience.

              “No fossil rabbits will be found in Precambrian rock strata” (as J.B.S. Haldane memorably pointed out) is a falsifiable prediction; you can make predictions about the past. The micro/macro evolution distinction was invented by creationists and has no basis in reality, macro-evolution is just what you get when micro-evolution builds up over long enough periods of time.

              @Muphrid:
              I’m not going to encourage you to read Yudkowsky’s writing, nor do I have any particular desire to go searching for his articles about physics. But thank you for your (offered) sacrifice nonetheless.

              I don’t know offhand what experiments could test for the existence of gods or supernatural phenomena, but theoretically if such things existed, that existence would have effects on reality. It doesn’t seem incoherent to me to tease out the differences between a universe with a god and one without one, and if those distinctions exist we can test for them.

              If that isn’t possible, and a universe with a god is identical to a universe without, then what use is god and why do we care if it exists?

              (My position on most god/supernatural claims is actually that they’re too incoherent and contradictory to even reach the level of testability, actually. To the extent that religions and psychics etc have made testable claims, those have been falsified.)

              @Act
              I wonder about that a lot too. There are probably a lot of confounding variables though, if anything I think it’s more likely to be a side-effect of the internet allowing people to more easily find people who agree with them and create echo chambers of crackpottery. The bullshit is getting louder and more emphatic, but I don’t know how to separate that from its prevalence.




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      2. Act says:

        If stuff gets caught in spam just shoot me an email. We have a ravenous spam filter, but once I approve an IP/email combo once or twice it’s generally fine.




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        1. mcbender says:

          I think it’s my fault for continuing to balk at registering an account and continuing to comment as a guest. Which shouldn’t be a problem any more, since I gave in.




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          1. After I registered my account I started recieving phone calls from businesses where I used to live, apparently thinking that I owned my own business in CA. First I thought it was due to my account here since it was the only place I’d recently put my phone number. I’m beginning to think it was unrelated though, perhaps someone with a similar number.




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            1. Act says:

              !!! There’s no phone number prompt on our reg page. Username, email, display name, and password.




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            2. Thanks for clarifying. Guess that confirms it wasn’t the site. Maybe I didn’t remember correctly.

              Think there was something about businesses I saw when I registered, possibly about using the site for that purpose. Probably how my mind made the connection. Anyhow, have a new number now and yet to receive a miscall.




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  31. illhousen says:

    Relevant to your interests: Oneshot now has an enhanced version available on Steam.




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  32. Doortothe says:
    This is a recommendation that’s coming from an unexpected place, but that’s also part of why I think it’s a look: Brave Frontier. Brave Frontier is a mobile free-to-play RPG with a good story. Period. No qualifiers.

    The writer for that game understands how to write an interesting story. The characters are archetypical but talk to each other like real people–as opposed to having the same cliche conversations we’ve seen a dozen times before.

    The game was designed gameplay first with the story as an afterthought, yet the writer manages to make a story that progresses in sync with the gameplay. The plot of the first few areas can be easily summarized with, “go to this place and defeat the person there” but it really picks up once you meet the other characters.

    Brave Frontier’s characters don’t spend a ton of time praising the main character, you, over and over. They congratulate you when you do your job and that’s it. You’re just a person who’s really good at their job.

    And then there are the Grand Quests. Brave Frontier has special quests where you make multiple squads and the story of the Grand Quest can change depending on how you play it–requiring multiple runs to get all the rewards and see the divergent paths. The first GQ does an excellent job at selling the potential of this idea.

    Brave Frontier also has Raids, which are designed to be fought with multiple people (but most of them can be easily soloed due to BF’s disgusting power creep). BF has multiple Raid storylines too. I’m really loving the newest storyline that just came out recently. It’s so fun.

    As I mentioned earlier, BF has disgusting power creep as a result of three years of new units with longer and longer skill descriptions. So all you have to do is summon a few times and you’ll have units that will be able to take you through 90% of the story with ease. Plus during the first half of the month, you get double XP from story missions so leveling up will be a breeze. This’ll let you get through the story even faster if you want to see it all before getting too sucked into the gacha gambling.

    I really like BF’s writing. I was talking with a friend about it the other day, and I realized: I was gushing. I rarely gush about anything. There were only three things I’ve ever gushed about: Xenoblade Chronicles 1, Fate/Stay Night, and the Trails series.

    Now I can add a fourth thing to that list: Brave Frontier




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