Hiveswap Act 1 Review (Writing and Story)

I have now finished playing through Act 1 of Hiveswap. As promised, I will review the game and give my thoughts on it.

NOTE: As I wrote this post, I fell into pretty much all the pitfalls I did towards the end of the lifespan of my Homestuck post series that made it so slow and so I pretty much gave up partway through so you get this. Maybe I’ll follow up with a post on gameplay and music later, which logically shouldn’t take as long.

Writing

A major thing that was hyped up about the game was bringing back the feel of early MSPA, particularly the first few acts of Homestuck. Overall, the game really delivered on that point. It got the general narration style and sense of humor down very well—far better than many would have probably expected knowing the Snapchat stories (which are at this point probably nothing more than a failed experiment). The flavor text for every combination of using an inventory item on an object in the room possible was a surprisingly good touch, and probably made for good writing practice.

I’d argue the writing wasn’t exactly like early Homestuck. It definitely took things in a bit more serious light than the comic did at first. For instance, when we met each of the beta kids, the comic didn’t really take much about their lives or their relationships with their guardians seriously. The most infamous example would be the case of Dave and his long-debated relationship with his guardian, but it’s also worth noting how oddly carefree Jade’s life on a lonely island living with a dog was. Granted, she spent most of her time dreaming about the future and being a cryptic mystery girl, but only in later conversations about her grandpa’s death do we ever learn what kind of trauma she really went through. However, when Joey examines her house and the narration discusses the little of a relationship she had with her parents, it already comes off as serious and somewhat depressing from the start. But it’s about the right degree of seriousness that it doesn’t really come off as a tale of trauma and terror, mostly just a kind of lonely life.

Meanwhile, the trolls’ storyline in Homestuck tended to have the edgy alien feel played too high to reach the sweet spot of a story that really takes itself seriously. This is averted later on in the comic when the characters get into deep conversations about the darker aspects of their regular lives, but that is never fully explained through introductory narration alone. Hiveswap doesn’t handle troll introductions quite as differently from Homestuck as it does human introductions, but unlike in Homestuck, the first human/troll interactions went straight ahead into talking about what troll life is actually like.

Characterization

I’ll start by saying that Dammek and Xefros’ relationship is nothing like what I thought it would be. I’m 100% certain that was the point—did you see the word “tetrarch” even once in any of the game’s teasers?—but still, I feel more surprised by that than I probably should have been. The teasers of the game made it seem like they’re two dorky best friends who slack off all day, eat pizza, and run a terrible ska band; when one artist referred to them as “moirails”, most people dismissed it as the strangely common misconception that the term is a synonym for “best friends”. But going from Xefros’ perspective—the only perspective we’ve seen thus far—it’s more like a boss/slave relationship that happens to involve the boss making the slave participate in said terrible ska band and eat pizza as I think it was a reward for something? I’m not sure what to say about Xefros himself, besides what we’ve seen about that troublesome relationship that pretends not to be a troublesome relationship. I guess I’ll have to see if in later episodes of the game they effectively develop his character from the cowardly archetype.

As for the human siblings, Joey is endearing but feels pretty much exactly like the other human Prospit dreamer kids. While that’s not a bad thing in itself, she doesn’t really have much about her that really sets her apart from those other characters. Again, I want to reserve my judgement for when later episodes of the game come out, but I can’t help but feel her character has been built up already far more than any of the kids in Homestuck were in the acts where each of them were introduced. Jude, however, is a completely different story. He has already been set up as something of an eccentric conspiracy theorist who owns various animals and experiments on all sorts of weird things—a description that doesn’t fit any characters in Homestuck at all. Though we haven’t seen as much of him as we have his sister, he’s the kind of character I’d really look forward to seeing more of, especially seeing as he and Dammek (a character we’ve only seen talked about) will meet and presumably go on their own adventures after the first four episodes of the game are done. I’d argue the game would be more interesting set up through these storylines alternating per act, but it doesn’t seem like that’s how things will be set up.

Story

The story of the game so far was basically executing the obvious premise: Joey stumbling upon a device that takes her to the trolls’ universe and meeting some unfamiliar people who are starting a rebellion against a brutal heiress. At the end of the first act, the story seems to be headed towards working through the troll rebellion without its leader around? I’m not really sure what parts of the story’s continuation I’m anticipating most. Knowing how many trolls were teased in the game’s previews, it’s a safe bet we’ll learn quite a bit more about the trolls’ side of the story.

I was pretty struck by the story’s connections to Homestuck’s continuity. Early in the game, when you get to examine the pictures in the house, you get quite a bit of exposition that kind of gives us another side to the character of Jade’s grandpa. All indications are that he didn’t really care much for his children and spent most of his days going on increasingly exotic adventures, especially after his wife’s death. Last Joey heard of him he was exploring the Pacific Ocean, which is an obvious lead in to him finding the frog temple island and raising Jade, assuming we can still deem “raising” to be the right word. Rose’s young mother, meanwhile, had a near-sibling relationship to the siblings central to the game but was just on the verge of becoming a full-fledged alcoholic. By the end of he comic, it is assumed that she became an alcoholic because she knew all would come to an inevitable end and couldn’t deal with that any better way. Considering that this game was emphasized not to focus on the cast of Homestuck, we got a generous amount of new information about its world. I can only imagine that we’ll get similar things for the trolls’ universe at some point, or maybe see things from Jude’s perspective. Did he have a closer relationship with his father than his sister did? It’s quite possible, but we’ll have to see.

Random update 2: Coming back from the dead (maybe briefly)

So as you all know, Act 1 of Hiveswap finally came out. Having first read Homestuck in 2014 and then slowly starting to follow anything related to it closely, I never knew it as a thing to get hyped about or wait for. It was just sort of a background event for me, even as it kept getting delayed and was the only real official Homestuck related thing that could be followed. I’ve still been wrapped up in all that fanmusic stuff I’ve been doing—two old songs of mine were re-released last week on Land of Fans and Music 4, a compilation album that you should really listen to right now. But now that Act 1 of the game is there and right in front of my eyes for me to play, it really does feel surreal. Then today it occurred to me that I could dump more of my dumb rambling about the game on this blog, even if I know probably nobody will read it.

I’ll probably post a review of Hiveswap here when I’ve finished playing through Act 1. I’ve already gone through quite a bit of the lore and connections to Homestuck’s plot, which really brings me back to the days when I actively updated this blog.

Speaking of which, the Homestuck commentary post series is still kind of a hanging idea in my head. It’s one I don’t actively take the time to think about, but when I do, I briefly get an urge to work on it before I forget about it again. I like to imagine that someday I’ll get to work on the abridged commentary, which more and more I feel I would do from scratch. Maybe when the fabled epilogue rolls around, I’ll finally regain all my old motivation??? I honestly don’t know at this point. I do look forward to seeing how the rest of Hiveswap rolls out.

EDIT (9/18/2017): I finished the game yesterday but I’m still working on the post.

Random update

I don’t know if anyone still follows this blog after all this time (whatever following a blog that hasn’t updated in four months even means). But when you’re this bored on a humdrum summer day, you might as well update some old thing you used to run.

Since I reached Act 6, my motivation for making those Homestuck blog posts decreased considerably until it hit dead zero, and as of this writing it’s still zero. That said, at one point I made a post with a hidden link to a webpage listing another similar idea of mine: an abridged version of my commentary blog with fewer offhand remarks (which may or may not be code for “cleared up from random dumb things I wrote in these posts”). Even if I’ve lost motivation to continue the mess that is my unfinished Homestuck reread blog, this abridged commentary thing has still been a hanging idea in my head. Even after all this time I still have a weird relationship with the comic and like talking about it and realizing new things about it; that relationship is kept alive by a certain fanwork that I’ve already shilled to death here (and in many other places). I don’t totally remember my thought process behind that idea and the stuff I wrote on that webpage I linked, but if I were to find myself bored enough to start such a thing I’d probably do it from scratch, for many reasons not the least of which is that I’m scared to reread all those old posts of mine.

I have no idea how and whether I’d try to get people to care about that thing; it doesn’t help that it’s hosted on Google Sites which is probably a super outdated thing by now, even if it will always hold a bit of a soft spot in my heart because of all the nonsense I’ve done there in the past. Same goes with writing all this stuff on Blogger instead of my personal website (haha like I have the motivation to actually buy one) or on Tumblr or something. I don’t know, maybe I just feel hip using this stuff; I started in a time as late as 2014 after all.

But in any case, at the time I had this whole huge thought process behind that abridged commentary idea I spouted out. I don’t remember much of it anymore, but maybe if I reread the comic yet again sometime I could go ahead and make that thing. Who knows, maybe someone from some obscure corner of the Internet actually could stumble upon that?

As a closing note, even though I mostly wrote this post out of boredom I’d try to update this blog for personal use if nothing else if I follow through with all these ideas.

P.S.: Having a version with spoilers and without spoilers is probably a cumbersome idea, maybe I’ll get rid of that and just do as I please.

P.P.S.: I completely forgot I wanted to start that thing in early 2017.

Finally an actual hiatus for Homestuck posts

As you can probably tell by now I’m low on motivation for my Homestuck posts right now. Some other time I’ll probably do them again but for now I might not do them until, I don’t know, May or so? Right now I’m distracted by a lot of things, schoolwork and otherwise. I could probably do more of these posts late in my school year and during the summer. Then I’ll be going to college and who knows what’ll happen.

I’ve had all these ideas for making these posts better but due to my distractions, when I have been working on them I didn’t even think of bringing these ideas to fruition. Still I really feel I could be doing better with them, as in having a less slow and inconsistent release schedule. When the time is right it’ll happen.

Rant about Homestuck snaps

12/29/2016: I’m going to write a tiny bit more and then release what I have of my next post because I’ve delayed them way too long already.

For the past two months we’ve gotten Homestuck material presented to us via Snapchat stuff and it’s frightening for practically every reason imaginable.

It all started with the credits, which I have very mixed feelings about right now, but at the time they relieved my salt about Act 7 which felt pretty mystical. Then there were Halloween snaps a few days after the credits, before the deeper problems with them started to sink in for me. A few mildly cringey references aside, the Halloween stuff was further salt relief because it was pretty much a bunch of fun fluff.

But then came 11/11, the fifth anniversary of Act 6, and, uh…

OK let me put it like this. That series of snaps started with Jane at Crockercorp and felt like they would be mystical (holy mother of god her doing important stuff!), but instead they turned into what I’m pretty sure was supposed to be a bunch of pleasant happy fluff. But it was actually the kind of stuff that pretends to be cute and fun but actually freaks you out completely. I’ll admit, on that day I was too distracted by shipping stuff to pay attention to the underlying problems with this method of media presentation that would come into full view later on. But look, I’m not the biggest fan of the story acting like random ships that came out of nowhere (in this case Roxy and Calliope) suddenly were always meant to be a thing, is that hard to understand. It’s just a pretty dumb way to present story material in general.

After those snaps happened, people were theorizing and anticipating resolution about Jane being kidnapped or whatever happened, but I found it hard to care about it or treat it like actually relevant material. It’s just hard to treat the Snapchat material as part of Homestuck for multiple reasons, not the least of which is that it’s run by Hussie’s associates, not the man himself. Also because it isn’t posted on the MSPA website or anything.

Second person narration, dear god why…

After that we got snaps on Thanksgiving focusing on Jack Noir. I actually enjoyed them in and of themselves, because Jack is all around an enjoyable character. But the problems with them are especially multi-layered. First and foremost, it feels pretty gut-wrenching seeing Slick replaced in role entirely with this version of Jack without anyone saying a word. But even if you ignore that entirely, those snaps use second person narration for some reason which doesn’t make the slightest bit of sense. Between this and the snaps being all around way too wordy, it’s clear that this is really just meant to be a fun and new way to present Homestuck material. But it’s not that fun when you don’t have a phone anywhere near good enough to install Snapchat on and have to either consume one every hour or click your way through a dozen Reddit posts to take a look at the snaps. I know that’s not necessarily what you have to do but you get the idea: it’s hard to digest them anything resembling the way one can peruse the actual comic.

But the ultimate problem with having this stuff is as follows: it’s actually plot-relevant stuff, presented in this crummy format. I don’t know much about how Snapchat works but I’m pretty sure the pictures delete themselves after a day so I don’t have a clue what the people who run this are thinking. Nor do I have any idea whether they’re going to be posted again as part of the comic, which I’d rather not have happen because (1) the whole story turning into Snapchat stuff would be the absolute worst and (2) the material in the snaps still feels pretty tangential and disjointed from the comic. Plus, treating these snaps as not part of the comic makes me feel better about the stuff in them that doesn’t make me that happy.

Uh, what.

It all came together just a few days ago when we got the hardest to follow plotline ever seen. I don’t know what happened in it but I’ve heard people talk about Jane giving Jack her old tiaratop and controlling him, or something? I’m not going to lie, it feels like they’re talking about a whole different comic.

A big part of this sequence being hard to follow is how much stuff was happening at once. It’s obviously supposed to seem cool and awesome but instead it’s confusing. Not confusing as in some kind of crazy time loop, but confusing as in you just can’t tell what’s supposed to be going on. The text in those snaps is also extremely distracting, and I’m fairly certain it’s pretty far removed from how people actually use Snapchat, which again makes it feel like it’s really just a new way to present Homestuck material even though it’s bad.

But the ultimate problem with the writing in the snaps is as follows: it feels like the guy who’s writing them is trying way too hard to make the characters sound like themselves. Practically every single snap is captioned with just way too much text and I’m like, is that really how the characters talk?

Bottom line: At first these snaps seemed just like enjoyable filler material but now everything is going sideways in a really confusing way. That’s actually how I would describe all of Homestuck since the retcon happened, but maybe something worth it will come out of this? At this point I’d almost be completely OK if the whole rest of Homestuck from here on out is just Caliborn gloating at us.

Further Reflection on the Homestuck Credits

It’s been a while since I released my last Homestuck re-read post. I’m still working on my next one, which I’d like to release around Wednesday probably Friday is more realistic I don’t know when. In the mean time I’m going to ramble a little about the credits, which I had given my thoughts on the day they were released.

When the credits came out, I felt considerably less salty about late Homestuck overall. However, that effect was only temporary. I would love to say I’m happy with how they happened, because there really were some delightful and pleasant surprises. However, that flaw with them I’ve talked about—John’s potential relationship with Roxy not being addressed—is just so glaring and invites a lot of unsettling implications. I know it’s a ship and all but considering how all other plausible major ones (and then some) are given decent bait—even the one I absolutely hate was handled in a way I’m happy with—I actually am pretty bewildered about that.

And it’s not just a ship that makes me have problems with the credits as they stand. In the last two minutes or so, we get implications that the kids might not be that close anymore, with pairs or trios that seem to mostly hang out with each other, such as Rose and Kanaya, Dirk and Jake, and (dear god why) Roxy and Calliope. I’m pretty sure that’s not how friendships are supposed to work, and it’s pretty unsettling to think about, especially due to how vague it all is. Do they all live in separate kingdoms scattered around the world? How much does the kingdom ruling thing actually mean? What happened to that one ship I have a bit of a soft spot for? And most of all, is John doing alright?

I used to be unable to rationally watch Act 7, but with more and more endgame material I’ve come to accept it as a false ending with more to it than you think. For one thing, there’s not a shred of doubt in my mind that Lord English wasn’t actually killed, and it’s quite likely we have more of Caliborn’s story to go through. However, I’m presently kind of unable to watch the credits due to my salt being transferred.

Bottom line: I’m a little worried about all this.

Homestuck Mini-Post: Why I Didn’t Discuss "It could kill a cat if you dropped it"

One of the most famous bits of foreshadowing in Homestuck is when only 32 pages into the comic, it’s stated that this one book could kill a cat if you dropped it, which happens over four thousand pages later. But I didn’t at all talk about that bit of foreshadowing, not in my first post where that bit of foreshadowing happens or any other time that cat’s death is hinted at. I only ever mentioned it one time in a tangent about retroactive foreshadowing.

Why didn’t I talk about it those other potential times in my post series? Because I didn’t really feel like pointing out stuff readers probably know already. That sentiment didn’t change at all between my first post and my recent posts, but here’s a thing about that: if my early posts were as detailed as my latest posts I probably would’ve discussed that bit but in terms of something people already know.

When talking about the blatant hints leading up to Jaspers’ onscreen death I probably could’ve mentioned the thing from early on as a sort of “bonus” hint for attentive readers. But upon the closer inspection I got from rereading I decided that hint is pretty far removed from all the other hints much closer to the event, and probably serves mostly as something meant for people to catch while rereading the comic.

Thoughts on the Homestuck Ending Credits

Today Homestuck updated with a short interactive page, followed by a credit roll plus photo montage. And you know what? I actually truly honest to god enjoyed it. My reaction to it was much like my initial reaction to Collide: it made me forget all my salt about late Homestuck, which is kind of a mystical effect. The update addresses a lot of things Act 7 left unresolved, like bringing back the human and troll races and what happened to Terezi; it even gives Jane and Jake a semblance of satisfying arc resolutions!

But the end credits and Collide both had a certain flaw that make them almost perfect. In Collide that flaw is Slick getting killed off; the end credits, meanwhile, don’t at all address John’s blatant romantic tease with Roxy, which is saying a lot because the credits feature two characters getting married, which feels surreal to even say. But since I don’t like being pessimistic about hopes for the future of Homestuck, I’m still hoping that pairing is addressed somehow in the epilogue. I would say more but the next post after the one I’m working on is a PERFECT time to discuss that ship.

Despite that problem, the end credits make me a good deal less salty about Act 7, something that should logically be impossible but somehow isn’t. Now what do those credits mean for this post series? Pretty much what the first Homestuck updates after I started this post series meant: I’ll have more stuff to think about differently in retrospect, and might complain about stuff a tiny bit less?

Happy Cascade Day everyone.

Homestuck 10/25 Teaser Analysis

So if you’re active on the Homestuck subreddit or whatever then I’m sure you’ve seen this thing:

It seriously looks like Hussie art! That’s a pretty good sign.

There’s no way this isn’t a teaser for the “post-canon content” coming tomorrow, on the ever-fabled Cascade Day. And this image is kind of worth analyzing in terms of which characters Hussie cares about.

First off, Jade isn’t there. Neither is Jane, or Jake, or Terezi. All those characters have been criticized for not getting good character development; many believe the author doesn’t care about them as much as others. It’s kind of hilarious when you think about it; this image is pretty solid indication of which characters Hussie does and doesn’t care about.

  • John goes without saying as the protagonist of the comic. Roxy as well since she’s such a popular character. The image clearly presents them as ringleaders with how they’re in front.
  • Rose and Kanaya are basically the number 1 ship in the comic in terms of being a thing so they kind of go without saying too.
  • Dave and Karkat are a controversial ship the comic loves shoving in our faces in really weird ways. But Hussie seems to think fans like that? Sure, the ship has some sort of crazy cult popularity, but to many people (myself included) it comes across as super forced.
  • And Dirk… Dirk is cool I guess? He isn’t paired up with anyone but it’s obvious Hussie cares about him enough to add him to the picture. It’s kind of amusing he’s just sort of there.

Oh wait another teaser just came out as I was about to publish this post but I’ll talk about it some other time. Here’s me hoping the upcoming Homestuck material is good.

Happy first birthday to my Homestuck post series

My next Homestuck post, which will be the post series’ anniversary special, will be released Tuesday or so. For now enjoy this cool picture I made to celebrate:

As you can see, I’ve come a long way since starting my post series, with my posts becoming ever more detailed analysis and commentary on the comic as time passed. At first, new posts covering 100 pages twice a week was kind of a slow schedule for me; now, even new posts covering 50 pages every week is a bit much for me to keep up with, because my posts are just so detailed these days. And it’s all thanks to me getting carried away with projects.

If I keep posting at the rate I’m going, this post series will last for maybe another year and a half before I reach the end; that is, if the epilogue doesn’t happen by then, which I highly doubt. At the end of year 2, I’d probably be in early Act 6 Act 6 (around page 8400), going by a rough estimate of 40 pages covered each week. This means I have quite a way to go before my posts devolve into endless rants about the problems with the retcon and Vriska and the ship I always moan about and Act 7 and all that shit. Will I live up to those predictions? Only time will tell.