July 2016 news

N/A (newsletter)
created: 23 June 2016; modified: 18 Sep 2017; status: finished; confidence: log; importance: 0

This is the July 2016 edition of the gwern.net newsletter; previous, June 2016. This is a summary of the revision-history RSS feed, overlapping with Changelog & Google+ & LW media threads; brought to you by my donors on Patreon.








  • Zero Escape 3 - Zero Time Dilemma (video game with positive review on LW and ANN I instead watched a YouTube 100% walkthrough of, skipping the room-escape puzzles. I watched the first few such puzzles but found them rather tedious-looking, so that’s definitely a reason to prefer watching Zero Time Dilemma to playing it. This way, ZTD can be considered a very low-budget anime done using 3D CGI lasting perhaps 10 hours. The CGI itself is… not great, by any means, but one understands what’s going on, and it’s not quite as tedious as reading a visual novel like Umineko even if Umineko had much better 2D artwork. That leaves the story itself, which is ambitious SF, trying to work together time travel, parallel universes & shifting, the anthropic principle, the Prisoner’s Dilemma, the Sleeping Beauty problem, and amnesia drugs, in the framework of people trapped in a bomb shelter by a psychopathic mastermind. The decisions made in each game provide a garden of forking paths the player navigates between to explore the consequences of particular choices, trying to navigate to a good end, where good is relative to the consequences of other possible universes. Eventually the characters themselves start understanding the situation and start shifting as well. Most choices end in death, so the exponential increase doesn’t get out of hand. Some of the plot twists are dramatic and surprised me - for example, the architecture twist surprised me because while I had wondered how they could all have access to the same exit elevator if they were sealed off, I never put the remaining pieces together. Probably I would’ve enjoyed it more if I had watched the previous games to get the backstory, but it was still a fun SF series. That said, I felt some of the story was half-baked and it did not work as well as Steins;gate: the characters do disappointingly little to work around the amnesia despite ample opportunity; I was surprised by the ending because although I had guessed Zero’s motive long before, at the anthropic principle/dice game, some of the events involving x-codes had seemed to specifically disconfirm it and the ultimate product seems kind of trivial compared to Zero’s efforts to obtain it; the availability of both sliding and a space-time teleporter felt inelegant and the possibilities underused; the revelation of who Zero is was a complete asspull which - shades of Umineko - relies on a treachery of images trick which simply doesn’t work for both narrative & animation reasons, and worse, was unnecessary; and the narrative pacing is weak as the first part of the game spends what feels like an eternity on the repetitive starting Prisoner’s dilemma game and then rushes through the rest.)
  • La Maison en Petits Cubes (a simple concept, similar to the later memory sequence in Pixar’s Up, but like Up, effective)
  • Yurikuma Arashi (another peculiar Ikuhara production. It carries over much of his style in coloring and background and inscrutable symbolism from Revolutionary Girl Utena & Mawaru Penguindrum. YA is far more inscrutable through to episode 5, where finally enlightenment begins; then everything is explained to an extent unusual for Ikuhara. Stated baldly, his thesis of true love saving the world is not nearly as interesting as the fancy garments he cloaks it in. Combined with the irritatingly flat characters, I suspect this may partially account for why YA was unsatisfying & unpopular.)




  • Heliosphere (Jizel {2013}; a tribute to the Voyager probes)