mark_asphodel: Sage King Leaf (Default)
So, last weekend I spoke at a local sci-fi con (about actual science) and attended some of the workshops before vegging out in the anime room and watching Bodacious Space Pirates.  One workshop I attended was simply called "Combat for Writers," whose appeal to me should be obvious.  Trained martial artists (Western, mostly) acted out various scenarios so we scribbly types could see things play out in 3D.  Pretty cool. One attendee wanted to know how an unarmed "street thug" or two would fare against any random person with a sword and moderate training.  In the opinion of the workshop leader, it was an easy answer.  Your stereotypical low-level thugs, he said, operate on the following principles:

1) They work in gangs to outnumber their victims
2) They don't expect anyone to actually put up a fight

It's not about actual combat, it's about numbers and terror.  They're bullies punching down.  A decently skilled sword user walking into a street tough scenario with the intent of giving them a fight has everything on his/her side.

That got me to thinking about the oh-so tiresome opening chapters to most FE games, which tend to consist of BANDITS!  and MORE BANDITS! and DIFFERENT BANDITS!!! (apologies to [personal profile] hooves ).  But even given FE's bandit/pirate/brigand thugs are armed with shitty axes, having them as your opening opponents really is ideal to ease the player and cast into the game.  Your OP crutch character (Seth, Evayle) can dispatch a BANDIT without breaking a sweat.  Your moderately experienced characters (Christmas Cavs, someone like Chrom or Sigurd) can take on bandits and triumph without much trouble.  And these unskilled bullies are ideal as a whetstone for your genuine nooblets like Eirika and some of the random kids you get in opening chapters (baby cavs, baby archers, baby peg knights).  Sure, your lordling might get killed in Chapter One (Leif, I am glaring at you), but overall your playable cast should fare well against no-name loser thugs who are used to pissing on unarmed civilians. They're punching back, even if some of them are punching up.

I think pondering this helped give me clarity on why the H5/Lunatic modes of the DS/3DS era feel so unfair and un-fun to me.  Why are these damn no-name bandits so ungodly hard that even someone like Jeigan or Frederick can't take them down in one hit?  Actually, even FE11's H5 I can kind of understand, since these particular pirates have overtaken an entire country.  But those stupid bandits in FE13's opening chapter?  Having them be anything other than a cakewalk for even a fraction of the Shepherds pits storyline sense against gameplay mechanics in a way that just doesn't sit right with me.  

IDK.  There's got to be some ideal "this is hard as hell but fun" balance that takes the good stat-based parts of FE11's H5 and the good bullshitty parts of
Thracia 776. Right?
mark_asphodel: Sage King Leaf (Default)
I never much liked Celtic myth, despite being 1/4 Irish and having it shoved at me periodically as part of my heritage. My mother, who had everything from The Golden Bough to Hermes Trismegistus on the bookshelf in her bedroom, didn't much care for it either. I recall one conversation we had when I was about 13 or 14 wherein we agreed that Celtic myth was basically about beating people up-- the more people you beat up, the bigger a hero you were. I was far more interested in myths that praised wit and cunning-- the exploits of Theseus and Odysseus, Raven, Anansi, Daniel and Joseph from the Old Testament. Even famous Celtic stories that involved trickery, like the one where Fionn mac Cumhaill decides to fuck with Cuchulainn to get out of fighting him, didn't seem especially clever or admirable. I mean, Cuchulainn's dumb as a rock anyway, so fooling him isn't much work. Also, biting someone's finger off is a pretty nasty trick, but if your magical powers are stored in your middle finger I guess it's a valid target.

I think the other thing I didn't like is I didn't understand how justice worked in these stories. It didn't seem to, really. With characters like Odysseus and Joseph, there was an actual payoff in their exploits. Live right, honor the gods, outwit your enemies, persevere during your hardships, and you get rewarded in land, women, sons, renown, etc. Sure, things often fall apart a generation or two down the line (or in the case of Theseus, in his own lifetime) but there seemed to be an actual, you know, life lesson involved her. Teacheable moments and (mostly) happy endings.

A petrified brain in a slingshot )
mark_asphodel: Sage King Leaf (Default)
Just to get these thoughts down in one place...

I don't know about y'all but I found little things about the way female characters were handled to be a very off-putting thing in FE13. I didn't like a lot of the Big Things in FE13 either but small disparities really got under my skin. At this point, the high-water mark for the franchise treatment of female characters looks to be Tellius, but it's worth examining the baby steps-- both forward and backward-- it took to get to that level, or even to FE6's level of female empowerment.

Spoilers for FE1-FE10 )
mark_asphodel: Sage King Leaf (Default)
Why not?  The more I write the more I have to think about it.

Jugdral, like most FE worlds, appears to be strictly Northern Hemisphere, possibly at the latitude of Europe considering the snow-covered state of Silesse. Silesse could, however simply be at a very high elevation which allows for the whole continent to be closer to the equator. It really does look like Fake Europe tipped at an angle the way that Archanea/Valentia[*] look like Fake Eurasia and Fake Americas.  Orgahill would be Great Britain, Agustria is France and Verdane Spain, Grannvale is Germany and Miletos Italy, Northern Thracia is the Balkans and Southern Thracia Greece, while the Yied is Poland, Isaac is Ukraine/European Russia, and Silesse is Scandinavia.

But my headcanon doesn't entirely play that way.  My headcanon also says that a warm ocean current akin to the Gulf Stream keeps Western Jugdral much warmer than eastern nations at the same latitude-- so, Northern Thracia and Southern Agustria aren't in the same climate zone, and Souther Thracia is far less warm than the south of Verdane.  Silesse meanwhile takes the full brunt of a cold airstream that glances off Isaach.

My headcanon also doesn't bother mandating a distinction between Old World Food and New World Food like I do with Archanea/Valentia.

* I refuse to call them Ylisse and Valm.

fooooooooood )

So, where does the coffee grow?  We have to have coffee.  Originally I thought coffee might grow in Isaach because hey, "exotic" peoples at the edge of the desert, but the latitude looks aaaaaall wrong. 
mark_asphodel: Sage King Leaf (Default)
So after a fairly shitty week at work-- couple of weeks, really-- I came home to something that genuinely brightened my day.

Meet my new writing desk mascot )

Thanks so much, [personal profile] kyusil !  :D
mark_asphodel: Sage King Leaf (Default)
So. Jugdral pairings.

Actually I wasn't looking at pairings, I was looking at who tagged their pairings, either via A X B or an AB mushed-up name, which is kind of the J!fandom FE equivalent of the cutesy names you see in, IDK, Golden Sun or Pokemon or Harry Potter fandoms.

The thing is, it quickly became clear most fen on Pixiv don't do that (though it seems to be a LOT more common with individual shrines/blogs/archives). For instance, the monstrously popular matchup of Ulster/Julia has all of three tagged entries on Pixiv.

Overall, it seems to be more of an identifying tag within a subgroup, if that makes any sense? A "here be yaoi" kind of thing for, say, "Ced X Arthur" (4 entries) or a way of communicating who you're sticking with some highly popular female character (Tinny, Ayra, Raquesis).

TL;DR-- only a small percentage of shippers for any given Jugdral pairing seem to do the name-combination thing or any kind of pairing tag, and the shippers that use it more often are IMO kind of promoting a "brand identity" that may be a hangover of old, contentious shipping wars.  Then again, the Seliph/Julia shippers, who know they're being naughty, don't tag.

Also... some names maybe don't sound good together? Some tags are definitely catchier than others.  But overall it's not so much a metric of what pairings are popular as which shippers are in-your-face about it, I think. 

Stats under the cut for those who want a fairly meaningless data set. )

The other thing I learned is that everyone gets shipped with Tinny. Everyone.  Still, I couldn't seem to find an ArthurTinny tag that equates to the UlsterLarcei one, though, despite that being a highly popular subject.

Also, Lex/Tiltyu seems really, really UNpopular in J!fandom, at least as Pixiv goes.  I looked through the whole Tiltyu tag and I don't think I saw anything that struck me as bonafide Lex/Tiltyu-- just a couple of OT3s with Azel.  
mark_asphodel: Sage King Leaf (Default)
OK. So, as a follow-up to this post, here's Gen 2 and miscellany:

Trends, we have trends. )

I did this with the data Ammie gathered in part because I think that, if we're using art as a metric for character popularity in Japan, we do see some definite trends that aren't necessarily related to how well-written a character is, or how awesome a unit they are, or how big a role they have in the plot.  All that seems to be a factor-- you don't see Alec with 150+ pieces of fanart in the archive-- but overall I kind of think the niche the character fills must matter a lot.  Spunky sword princesses who remain suitably feminine?  Yes.  Dutiful reserved guys who'd meet with parental approval if you brought them home?  Yes.  Seliph, the temperate and malleable Perfect Boyfriend?  Yes.  Gracious all-forgiving magical girls?  Yeah, that too-- with or without a side order of serious mental problems.  There's just a shying away from extremes here-- away from the manly men and distinct alpha males, and likewise away from the "powerful" females who fit into a masculine role like Altenna and Briggid.  And yet also away from the dancing girls and even the peg knights.  Definitely away from all the colorful comical supporting characters-- as I said in a comment on the previous post, it's less about the nuts, flakes, and "crunchy" characters and more like a fandom embrace of, I don't know, a creamy, homogenous bowl of frozen vanilla custard.

Of course, since this is purely working with visual "secondary creations" I have to wonder how the fanfiction stats really go.
mark_asphodel: Sage King Leaf (Default)
So, over at the FE According to Japan tumblr there's a new dataset derived from Pixiv to determine who and what is popular, and it's fascinating.

I could go on all night about the deep meaning of the Gen 2 stats (I knew Lana, Julia and Tinny were popular, but good god), but let's look at Gen 1 first. Now, I've seen lots (OK, basically ALL) of this art myself, so many of these trends don't really surprise me, but a few things did stand out as noteworthy once all the stats are spread out in from of me.

Disclaimer: Pixiv is not the end-all be all of fandom, inaccurate tags skew the data to some extent, etc. I know all of my favorite characters have art filed under "Seisen no Keifu" or simply "Fire Emblem," not to mention some "name combination" shipper's tag in place of their actual names. So there's that.  But that probably goes for all the characters, or at least enough that the trends are accurate even if the numbers aren't. 

FE4, Gen 1, Pixiv Popularity

In which I tl;dr over the stats Ammie collected )

Next time, we venture into the minefield of Gen 2.  Bring your raincoat, as it'll be raining moeblobs.

mark_asphodel: Sage King Leaf (Default)
So, back in the heady days of 2009, I started writing something called "Steadfast Companion."  It rose out of Abel's character ending in FE11: "He was to be married; but in the end his fellow knights were his most steadfast companions."

Given what I knew of Abel, and because FE12 hadn't been announced yet, I thought FE11 might be some weird standalone reboot in which Abel backed out of marrying Est or something, and the story in question (let's call it SC#1) was about that.  It was just a little ambiguous one-shot about Abel, Cain, and Est.  Anyway, it never got finished or published because I got caught up in more ambitious ideas.

Discussion of the Hardest 'Fic Ever )
mark_asphodel: Sage King Leaf (Default)
Well, I touched on this in the comments of the previous post, but there was more I wanted to say about it.

Fury occupies a special place in Jugdral canon as the only one of the "breeder pool" of FE4 ladies to have her marriage, uh, canonized via FE5 and other sources like the current Jugdral family tree. She's Lewyn's wife, reigning queen of Silesse in his absence, and mother of Forseti!Ced and Fee. She's also dead by the time Year 776 rolls around, but that'd be true regardless of her status re: Lewyn.

Anyway, there's a lot about Fury that's related to us that's really compelling. Once Lewyn bails, it's Fury who has to hold together the tattered remains of the kingdom from their court in Thove/Tovae while at the same time raising and educating Ced'n'Fee. The kids, quite plainly, think the world of her. I love the detail in FE4 about how Fury inspired Fee to become a crusader by telling her stories about Sigurd's campaign. It feels real and natural and yet so many kids kind of blunder into the war or have it otherwise forced upon them that it gives Fee a unique dimension to her character-- and it's all the better for being a warrior mother inspiring her daughter. Lewyn references her stubborness and Ced notes that his mother "could never turn a blind eye to somebody in trouble," traits her crusader kiddies share. Offstage!Fury is all kinds of awesome.

[She's also totally hot. Let us not minimize this aspect of Fury's appeal.]

The Fury get we on screen, however, kind of underwhelms.

Cut. )
mark_asphodel: Sage King Leaf (Default)
Took a stab at the ending-sentence meme the rest of y'all are doing and realized a few 'fics in I end things with dark/light imagery waaaaay too often. C'est la vie.

Anyway, how 'bout this: closing sentences to WIPs I would rather like to finish some day?

Stuff. Spoilers for 'fic that may not get published, in a sense. )

The last of these being a piece of period-appropriate sentimentalism IMO.

mark_asphodel: Sage King Leaf (Default)
So. Back in the autumn of '10, in the heady days of the emblanon meme, some poor soul submitted the worksafe prompt "Finn and Glade's epic bromance."

That was a damn long time ago. I liked Finn but hadn't gotten crazy seriously into him and I barely remembered Glade existed, but I filed it away in the back of my head, just in case.  More friendshippy stuff for SNES games are a good thing, right?  

So, flash-forward to May of '12. I'm attempting to actually write the 'fic, but was stymied first by the theory and application of this thing called the "bromance" and secondly by the Alster segment of the narrative. With regard to the first, let me quote from a chat log of the time:

"So is the sexual tension/ship goggles part of it or not? 'Cause that's what's confusing me."

As for the Alster segment, it bothered me enough that I cut that entire part out and tried to thrash it into a standalone (currently a 1,405 word WIP).  But that didn't help me complete the original 'fic, which languished under the working title "Finn and Glade's Bogus Journey."  If I don't have a real title that far into development, there's usually a problem.  I shelved it, looked over it every now and again, picked it over, and kicked myself whenever it was time for a WIP inventory.

Then I went to a Gordon Lightfoot concert on Sunday night and got magically unstuck and finished the story.  -_-

I've no idea who that poor anon prompter was, or if they're even still active in fandom.  :(

Is nearly 7K words epic enough?

On Glade

Apr. 18th, 2013 05:03 pm
mark_asphodel: Sage King Leaf (Default)
Glade. Or Grade, if you prefer.

He generally referred to as "Finn's best friend." Which he is. Only close friend, really. Maybe a "special" friend, depending on what you want to read into Selphina's little rant in Chapter Nine. But this isn't about that.

Nope, this is about why Glade even exists.

I was going to write about FE power couples and got sidetracked )

I've no idea why all this changed to the extent that it did, why going through FE5 leads to a repeated sense of "Remember that thing you saw in FE4? DIDN'T HAPPEN!!!" But it most certainly changed, and I can only assume the designers had their grand design.
mark_asphodel: Sage King Leaf (Default)
I think every Fire Emblem saga has a moment that acts as a reckoning for the main character, a pivot point where they realize the world just doesn't work the way they think it's supposed to. Sometimes it's a sort of cosmic reckoning, an up-ending of the rules by which their entire world functions, and sometimes it's personal. In Thracia 776, it's quite a political moment, something that can map to our own world in ways that stories about magical artifacts and supernatural bloodlines can't... and therein lies its perverse fascination for me. I quote-mined a good portion of this for my "disturbing stuff in FE5 post," but it's best to see the entire thing in context.

But why can't these slackers get proper jobs? )

It’s not very nice, but I’ll take this line of FE debate over The Power of Friendship any day, thanks.
mark_asphodel: Sage King Leaf (Default)
Technically speaking, "Infinite Regalia" contains a wealth of information that can be used for meta on Fire Emblem's bad endings, afterlife and resurrection meta, and stuff like this. I just can't bring myself to discuss it because it's presented in a manner that jacks the Disturb-O-Meter past FE5 levels of Fucking Disturbing.

And FE5's "Deadlords" are really, really disturbing.

The text is all here. Basically, the interaction with the Gen 1 characters is mostly funny while the interaction between the Deadlords and the Gen 2 characters is anything but, and the overall effect is more like the modern tongue-in-cheek self-aware zombie phenomenon. I don't even know where to begin applying this stuff.

Then there's the Lost Bloodlines series (the Marth vs Seliph stuff), and I don't really know where to begin with that, either. It's kind of all over the place. In some places the Einherjar show glimmers of awareness and I get the idea there's supposed to be something more to them than just puppets (Chrom and Co. also get that feeling-- it's pretty explicit). In some places they feel like one-dimensional actual cardboard figures they're purported to be (I don't like how Ethlyn's written, for a start). Some of the Einherjar feel pretty alive and, I don't know... themselves? I think the "new" characters from FE11/12 feel pretty vivid, which may be telling. They were, after all, made up out of whole cloth. Some of the Jugdrali sound more alive than others. IDK.

Good stuff and bad stuff )

Really the Einherjar are really the best weasel device in fandom. If something in the DLC bolsters your pet theory about a beloved NES/SNES character, you can point to the DLC and go "See? See? Word of God!" If you don't like their new speech quirk or personality transplant, you can wave it off with, "Eh, it's not really them-- it's an artist's rendering of the real thing."

And then, after all, this is merely canon fanfic, right? Some scriptwriting intern could've been plopped down with the 20th Anniversary Artbook and told to compile a three-to-five word description of every relevant character and then produce dialogue based on the lists. So you get a fairly bland Arthur without his moments of towering rage and this really wussy Nanna who doesn't match up to her FE4 counterpart. Not to mention an Ethlyn who apparently belongs in the kitchen. So yeah... they're artists' renderings.

mark_asphodel: Sage King Leaf (Default)
I'll say right up that I love the atmosphere and ambiguity of Thracia 776 and I'd like another FE game along those lines (but without the BS elements to gameplay, thx). But there is a lot, and I mean a LOT of stuff there to make the player go, "Hm." Here is an incomplete list of messed-up stuff in Thracia 776, with a rating system-- 1 to 5 on the WTF scale, with 5 being jaw-dropping.

Note: these are not necessarily plot holes or the characterization equivalent thereof, as I'm willing to believe that many discrepancies between FE4 and FE5 were deliberate retcons.  There's too many of them not to be.  They may be problematic in a meta sense, but not necessarily nitpick problems.

In chronological order... )

And to show I have no hard feelings against the game or its characters, I wasted my writing time this weekend on 5K words of gooey Finn/Raquesis sugar.  No, really.
mark_asphodel: Sage King Leaf (Default)
So, riffing off [personal profile] amielleon 's post about Lefties in Elibe, Magvel, Tellius, and Ylisse, here's what I found poking through art for FE1-5 and FE11-12...

First off, keep in mind there is a lot, and I mean a lot, of OA for the Jugdral games-- with different artists over a longish span of time covering two different games. So while we have a lot of data to go on, it's not necessarily consistent. The high number of physical/magical combo units in Jugdral also means that you have multiple poses of characters with different kinds of weapon, and the unit you take to be a potentially left-handed staff chick might be shown waving a sword in her right hand someplace else.

So, what did we find? )
mark_asphodel: Sage King Leaf (Default)
I am seriously bummed out today. See, my most excellent spouse and I have some mutual friends we've known for about fifteen years. We all met on the same Usenet group in the late 90s and they, like us, became an item after a few years and have been together now for more than a decade. We've stopped by their apartment in the next state over, petted their cats, gone out to dinner, and maintained an online relationship through the years. They mean more to us than 99% of our friends from the brick-and-mortar universities we attended in those halcyon Usenet days.

Now they've broken up, for good, with the root cause being mental illness that's basically crippled one of the pair. It's terrible and sad and, given the length of time things have been crumbling, inevitable. Some people can't be fixed, or the fix is something that costs them the life they used to have. But it's just depressing as hell.

So, I will resurrect a post I started on last year, after feeling another overdose of fannish sentiment that Fire Emblem is aaaaaall about making happy love relationships. Whatever you think of FE13, that sure wasn't always the case. Here's some relationships that weren't built to last, and I don't mean relationships that were doomed from the start because of trickery or some other coercion (Hardin/Nyna, Arvis/Deirdre), or something like Lewyn/Fury wherein the supernatural is clearly at play. I mean relationships that people fuck up themselves on their own time, because of who and what they are. Fifty percent of this is old news to y'all because the germ of this post is so old, but two of these topics are things I've never harped on before that are at least worth a look.

Relationshippy spoilers for Archeanea, Jugdral, Elibe, and Tellius )
mark_asphodel: Sage King Leaf (Default)
OK. Enough about Robin, Chrom, and the FE13 storyline. I still have some grievances to air about the alpha-universe timeline, but that can wait. Today we shall discuss Deadlords.

Or Dark Warlords, if you prefer.

Details, Details...Plus Deadlord Spoilers )
mark_asphodel: Sage King Leaf (Default)
 AKA the Leif DLC.

I have said my piece about the overall plot and characters of DLC, though I reserve the right to go back for timeline quibbles.  On to the DLC bonanza.

Yeah.  Attacking the Jugdrali with their own holy weapons?  Good fun.  Henry toasted Seliph with Valflame.  Chrom chopped up Arvis with Tyrfing.  Stahl one-shotted Finn with Gungnir.  And so on.  Mind you, this was the second time around.  The first time I played it I benched most of my A-team and tried to build up exp, wexp, and supports for my B-team on this Xenologue... and that wasn't a very good idea.  Libra, Tharja, Gerome, and even Lon'qu got trashed, and level-wise they on par from the Jugrali characters. There were too damn many of them, and they had skills and stuff.  I don't remember any of the earlier Einherjar having skills.  So I said the hell with that and brought in any of my A-team who weren't Level 20 plus anyone with dialogue I wanted to read.  Plus better weapons.

I see Eyvel is giving Leif bad advice at the beginning of this.  -_-

Anyway, my main takeaway from this is, I want Emperor Hardin on my team.  Good dude.  Kills crusaders and doesn't afraid of anything.


mark_asphodel: Sage King Leaf (Default)

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