A Game in a Scarlet Forest

It was ‘red tea,’ of course. That girl had likely brought it all the way out here from the manor. She had never liked being around it, and tonight of all nights, the thought that this could have been, could still very well end up being him… She wanted to cry, to hurl the cup, to do anything, but sit here, still, politely pretending to drink it and make small talk with this girl and her teddy bear.

But, Youmu did exactly that, because if she did not, he could still very well become that next pot. This she could not, would not allow.

“… friend new? I don’t think I’ve seen him? but I really don’t get to play with many people. He seemed sweet,” Flandre continued, offering tea to her bear.

She needed to deflect this line of thought now.

“Oh? Well, I don’t know. Say, what brings you out here. It is a long way from the manor,” she asked in smooth tones.

“Oh! I was out looking for someone to play with when the blue judge lady said I might find someone here. And I found you two! But you’re the only one who would play with me.” She thrust a lip out the first warm ups of a mighty pout.

It was a strange sensation. Like floating, or finding the earth itself had dropped out from under her. Carefully, very carefully, she put the tea cup back in its saucer, and the saucer and cup on the ground. Breathe. Just breathe. “Oh? She did? Perhaps you should ask her to play next time you see her.”

“Oh? You think so? That sounds fun.” Yama Shiki had set Flandre on them! How dare she? What gave her, even a Yama the right? She wanted to weep, or scream, she wasn’t sure which. Both? But she just smiled politely and nodded.

“Miss Flandre, your tea party has been very nice, but I am afraid I do need to go now. You be good for Remilia now, ok?” Youmu started to rise, take her leave before her host could protest.

“Aaww. Could you at least try my danmaku before you go? I’ve been working very hard on it.” Damn. There were rules now, duels very pointedly not to the death. No one was sure if Flandre even understood the concept of rules, much less, could follow them. “They say I play too rough. Maybe more people would play with me, if I went easier?”

Youmu actually blinked. Flandre holding anything back was… not worth testing if at all possible. “I really am sorry, but I really must go. I’m terribly sorry.”

“Oh. Well, maybe your friend could play instead?” Dammit.

“Well, maybe just one, ok?”

“Weeee!” Flandre went skipping into a cove of trees. Running isn’t honorable, is it? “Come on Youmu! this is perfect!” Isn’t possible, anyway, is it.

The cove had a natural clearing, possibly where some great tree of the past had spread its shadow then passed without successor. Moonlight filled the natural ring, and a dense short grass provided solid footing. She unhooked her Roukanken, the High Building Sword, from her back. Her Plain Building wakizashi, Hakurouken, would stay for now. Using just Roukanken, sheathed, was a risk, but a calculated one. If she could keep her to simply sparing, just the duel, there was a chance, there was hope. If she thought she could get away with Hakurouken alone, it would be better still, but she wanted that extra reach, quickly, if things went wrong.

They met in the circle at the appropriate distance, and bowed. The samurai girl presented the High Building, the child vampire, her Laevateinn, the crooked spear.

Youmu braced.

Flandre invoked the duel.

A single, solitary bead of light popped forth. It drifted lazily across the field, to fizzle itself out in the grass, feet away from her. I am not going to laugh. Laughing would be bad right now. Very bad right now.

“I held back really good? Didn’t I? See people can play with me now! Right?”

“Ah, yes you did hold back very well Flandre. But usually danmaku are more… curtain like.” She knew that was a mistake before the words were even fully out of her mouth.

“Oh I can do that!” Flandre invoked the duel. To late.

This one was a proper danmaku. She was sweeping the area with interfering waves. Very clever. The gaps were there, but not quite enough for her to slip through without a judicious strikes from Roukanken to widen the way. Methodically, she worked her way inwards, until, finally, her strike reached past Laevateinn, to tap Flandre on the nose. The danmaku was broken.

“Very good Miss Flandre. That was a good danmaku for play. I congratulate you on it, and may you develop it well.” Youmu had begun a bow in respect when, “Oh I can do better!” Flandre invoked the duel. Wait, that shouldn’t happen! was all that had time to flash through her mind before the bolts began to fall. Harder, faster, denser. She danced through the waves, finding or making paths as she could. Again, she broke the danmaku. Again, the duel was invoked without consent. She called out to Flandre. No response. Again, she broke the danmaku. Again the duel was invoked. This was wrong. This should not happen!

It was not until the first graze dragged a burning trail across her shoulder that she realized something else was wrong. These were not the proper “scoring bullets” of a correct duel; stinging, yes, but not truly lethal. These were death.

This had gone to far. It needed to end, now. Hakurouken had joined Roukanken as she carved her way into the wall of death. This was wrong. Duels were supposed to end, not repeat without end until one or the other collapsed from sheer exhaustion. She punched a path through the wave, more force than finesse. They were supposed to be mutual, affairs of honor and pride, not whaling on each other until someone breaks! She misjudged the next wave, and took a bad burn for her mistake, but she was through.

“Flandre!” Wave, poor timing. She rolled over it and was past.

“Stop!” Hakurouken, high block, entangle Laevateinn. Add force to break balance.

“This!” Roukanken, low under the tangled spear. Reverse strike. Use reach to hook feet. Topple.

“Now!” Laevateinn, hurl free. Hakurouken, modify blow, next to head, not head.

Flandre toppled to the ground, arms wide, the tip of Hakurouken’s scabbard digging into the dirt inches from her ear, Roukanken, high, ready to fall upon her like its namesake. Had this been a real battle, she would have had her legs cut from under her. This duel was over. She had to understand that, right?

But as Youmu stared into Flandre’s eyes, all she saw was madness.

The shockwave hurled her tumbling across the clearing. It was all she could do to catch enough footing to right herself in time the deflect the lance of fire crashing down on her, steel flashing in the moonlight. It was too late. She saw Flandre reach out and gather the ‘eye’. Her heart stopped. This was her true awful, the power to destroy, at will, as whim, whatever she chose. Will I see Hakugyokurou again after I have been judged? Will he be there? Flandre crushed the ‘eye’. A tree behind Youmu shattered with a sound like thunder, but the splinters showering her back felt welcome as spring rain. She charged into the wall of fire. The creature she now fought still thought this was a game!

Shards howled through the air like enraged hornets. Falling leaves and danmaku blended, as fire rained from the heavens. She flowed between the falling trees, her foe’s madness providing cover from their rage. Fiery lances arced through the maelstrom, carving limbs, whole tops, from trees just as her blades carved them away from her, as she cut her way towards the heart, an ever tightening maze of death. The forest fell, broken and burning, only to rise again, and fall again, shattered into the maw of destruction. Still, she could not stop, would not be stopped. Shard and fire tore her beyond counting. It did not matter. Nothing mattered, save stopping this monster before it was set loose on the one she loved.

She was close, oh so tantalizingly close, long days of sun and idle conversation on the other side of the nightmare, but it was not to be. She had seen the pattern even before it closed, but had not, quite, been able to break it. It had been driven her up a falling trunk, shocked skywards. Danger, she knew. Yet, even as she sought safe footing, it shattered beneath her. For a brief, agonizing moments she hung, trapped by something as insubstantial as air. In mere moments more gravity would have brought her back to footing, but those moments were not to be. The lances of flame had found her. By reflex she blocked them, such that instead of impaling her, burning her to nothing, they, merely, turned her into a meteor shot earthward. Her world shattered.

The world hummed like shards of broken glass. Stars, parts of stars danced in the cloudless night sky. Roukanken and Hakurouken were gone. Where had they been? It did not matter now. That thing of death and hunger would do what it was going to do, what she didn’t want it to do. She wanted to shiver. She could not.

She looked at the figure, no figures… had? But she was? Was from the house? She knew her? It was not important. She would take the thing back, close it up. It was over. She had won. What did his face looked like, she wondered? Then for a time, she wondered no more.

* * *

Like pretty much everything I write, this was mostly inspired by music. In rough order:

Plot Bunny: Inverse AMV

So I know an AMV is when an Anime is turned into a Music video, against a western song. So what is it called when one take a western machinima and sets it to a song from Japan?

Base song is this one:

Yes, the theme is every bit as dark as the slide the poster put the song to.

Proposed Choreography for video. Machinima engine is DCS: Heatblur F-14: https://youtu.be/P_FCuMAl8oA

Opening scene: (0:00 to 0:20) bedroom, soft cartoon style. Camera sees top of crib. with slowly rotating mobile over it. Dogtags are hanging off of them.

0:20: (First “ha!”) Cut to dawn carrier deck in the rain. Scene focus is F-14 taxiing towards front of carrier.

0:24: (Second “ha!”) Fast forward to wheel lock on catapult, nose drop

0:27 (Third Ha!) cut to afterburner lighting

0:30 (Fourth ha!) Time with Catapult shot

0:30 to 0:57 (Lyrics: “When I sleep… I’m resurrected”) Panoramic view of F-14 climbing to station keeping altitude, world brightening at the sun rises

0:58 (Lyrics: It Thunders…) View of large force of enemy aircraft come in

1:11-1:22 (Lyrics: Long nails/life fills my lungs) View of F-14 from the front underside: it has started climbing, the wings are sweeping back, and afterburner jets can be seen.

1:22 – 1:33 (Lyrics: I won’t leave anything behind…) View of Rio’s radar display. Large number of green pips on it. The pipper is going through them, marking them up.

1:33 (Lyrics: I’m only certain…) Return to external view, of F-14 from front lower quarter. Wings are fully back

1:46 (Lyrics: One day, on uncertain day…) Phoenix missile begin dropping off of the center section, four missiles one about every few seconds

1:57 – 2:07: (Lyrics: My personal goals are random…) Swirling dogfight: F-14 lobs a missile at a fighter, then (2:04) pulls hard right to notch an incoming, rolls nose down, to split S:

2:07 (Lyrics: Only to be able to die over again, on the “ni”) F-14 takes missile dead center and breaks up

2:10: (Start of heavy music) Jump cut to back on the carrier deck, same launch as before, but daylight.

2:10 – 2:22 (No lyrics) Catapult launch and climbout

2:22 (Lyrics: Patter rap) Cut to dogfight: Merge between fighters, tear past eachother

2:30 (Lyrics: ) Cut to F-14 destroyed by gun fire, return to carrier deck and launch, then merge

2:36-2:40 (Lyrics: whispers) F-14 falling from the sky, one or both wings on fire

2:40-3:05 (Lyrics: heavy music) Montage of destruction. Scenes cycle on about one every whole beat. Repeated catapult shots, missile impacts. F-14 killed by guns, one mid-air collision.

3:05-3:15 (Lyrics: pause in you are even more…) Overhead forward Quarter view: Burning F-14 descending as the pitch climbs. ditches in the water at ~3:13/3:14

3:15 (Lyrics: Looking up to the crimson…) F-14 on the catapult, daylight. View of engines with control wipeout. The burners light and it launches: catapult shot

3:23 (Lyrics: … yes by someone) Echo repeat of the climbing to altitude vista from first flight

3:30 (Lyrics: …only kind person) View of the RIO’s radar screen. Same enemy blips as before. the pipper is quickly moving through them putting lock bugs on them.

3:38 (Lyrics: One day, one uncertain day) Rapid missile launch, 6 Phoenix missiles launched 1 second between each

3:45 (Lyrics: I’ll be resurrected then…) perspective from behind F-14, launched one, then two smaller smoky missiles at closing fighters. Two go down.

3:51 (Lyrics: My personal goals are random… ) Quick guns pass during close on remaining two, then high break flares and chaff.

3:51 (Lyrics: Only to be able to die over again) Rolls in on last fighter, short scissor’s fight, then guns kill at 4:02 (on the again/ tame ni)

4:02 (Lyrics: A poem abut a puppet… ) Line is seen in the sky, descending towards the carrier

4:04: (Lyrics: drops on end of “misomerareta”) F-14 drops tanks and goes to full burner pointing towards the carrier

4:04-4:19 (Lyrics: “death at first sight” through “dreaming as light as napping”) Close in over the shoulder view of the F-14, showing the wings sweeping all the way back

4:20 (Lyrics: on start of “It’s soul is being enlarged”) pull back to behind the F-14. Burner jets are steaming out behind it. The canopy flies away

4:24: (Lyrics: on end of “It’s soul is being enlarged” ) The rear seat ejects. (ejection is during extended hold of “‘shii”) Camera stays with the ejected RIO as the F-14 vanishes into the distance.

4:24-4:40 (Heavy music) stays with tumbling RIO, camera looking towards the descending line and vanished aircraft, Chute opens and they stabilize .

4:41 (No lyrics: time with thunderclap) The line breaks into three jagged trails, no longer heading towards the carrier.

Now that that plot bunny is put to bed, tomorrow’s back onto the game. Ran into a show-stopper problem I wasn’t able to fix in Unity, so downloaded and installed Unreal Engine, and will try it there. Basically, the new Unity controller input engine would not ready any of my input devices, and I wasn’t able to find any way to get it to do anything. Tried the forums too, but got no response, so either it was blindingly obvious, and I just wasn’t seeing it, or it was so baffling that no comments were forthcoming.

But first, video card drivers downgrade time. nVidia GeForce driver version 471.11 has a bad habit of BSODing my PC when I wake it from sleep. Apparently, periodic BSOD’s are a known problem with that driver. Yay!

Scene: High Score

Setting is: Buster range. It has seen better days. Lighting is poor.

Context: X has just beaten Axl’s time on the course. X has turned away from the station, facing the camera.

X: That was a good time Axl

Axl: Heck yeah it was!

Scene shift. Buster range is cleaner, better lit.

Axl: Better than Zero even!

Camera pans: Behind X is Axl at the station, camera pans to bring Zero into frame. He is leaning against one of the pillars.

Zero: You’re sloppy. Look at your miss rate.

Axl: Still gottem, faster than you did, y’old fogey.

Zero: True, but in the field we can’t afford stay fire just going where ever. Zero: Now again. And tighten up those groups.

Axl: Pbbth! Sore loser. Now watch me beat your time, and your hit rate!

X: … Those two were always going at it like that. <smile> I think he was already looking for someone to replace him, a successor. I guess I didn’t see it until it was to late.

X walks away.

The scene is the dim, run down buster range from the opening. No-one else is there. End scene.

Analysis

Looking at the way I’m playing Doom 2016 with Gyro controllers, I’m noticing that when under pressure, I’m still sidestepping to line up shots. The implication is that the gyro tutorials need to have setups to accustom the player to tilting to aim, rather than relying so much on the thumbstick movement. Possibly a shooting gallery style training mode?

Tutorials for this thing are going to be very important the get right. On the one hand, it’s a new control system, so most players are going to need some sort of on-ramp to it to have the most fun. On the other hand, the system needs to respect the player’s autonomy. Endless tutorials, especially once you have mastered the controls, are just annoying. Plus, the tutorials should be fun, and in the best case, feel connected to the world the characters are in.

I think for the fan-game project, many of the tutorials could be justified as training and training refreshers for the Maverick Hunters, especially, given X has been out of the force for an extended period of time. I’m thinking there would be various tiers of gunnery and tactical training. The operators would poke X about doing it. There are a couple of ways that I could see it. The first being that they’re suggesting it because he’s been away so long that a refresher would be useful, but I’m also thinking they’re curious about how X performs. They’ve seen the tapes, and heard the stories, but never seen the original in action; they’re just to young to have been operators during the original Maverick Wars.

The scores are against various Maverick Hunter ranks, with X’s old scores being only B rank, Axl’s A rank, and Zero holding the records for most categories, save for a few combat where he was tied with Axl, and a few mobility where he is tied with X.

Beating each of the named times brings back memories from when they were all together. Beating the lower ranks, or failing, brings commentary from the operators.

Thoughts on the memory cut-scenes. I’m thinking the player would get the highest tier memory they’ve unlocked from a run, and the next run would unlock the lower ones. They should not be chronological, more character driven, so if a player gets a lucky run, they should still get the higher ranked memory, rather than having to be a peak performance several times to get them multiple times. This should also unlock the memories, and the operator’s commentary in a player movie viewer. Basically, never require the player to perform poorly toe get the incidentals. And, if they gold star it on their first run, don’t require them to do the same thing dozens of times over: the objective is to encourage them to get good, not penalize them for it.

Goal, Paths and Motivations

Playing Doom 2016 using gyro controls has been illuminating.

The first layer has been the required controls. Because it is a push type control, you need a dedicated button for repositioning. That introduces some issues of where to put it, but those I’ll focus on later.

From a new player perspective, though, this isn’t something that is immediately obvious, like lifting a mouse may be, so it needs to be taught, somehow, or the player will be wandering around more than a little lost. I had to look up why I kept ending up out of center to find out about it, and I’m actively digging into the system, so an excellent tutorial is a requirement.

The second thing is, I’m not very good at it. The capabilities are there, and are as advertised. This lets you get mouse level accuracy with a gamepad. But, the motion is just different, and different enough that I’m defaulting to lining up shots by sidestepping rather than aiming in high intensity situations. Not so good. But the potential is there. It’s just going to take time to realize it.

The third thing is, I’m just not having very much fun in Doom 2016. I think that is a combination of factors. the first is, I wasn’t all that interested in it when it came out. The mechanics are good, but it just never hooked me. The second is, because I’m not that great with the controls yet, there’s a mismatch between the games themes and the player capabilities. Thematically, the Doom Marine is this absolute unstoppable engine of destruction. In game, I’m face tanking stuff and getting through through a combination of F5 Jedi quick-save and farming zombies for health. It doesn’t feel awesome.

So thematically, a player’s first gyro game needs to have the room for them to grow from bumbling to master. It can’t assume that most players starting it will be legendary gyro controller players.

I’m not sure if I want to continue with and finish Doom 2016, or switch voer the Titanfall 2 and see how that plays instead.

The Gyro issue

Continuing to try and get gyro controls working correctly in my system, and it still has not been fully working.

There are two problems: I can’t get enough horizontal movement to cover the screen. And, after a while, the vertical axis drifts to one extreme or the other. Clearly, need to sort both of those out.

Might be interesting to look into VR, but that’s going to add a whole new layer of issues to resolve, and require me to get new gear for my system, and I’m not sure what I’m looking for even existed, so we’ll see.

Step by step: Switch Pro controller connectivity

So tonight was troubleshooting controllers. What I found was that DS4Windows inhibited using the Switch controller when it was active, but things worked when it was off.

However, after connecting my DS4 controller into the mix, things stopped working until after a reboot.

I also found, after a session of gaming that the Switch controller started having spurious thumbstick inputs, which was what prompted the attempt to switch to the DS4 gamepad.

For tomorrow, I’ll try the same overall steps with the DS4 controller, again, after a fresh reboot, and see if it is an issue specifically with the DS4, or if it is an issue of them in combination.