Friday, January 16, 2015

Curiouser and Curiouser

Short write-up of a micro-read: I plowed through the entirety of The Strange Library while stuck on a Caltrain waiting for a crushed car to be cleared from the tracks in Burlingame. To be clear, this wasn't a long wait, and it's far from the only thing I did on the train. What I'm trying to say is that it's a short book.

I am a little curious why it was published as a stand-alone story instead of in one of Murakami's periodic (and excellent) short-story collections. It might be as simple as the fact that he's an extremely popular author and people will happily buy anything from him. Being published as a short story (I don't think you can even call it a "novella") does allow more creativity in the book's physical design than we would typically see. Chip Kidd, who has designed the various fantastic covers for Murakami's Knopf books in America, got to stretch himself even more this time, inserting some really striking and evocative imagery that helps guide the tone of the book (and, incidentally, pad out its length).

On the whole, I thought it was a terrific book. Dark! Very dark. I feel like Murakami has done more disturbing stuff before, but a higher proportion of this book occupies that dark space than any novel of his I can think of.


I enjoyed the very Murakami-ish explanation of what's going on with the boy, the girl, and the sheep man. After puzzling things through, the boy comes to what seems like a logical conclusion, which goes something like: "We're all in slightly different universes, and overlapping partially, but the two of you do not overlap." That statement makes perfect syntactic sense, and sounds like an explanation, while not actually explaining anything. Anyways, it's very much in line with his general style, giving the impression of a fully-realized alternate reality while leaving its details completely opaque.

I'm not sure if we can actually work out precisely what's happening with these three, or even the story as a whole. One pretty compelling possibility is that it's all a hallucination. There's a brief statement the boy makes fairly early on, along the lines of "I'm not dumb, but I was bitten once by a big black dog, and my head hasn't been right since." Something about his trip to the library might have frightened him, triggering a waking nightmare.

Of course, since this is Murakami, the rational, naturalistic explanation isn't a slam-dunk. It could all be "really" happening, which is especially worrying if you follow the boy's train of thought about the scene repeating in libraries all around the country.

While it isn't supported in the text, I've also been drawn to thinking about the significance of this taking place in a library, and among books. When the boy reads about the Ottomans, he becomes a tax collector, fully inhabiting the body and memory of this character from history. Is it possible that the Sheep Man and the girl are characters in their own respective novels? The boy has read both of them, so they share space inside his head, but one novel does not have knowledge of what another contains. (I don't think this is actually the case, but it was a fun thought experiment for me.)


In general, The Strange Library feels like a very condensed version of Murakami. We encounter a large number of the signifying elements and emotions that are hallmarks of his work, and see them deployed effectively in a very brief, efficient story. I hesitate to recommend this to first-time Murakami readers, since the overall impact of the book is much less.... buoyant, I guess, than I'm used to. But for those who already enjoy his worlds, and want another taste, this is a great little nibble.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Returns Returns!

We got another one! Harebrained Schemes has launched a new Kickstarter campaign for their new expansion to Shadowrun Returns. It’s looking really, really good… it’s set in Hong Kong, which is a perfect location for the cyber-noir vibe of Shadowrun, and the information they’ve shared so far about the setting, story, and characters all sound really intriguing.

As excited as I am to see the campaign, I’m almost more happy to see the way they’re approaching this Kickstarter. Attitudes towards crowd-sourced funding are much more mature now than they were a couple of years ago. There’s no longer that magical sense of, “Here’s a lever we can pull to get free money to make awesome games that will be perfect in every way!” We’ve seen enough successes, failures, and blowbacks that canny observers like HBS can predict the likely shape of their campaign, and plan accordingly. A few particularly interesting things caught my eye:

Lack of physical rewards. This was initially disappointing to me, but it makes a lot of sense. In almost every video game kickstarter I’ve been involved in, one of the major things the companies talked about at the end was how the physical rewards took more time and money to distribute than they had initially planned; in multiple cases this ended up meaning the difference between a planned slight profit and an actual slight loss. This time around, they only have two options for physical rewards, both of which are at higher tiers of $150+ and thus will have fewer claimants (and, notably, are not personalized at all). So I get it, even as I regret it; the T-Shirt and Doc Wagon card from the first campaign might be my favorite premiums from any Kickstarter I’ve been involved in.

Focus on the PC. This seems more unique to Shadowrun than crowd-funding generally. HBS’s very first goal (before the initial SRR kickstarter) was closer to a casual game, similar to their Crimson Pirates title, which would run on pretty much anything. Thanks to the runaway success of the Kickstarter, they got the funding to make a more featureful engine with 3D elements, particle effects, and a bigger scope. They kept their tablet goal in mind, and eventually released for tablets as well, but it’s a stripped-down affair there. So, the Hong Kong campaign is declaring itself PC-only up front. This is smart sense financially and technically, since it lets them focus in on a particular target and create the best game they can for that without needing to worry about constrained devices. But it’s also a smart move socially. The PC gaming community is an intense and loyal one, and a strong declaration like this will reassure a lot of potential backers and encourage more to join in. (There are still a large number of tablet gamers, but they don’t seem to be as strong a presence.)

Up-front about project status and finances. HBS teased this campaign late last year, and there’s been some grumbling from malcontents in the community: If the franchise is doing well, why go back to Kickstarter again? Why not act like a big boy and sign on with a traditional publisher? To me, this had seemed like a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation: companies who haven’t done Kickstarters before are looked at with suspicion since they haven’t proven they can deliver, while companies like HBS which have run successful Kickstarters before are looked at with suspicion since they should presumably have all the money they need forever. So I think it’s not only nice, but wise, for HBS to highlight what’s going on with Hong Kong and why they’re doing another Kickstarter. The game is happening no matter what, and will come out even if the project were to somehow fail. (Spoiler: It won’t.)

Unlimited backer slots available. This actually surprised me a little; most of the campaigns I see make use of a restricted number of backers allowed at particular levels. Typically, the lower levels (like "Pay $5 to get on our mailing list and receive a free digital wallpaper!") take all comers. At the higher levels (like "Pay $5000 and get a producer credit, plus a hand-crafted bust of your face from one of our artists!"), only a handful will be available. Recently, many projects have started using a large but limited number of slots at lower levels to help drive early commitment to a project:  inXile has used this, for example, perhaps offering a $20 "early bird" package with a free digital download to the first 5000 backers at that level; after it fills up, they'll create a new $25 level which offers the same thing. That seems like it gives incentives for people to join sooner, which in turn helps speed up the funding drive and create more buzz for the project. Anyways, Hong Kong has none of that, at either the low or the high end. I'm sure that HBS has good reasons for it, but I'm a bit curious as to why. It might be that, if you misjudge a tier's popularity, your project could suffer: perhaps a ton of people like the rewards at $500, but if you artificially limited it to 10 backers, and people didn't want to increase to the $1000 tier, then you're potentially leaving a lot of money on the table when those people end up making $100 pledges instead. On the flip side, if someone comes to a project late, it looks bad if they scan the rewards and sees that only 3 of the 1000 slots at the $500 level have been taken. I suppose the best approach is just to make sure that the marginal cost at each tier is low enough that it always makes sense to add one more person. That said, I am curious what that will mean for stuff like the e-book; as of this writing, 58 people will be added as characters in the ebook, so it seems like at some point they're basically going to end up with a big list of names to fit them all in.

Varying fulfillment dates. This is one aspect of Kickstarter's interface which isn't great. Each tier has an "Estimated delivery". This is a good idea in general, since it gives backers a general idea of when to expect their stuff. For the Kickstarters I'm usually involved in, though, multiple deliverables are involved, each with their own timelines. In the case of Hong Kong, some early PDFs will go out next month; the game itself is tentatively scheduled for August; and the eventual e-book is scheduled for December. Which all makes sense, and is much better than them holding stuff back until everything is ready, especially if it meant that people pledging at lower levels got their stuff before higher pledgers did. The other wrinkle for video games, though, is what happens to that ship date. Often, if a video game kickstarter is very successful, stretch goals will result in adding more content and features to the game. That's a great thing, but does mean that the originally-announced release date ends up slipping, just due to the nature of how software development works. That seems to be less of an issue for Hong Kong; since they're working on top of an existing engine and have already delivered two campaigns, they probably have a clearer idea of how long this will realistically take. Still, I'm going to treat that August date as a very rough goal, and won't be disappointed if it takes them longer to release the game in the condition they want.

All the strong advance work by HBS has paid off, along with the devoted Shadowrun community (a sprawling affair, stretching from decades-long pen-and-paper players to neophytes who recently picked up Dragonfall on a Steam Sale) and other supporters, and so the campaign has started off with a bang. They asked for a modest $100k up front, and must have known that they would get it. They were funded in less than two hours and continue to rocket higher as time goes on. They've been gradually unveiling additional stretch goals as they knock out earlier ones, and it's looking like a strong set: upgrades to the cyberwear system, new types of summons, Foci for mages, and an overhaul of the Matrix. Folks in the community have also been chattering about some other stretch goals they'd like to see which seem pretty plausible, like an Astral system (which seems like it could fit nicely alongside their existing Matrix system) and upgrades to the editor.

So, we'll see where it all goes! It's a long-duration Kickstarter, and will be going on for more than a month. If you've previously played and enjoyed Shadowrun Returns and/or Dragonfall, consider pitching in! You're basically pre-ordering the game for a very reasonable $15, and getting some nice bonuses for doing so. Personally, I'm taking advantage of the opportunity to go after one of the higher tiers: after SRR successfully shipped, I kicked myself for not springing for one of the higher levels that would have actually inserted my presence into the game itself in one form or another, and thus gotten a taste of sweet immortality. Back then, there was a lot of excitement but also a lot of uncertainty around Kickstarter and how reliable companies would be at delivering on their promises. As far as I'm concerned, Harebrained Schemes have proven themselves, and I feel the confidence I need to stretch a little further in helping them reach their goals. 

Getting Inq Done

It is finished! The tale of Visaas Adaar, irately heroic savior of Thedas, has staggered to its end.

I don’t have all that much to write about here, but I did take a truly insane number of screenshots this time, split into two albums. I know I always say that, but it’s really true this time. I don’t know why I keep doing this. I may need help.

I will note that Arcane Warrior continued to prove its worth as a probably-overpowered specialization. I completed the game on Nightmare Mode at level 17; in the last few story missions, I didn’t once use any Focus abilities (despite buying my way up to the third tier), any tonics, any grenades, or any crafting. Just the gear I found while doing the story missions, and my crazy-powerful AW build.


I’m extremely satisfied with how differently this second playthrough turned out; I wasn’t expecting the mages-or-templars choice to continue having as big an impact for as long as it did. On balance, I almost certainly prefer the templars branch to the mages branch, particularly in how it affects the endgame: Calpernia is a MUCH more interesting antagonist than Samson, and I was utterly delighted in the alternative option available to confront her. That said, I don’t think I’ll be able to stand picking the Templars in future games, solely because I can’t stand the thought of killing Fiona again.

I changed up most (but not QUITE all) of the one-off choices as well. I saved Bull’s Chargers, and was somewhat pleased by what I found. I kind of thought that you would get a series of Chargers war table missions to replace the Ben-Hassrath missions from my previous game. That isn’t the case: you pretty much just lose out on it. But, you do get quite a few more cut-scenes that explore Bull’s reaction to his new status as a Tal-Vashoth. While I certainly would have enjoyed playing Chargers missions, I’m actually happier with the asymmetric outcome here: it does feel like, in-game, there’s a bigger mechanical benefit to sacrificing the Chargers (more rewards and Power), but a bigger personal benefit to saving them (more cut-scenes). That makes the choice feel much more meaningful.

I also chose to drink from the Well this time around. That was a bit tough to justify in terms of the in-game fiction; Visaas is certainly much less power-hungry than Aztar was. But, while Aztar was drawn to the power of the Well, she ultimately decided that she didn’t like the unknown cost associated with it: she was already planning to become the most powerful woman in Thedas, she didn’t need the Well to accomplish her goals and it might cause her difficulty. Visaas didn’t actually crave power for himself, but he’s famously obstinate, and got irritated enough at Morrigan’s maneuvering that he took it almost out of spite.

This all leads to a VERY different meeting between Flemeth and Morrigan, held in a completely new location and with a very different flow to the encounter (but with similar lore bombs still dropped). I’m actually not even sure what the deciding factor here was: was it Visaas’s decision to take the Well? Or the absence of an Old God Baby in this timeline? As I keep on saying, I love all the different permutations which bubble up in the plot of this game, blurring the sensation of A always directly leading to B.

I didn’t change everything this time around, though… I still did Vivienne’s personal quest, which ultimately led to a huge turn-around in our relationship. Aztar and Vivienne always got along pretty decently due to Aztar’s diplomatic tact, while Visaas consistently butts heads with her, but the approval gain you get from completing Viv’s quest seems to be enough to move you onto her good side. There’s a really big difference in speaking with companions based on their approval, which always affects their tone but seems to also impact some of the investigative options available.

Let’s see, what else… oh, I was really happy with how the Cassandra romance ended up. She definitely stays the same strong woman she’s always been, but you see more and more smiles from her, which always feels precious and well-earned. In my game, I supported her as Divine; at first I thought this would just be kind of a perk for her, but based on some late-game dialogue I get the impression that it might be difficult for her to remain in the romance under this condition. Which made me realize that I don’t know some fundamental stuff about the Chantry: do they have to take a vow of chastity? Andraste was a married woman (twice, arguably), so it feels like there isn’t the same historical basis for chastity as we have in the Catholic church. On the other hand, I don’t remember ever hearing about the husbands of any Chantry mothers. Even if it is allowed, I suppose there could be significant political arguments against a public union of the Chantry and Inquisition leaders. Anyways: it seems like that could be a problem later, but at least we’re together for now, and enjoying our time together.

I’ve been curious how the Divine appointment would affect the game: the slides at the end describe the person taking over as Divine and the results of their rule. In my Aztar game, a re-hardened Leliana implemented wide-ranging reforms; this led to a rebellion among hard-liners, which she ruthlessly crushed. In the Visaas game, Cassandra implemented more modest reforms. She also faced opposition, and with the Inquisition’s support she was able to diplomatically negotiate an end to the rebellion, maintaining nearly all of her improvements. So, given all that, I was kind of worried that she would just be gone from my party. I was happy to see that they at least address this: you can find her in the courtyard in her normal spot after the credits roll. Speaking with her, she rages about all the bureaucratic pettiness she needs to deal with, and begs you to ask her to come with you. You can then choose whether to take her or have her leave. I really like that; it seems like a believable way to acknowledge her fate while not messing with your party composition too much. In a way, it kind of reminds me the way that Fallen London uses “Destinies” to provide a narrative end for their game that doesn’t prevent you from continuing to play. The slides sort of represent an ultimate finish to your game’s story, showing where you’ll eventually end up, but there still are more tales to tell between now and then.


So… that’s it! I’m eagerly awaiting whatever DLC will be coming our way. I’ll probably try to wrap up the few remaining achievements on my Aztar game at some point or another. I’ve also been participating in the multiplayer game a bit, mostly keeping up on the weekend challenges, and have been having more fun there. (Tip: Uninstall the Destruction DLC to avoid encountering the dreaded “key drop” bug.)

I’ll eventually do my “canon run” through the game, though that’s probably a couple of years off… I’ll likely do it in a game with all the eventual DLC, and hopefully some better character creation options available, either officially or through mods. I’d kind of thought that after these first two games, I’d have a complete picture of how I’d play through that hypothetical game, but honestly I’m still unsure how I’ll want to approach a bunch of these choices in my “best” game. Which is, of course, a sign for what a great job BioWare did in constructing this: there aren’t always easy answers, and we’re often left without clear guidance on the right and wrong decision to make, forced to rely upon our own imperfect judgment as we struggle to set an example for the world to follow.

Friday, January 09, 2015

Mas Visaas

Sooo, it turns out that Nightmare mode really isn’t all that bad. It’s definitely harder than Normal, for sure, but my fears of constantly needing to reload saved games have not come to pass. I’m actually playing pretty similarly to before, including bringing along pretty flexible groups based on who I want to have present for particular quests, and saving the “A Team” for the most critical story missions.

I am slightly power-gaming, which probably helps. I’m playing as a Mage, and took the Knight-Enchanter specialization. After getting it, I bought the cheap respec amulet and focused entirely in Spirit and Knight-Enchanter. Man, that class is kind of ridiculous. After you get your passives, you earn Barrier based on the damage you do, so as long as you keep attacking you’re more or less unkillable. I’m able to keep up Barrier on my squishier teammates as well thanks to the Spirit tree. All three other mages have also picked up at least the basic Barrier + Upgrade, so if anyone is missing a barrier while my cooldown is unavailable, they can still put it up. With that, eight health potions has been plenty for just about every encounter. The main story quests and boss fights are actually even easier, thanks to the incredibly generous placing of supply crates.

I was a bit curious about how the difficulty level would affect my strategy for playing through: I was leaning a bit towards doing a more minimal plot-only game, but worried that this might leave me underpowered for the game. I really didn’t need to worry, though. I’m now ready to start the endgame, and have only “done” three areas in the game (Hinterlands, Crestwood, and about half of the Western Approach). I unlocked the Storm Coast just to pick up a companion and didn’t do any quests there. It’s pretty ridiculous just how huge this game is, how well-done so much of it is, and what a tiny fraction is actually required to complete if you want to play a shorter game.


This is my “Things went slightly wrong” playthrough, and the biggest change has been the “mages vs. templars” choice. I’ve been surprised (in a good way) by just how big a difference this makes. It isn’t just swapping out one enemy type for another: there are significantly different main-plot quests, taking place in unique locations, each revealing a different aspect of the main villain’s scheme, and changing how the world sees your organization. It’s much more long-lived than I would have thought, too… even now, I’m trying to wrap some stuff up before kicking off the endgame, which is on a completely different questline from before.

The thing I most appreciate, though, is how asymmetrical it is. You basically end up with one or two different people being the villain’s top lieutenant, but the dynamics are significantly different between the two, as are the rhythms of your encounters with them. I’m much more sympathetic towards Calpernia than I ever was towards Samson, and the beats of her storyline are fundamentally different. I’m used to games providing branching paths, and then rejoining to a single canon through-line, and it’s been great to see the echoing repercussions of this particular choice.

And, I also really like how they allow you to experience the two different arcs without necessarily requiring you to play as a fundamentally different character. The basic choice is, “Should we ask the mages or the templars to help us?”, not “Who do you like better, mages or templars?” At the end of each arc, you can determine the nature of your engagement with your chosen faction, either welcoming them freely into your group or binding them into your service. So, it’s possible to “choose” a faction you dislike, and then punish them upon completion. I wasn’t expecting that option during my first play-through, and I think stuff like this will make the game much more enjoyable to replay than it would otherwise.


Re-playing the game is EXTREMELY rewarding, since you can pick up on so many little things that you might miss on your initial play-through, but that become very significant after learning how things will end up. This is most obvious with the two “secret identity” party members, Blackwall and Solas. Blackwall has always been a bit reticent talking about the Grey Wardens. In my first game, I just kind of assumed “Oh, he’s maintaining the secrets of the organization.” In the second game, though, you can really pick up on how he just doesn’t know certain things, and will evade and change the subject. One particular thing that I remember, which stuck out at my in my first game, was when you ask him how to kill an archdemon. “Stick it with swords until he dies,” was the response. Now I, as the player, know that isn’t true, and Aztar, as the character, was a bit incredulous: “There must be more to it than that.” In retrospect, though, he probably just didn’t know any better. He knows that Grey Wardens always kill archdemons, but doesn’t actually know the secrets behind the Joining or the playing. He isn’t covering up, he genuinely doesn’t know.

Solas is much more subtle, but once you know he’s Fen’Harel, a lot of stuff takes on new meanings. After the Haven disaster, he talks about Corypheus getting this power and what he’s doing with it. Solas is explaining 90% of what happened, and only leaving out the part where he himself was the one who gave him the orb. (I do like how he says “I’m worried that people will blame elves for giving Corypheus this power”, when he knows that there’s only one very specific elf to blame.)

There are several times when he slips up. I took him to Halamshiral this time, and while chatting he mentioned how much he missed the intrigue of court. “Oh, that’s interesting,” I said. In this case and other times when he accidentally reveals too much, he always has a very handy alibi ready: he claims that he’s “seen it in the Fade,” which is a very effective evasion.

I also thought that the use of game mechanics were deployed pretty subtly and brilliantly. One thing you learn pretty early on is that Solas loves it when you ask him for information; you can interrogate pretty much any party member about anything, but Solas is unique in that asking him basically any question will result in a minor approval gain. That is, UNLESS you ask him a question that catches him out in a lie or prods too closely to his actual identity. Then you get a small approval loss. Now, in the context of the game, the words he’s saying are pretty persuasive - he always manages to recover and spin a convincing tale. But, for us as players, it provides this tiny meta-textual twinge, an almost subliminal sense that something isn’t quite right here.

One final thing about Solas: I was doing Cole’s personal quest, in which Solas advocates for him remaining true to his spirit past while Varric encourages him to evolve into his human present. I don’t remember the exact dialogue, but there’s an exchange where Solas, exasperated, says something like, “Pretending to be something different does not change one’s nature!” To which Varric replies, “Doesn’t it?” There’s a beat after this before Solas launches into his reply. If you listened to this in isolation, you might not even notice it, or might chalk it up to a programming error (a slightly too-long pause) or a line-reading error. However, once you know that “Solas” is just a fake identity created by Fen’Harel, this pause becomes much more significant: Solas is legitimately considering Varric’s words, not as they apply to Cole, but as they apply to Solas. By pretending to be someone else for so long, and acting like them for so long, is he fundamentally changing who he is?

Incidentally, Cole’s cryptic comments become MUCH more understandable and fascinating in a second play-through. I still don’t follow 100% of what he says, but he’s spot-on with a ton of his statements, many of which predict future events and revelations. One thing I particularly like about his speech pattern is that he almost never identifies who he’s talking about, just saying “he” or “she.” Once you know everything, though, you can almost immediately identify which proper noun those pronouns refer to, which adds a very nice tension: your in-game character has no idea what he’s babbling about, but you as the player can appreciate the very detailed foreshadowing you’re receiving.

To be a bit more specific: I think that about 60% of the time, I can figure out which characters he is referring to, which either lines up with stuff I’ve learned from the game or provides often-disturbing insight into them. 20% of the time I can’t figure out what he’s talking about; either I’m not thinking of it correctly, or he’s referring to events that haven’t occurred yet. The remaining 20% of the time, he’s giving away the twist endings to major Hollywood movies. So far I’ve spotted “The Sixth Sense,” “Citizen Kane,” “Memento,” and a few others.

Minor observation: I’m playing with a slightly strange world state in this game. It’s mostly based off of my main non-canon playthroughs, Seberin Brosca and Faria Hawke, but I manually fiddled with a few things to see how they affected the game (pretending that Seberin did not do the Dark Ritual, Hawke sided with the Templars, etc.). It’s been pretty interesting to get a better feel for what things do and do not affect the game. Contrary to my earlier theory, Dagna still shows up in Skyhold even if you didn’t support her petition to study at the circle: however, her dialogue is pretty different, and she talks about how nobody had supported her dreams, how she had to work her way up from the very bottom by cleaning up labs, etc.

I thought that I ran into a bug later in the game: in my weird hypothetical world state, Seberin romanced Morrigan, did not do the Ritual, then traveled through the mirror with her. Since the ritual was not performed, Loghain died, and there was no Old God Baby. And, after recruiting Morrigan from Halamshiral, she comes by herself, with no child in tow.

So far, so good. When talking with a romanced Morrigan, she has a lot of new dialogue about her warden lover, which was really fantastic to hear - she’s still definitely Morrigan, and so not flighty about their relationship (she seems kind of astonished that it happened at all, let alone lasted), but does bear a genuine, fierce affection towards Seberin. And then, I groaned when she started talking about Kieran. The Keep messed up! There wasn’t supposed to be a baby in this timeline!

But… then I gradually realized that, duh, it didn’t have to be THE baby. After all, Seberin and Morrigan did sleep together, and people can have babies even when archdemons are not involved. So a child called Kieran could be born in two different realities, with two starkly different destinies.

Anyways! I’m increasingly enjoying the labyrinthine network of quantum realities embodied by this game. I absolutely love how it isn’t just picking between mutually exclusive “A or B?” realities, but having this rich tapestry of small and large variations which themselves interact with one another to create further permutations of contingent universes. It’s taken a while to get to this point, but it feels like the same sort of elaborately mutable world that the Telltale Walking Dead games have created, only even broader and deeper in the range of choices and (often unintended) consequences.


I guess that’s it for now! Short post today, yay. I’m going to try and wrap up my companion side-quests before starting the end game, so that will actually take me a while longer. I’ll probably make a final post once I wrap things up.

I threw together yet another album. Since I’ve seen a lot of these cut-scenes before, I was much more trigger-happy on the Print Screen key, and as a result have captured a ridiculous number of screenshots. I am sorry.

Also, I’ve been forgetting to take advantage of Google’s scarily-accurate face-recognition software. I did this a ton back when I was making my earlier Dragon Age albums, but a more recent version of Picasa has made this feature less visible so I’d forgotten to do it for Inquisition. It’s back on now, though, and doing a fantastic job at automatically identifying the major NPCs across both playthroughs. Fun stuff!