Friday, November 25, 2016

V:tM - Bloodlines ! Opening Screen

"You are not a beautiful and unique snowflake
You are the same decaying organic matter as everything else"

The Dust Brothers - This is Your Life

Back in spring I threatened to launch into a long series of posts on the classic cRPG Vampire: the Masquerade - Bloodlines, after at long last it became available on GoG. I don't play pen-and-paper RPGs. That would require other people, and what can I say... I hover somewhere between Gangrel, Brujah, Tremere and Tzimisce in my personality. If I remember the kids playing RPGs back in high school, the activity attracts blatant Toreadors. Vade retro, thou over-social Satana! Aside from this computer adaptation, my only exposure to the World of Darkness roleplaying setting has come through offhand comments on game forums, webcomics and the much less inspired VtM: Redemption published a few years before it by a completely different developer. Along with certain gameplay elements, however, this setting numbers among Bloodlines' various features which make it such a useful reference point for other cRPGs.

The GoG version so far seems to run much more smoothly than the game did a decade ago. When Bloodlines shipped, it sadly earned much of its bad press for being a crash-tastically buggy mess. Even the opening scene was wrecked. The soundtrack was off from the animations (some of which didn't even play) and captions floated on and off the screen with not a care for their appropriate place or the length of time required for their perusal. Thus one of the greatest cRPGs ever made faceplanted even its grand entrance. Troika Games made three games, and this was (perhaps unsurprisingly for more than one reason) the last of them.

But that part's in the past. The GoG version manages to fix the timing issues in the opening cinematic as well as some of the half-animated animations during the training mission. I take it from this that it's been rendered appropriately playable on the whole and I won't have to spend every post about the game bitching about glitching.

As soon as I fired it up though I knew I'd have to do a pre-amble here. A post zero, so to speak.
That's the first loading screen. It pops up randomly during zone transitions during the game, sure, but most importantly that's the first screen you see before the game even starts, while loading the character selection window.
The purveyors of escapist fantasy preface their product, before allowing you to even create yourself, by slamming you full in the face with a jab against escapism. Good fucking Antediluvians, are you starting to wonder how these people managed to stay in business as long as they did?
I love it.
It's exactly the way I would've started it, were I inspired enough to ever create anything worthwhile.

More relevantly for you, dear reader, it sets the tone. Bloodlines may have come out in 2004, but its source material was a staple of 1990s goth teen subculture. It dates from a time when we off-brand humanoids still practiced that most crucial of soul-making skills, self-hatred. The world is shit... and so are you.

It strikes me that writing about Bloodlines won't be anything like doing ST:TNG episode reviews. TNG abided by a great many television storytelling conventions and tropes. Its stock characters ran the usual wide gamut. It's easy to jump into an episode and expect awkward smart guy to say awkwardly smart things and tough guy to say tough things, etc. Bloodlines is a more singular, focused project. More importantly, it's a mood piece. It's a Downward Spiral. There is no status quo, partly because it's a story-based game and partly because its source material hinges on a decidedly apocalyptic core concept. Its was the best of times, it was the worst of times. It was the age of Hale-Bopp and Y2K paranoia. It was. the age. of Gargoyl- errr, I mean it was the '90s.

Ah, well, but listen to me ramble on and on, talking to myself like some street-corner prophet.
More about Bloodlines some other time, and remember

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