The Innocents Abroad

One result of the pandemic: I’ve been re-reading what feels like everything on my bookshelves. And I have a lot of bookshelves.

When I was a teenager, I think it was, I loved The Innocents Abroad, by Mark Twain. I just finished re-reading it. It’s an account of his trip to Europe and the Middle East in 1867 on the Quaker City with about sixty other Americans– most of them, by his count, old fogeys “between 40 and 70”. He was 32 at the time, a failed miner and riverboat pilot, but a rising newspaper humorist. His fare ($1250) was paid by a California paper.

quaker city

The Quaker City advances on Europe

His account is mostly an extended comedy routine, though he’s also attempting to convey to his readers what it was like to travel to these places, and that involves quite a bit of serious description and retelling of stories he’s read, or heard from his guides. It’s clear that he read a lot of contemporary travel guides, and that those told visitors what things to see, what they meant, and what their dimensions were, information he sometimes regurgitates half-chewed.

A lot of the comedy holds up. I like his gentle parodying of his favorite traveling companions. E.g. the Oracle tries to get as many learned words as possible into every sentence, while knowing the meaning of none of them. Then there’s what he calls the “pilgrims”: fellow passengers who are far more religious than he is, and yet have a positive mania for cracking off mementos from famous places. He has a chapter where the subhead “The Ascent of Vesuvius– continued” is repeated at least half a dozen times, as he keeps digressing far away from the volcano. He and his closest companions loved to tease guides, calling them all Ferguson, and tormenting them by asking of any historical figure or statue, “Is he dead?” He’s amusing and drily ironic about Catholic relics, counting how many places had the same bones or the same pieces of the Crown of Thorns.

Comedy these days is mostly fast: one-liners or back-and-forth repartee. Twain, like his English counterpart Jerome K. Jerome, is more a fan of the extended bit, a long anecdote full of buildup and color. He was highly in demand as a lecturer, and I picture him acting out the physical comedy and doing all the voices.

Though he grew up in Missouri and set his most famous novels there, here he presents himself as a Westerner, and indeed is a little too quick to compare all mountains to the Rockies and all lakes to Lake Tahoe. Cities are compared to New York (and he was also contributing dispatches to NY newspapers).

He’s obviously well read, and honestly appreciates a lot of what he sees. Though what he appreciates is a little random. He is completely unimpressed by the Last Supper (probably with reason– it was in bad shape) and in fact by most paintings. He is rapturous about the Pyramids and the Sphinx, mostly because they’re so ancient, and because their hardness resists the hammers of the pilgrims.

Sometimes the country bumpkin act gets a little old. A particularly annoying sort of traveler (often but not exclusively American or British) complains at finding things done differently than they are at home. A little too often Twain is that sort of traveler. That business about Tahoe, for instance. Probably he had read too many guidebooks that depicted everything in Europe as uniquely magnificent, but c’mon, Sam, a two-page encomium of Lake Tahoe back home is not necessary. Similarly, though it’s fascinating that the one town he finds “just like an American city” and wholly approves of is Odessa, it’s extremely provincial to only like things you liked before.

Twain has complicated feelings about poverty. On the one hand, he has a hearty distaste for oppression, and (e.g.) castigates the Catholic Church in Italy for living in luxury while the peasants are miserable. On the other, well, he hates seeing poor people– their rags, their diseases and deformities, their neediness. This particularly applies to all the Muslim cities he sees, but also to Naples, and for that matter to Native Americans. He’s not immune to pity (when the tourists are mobbed by people asking for baksheesh, he and the others give them money), but he can’t get past the feelings of repulsion at the people themselves, and he sometimes expresses the wish to get rid of them.

Such thoughts provoke an aggrieved response in some people, so if you’re thinking of that, just don’t go there. There was a lot to like about Twain, and there are things to dislike. He is not immune to be criticism, and frankly anyone who thinks he is hasn’t really understood him. He was an acerbic critic himself when he wanted to be, which was usually. He himself claims that “travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness”, and it’s hardly unfair to ask him to live up to his own ideals.

(One possible defense is worth a response: that he was joking. First, it’s usually quite clear when he’s joking and when he’s not, and a lot of the xenophobia is not jokes. And second, pretending to be a bigot is not actually a laff riot; all too often, it’s just bigotry hiding behind facetiousness.)

Readers should also be aware that Twain’s description of Palestine as a desolate and barren place has done some real harm, by allowing some moderns to discount the rights or the very existence of the people who lived there. This article is a corrective. It should be noted that Twain visited in the dry season, when the country presented its worst aspect; also that one of his major themes was the discrepancy between romantic or ancient accounts and present realities, and he was not above exaggerating this for effect. He says about the same thing of Greece, by the way– “Greece is a bleak, unsmiling desert, without agriculture, manufacturing, or commerce apparently”. I’m sure he didn’t mean to deceive, but this sort of analysis isn’t any more reliable than modern columnists’ assessment of national opinion based on talks with their cab drivers.

Something that might be surprising is Twain’s small but real piety. I’ve read other books by him that are far more skeptical. But at this point he seemed to be a faithful Protestant, though not a zealous one. He listened courteously to the “pilgrims” (who loved nothing on shipboard more than an evening of religious talks), he knows his scripture, and there is really nothing in the book that could offend a Christian. He criticizes hypocrisy and a few logical errors, and he’s not going to allow the pilgrims to put him off drinking and smoking, but he says nothing against the religion itself.

The best modern travel writing aims at not just describing the sights, but the people. This requires at least knowing the local language, and access to more than tour guides and waiters. Twain does not achieve this. He knows a little French, but by his own account none of the Americans could make their efforts understandable to a Frenchman. The structure of his tour means that he spends almost all of his time in Touristland, and though he freely talks about national character, this is mostly based on meeting people in the tourist industry.

If you can get past all that, the book is still pretty funny; it’s also quite interesting as a portrait of the times. The non-comedy bits– the places where he rhapsodizes over a building or some scenery he happened to like– are not greatly informative. But you get a good idea, I think, of how a smart but not college-educated American of the 1860s would react to the sights and the slights of the Old World. (His advice on Turkish baths: don’t bother.) Even the mechanics of tourism are worth looking at: obviously a lot of people traveled, because there was a network of guides and hotels and textbooks; but of course you couldn’t call ahead, you had no camera, and you weren’t on a strict schedule: if you could afford the trip at all, you were there for months. You also brought a huge trunk or two of gear– but in Twain’s case, this could be left on the ship, while you made your land excursions with a few suitcases.

Cyberpunk 2077: More thoughts

After my first bad reactions, and after playing about 18 hours, I’ve reached a truce with Cyberpunk 2077. I think I understand my feelings better now: the story is pretty good, and often fascinating. The gameplay sucks.

Now that’s a stylin’ V, right? Right?

To mitigate this, I’ve a) lowered the difficulty, and b) grabbed a big frigging katana. I don’t know why, but my guns do about 150 dps while melee does over 300. That makes the combat go way faster.

What’s wrong with the gameplay?

  • It’s mostly guns. I was expecting cyberpunk.
  • There isn’t anything interesting about its guns. Borderlands knows how to make pew-pew interesting; C77 doesn’t.
  • The enemies are dull. Didn’t these guys make the Witcher games? Monsters are interesting; mooks are not.
  • The hacking continues to suck. I guess I need a new cyberdeck with more slots, so I’ll work on that. There’s very little to do and all it does is put off the gunplay a little.
  • The levels and powers aren’t designed for stealth. (They’re too small, there are no places to get back into stealth, there are too few takedown options.)

It frustrates me whenever I think about it, because there’s no lack of better models. You could stealth ‘n hack your way through Deus Ex. For basic stealth, see Assassin’s Creed Odyssey; for advanced stealth, the Arkham or Dishonored games. Or hell, for interesting hacking look at Gunpoint.

But yeah, I can get through the combat now at least. The stories are variable, but are often a lot more involving and well-written than they have to be. As one example, tracking down Evelyn Parker, I had to buy a session with a sex worker. (I think these people are still human, but heavily modified?) Sounds cheesy, right? But it’s not what you expect (e.g. there’s no sex). It actually turns into a heavy psychotherapy session for V.

Another: I’m tracking down rogue cabs for Delamain, an AI who runs a cab company. Again, this sounds like the sort of collectibles mission you’d get in Saints Row. But each rogue cab has gone astray in its own way, so each one is an interesting surprise.

One more: Jackie, your partner from Act I, gets an ofrenda from his mother. They put quite a lot of work into this, with no gameplay at all, and it works pretty well. It would have worked better if there’d been more opportunity to get to know Jackie, but it’s still a surprising amount of depth to add to one NPC.

That doesn’t mean I don’t have story complaints. In general, I have the same issue as with the main storyline of Borderlands 3: the writers often think they’re far more edgy and fascinating than they are. I get a little tired of the endless gallery of tough-guy gangsters and fixers. The whole idea of black market braindances is… I dunno, probably realistic but way more grotesque than it has to be.

I understand that they’re trying to do a dystopia here. But I feel like they’re not always clear on the difference between exotic and outrageous. One example: at one point you meet a doctor named Fingers. He’s obviously intended to be a piece of work– after all, he sold Evelyn to sleazy braindance producers. But they seem to want to express this by coding him as gay and dressing him in a collar and shorts and a mesh shirt.

This isn’t characteristic of the game as a whole (where, after all, there are gay and lesbian romance options and your character can dress as absurdly as you can manage). But, I dunno, it seems like a step backwards from, oh, Zimos in Saints Row 3… who’s an absurd pimp but also your homey and useful supporter. I just wish the game designers had more room in their heads for the idea of “weird but also cool.”

But anyway, I want to at least get that romance with Judy, so I’ll keep going. (I’m still not too enamored of Keanu, but at least he’s not punching me any more.)

Yes, Trump’s a fascist

The latest annoying thing in the pundit class is think pieces on whether Trump is a fascist. Here’s The New Statesman saying no, not at all. Here’s Vox saying maybe but mostly no.

For readers who’ve been living in a cave: for nearly half a century, the gold standard for presidential corruption was Watergate, for which Nixon was almost impeached (he resigned instead). Now it’s January 6, 2021, when Trump gave a speech urging his supporters to march on Congress, and they did– thousands of them bursting into the capitol and forcing the Senate and House to flee to safety. A handful of people died, including one policeman beaten to death by the mob. At least some of the rioters were attempting serious sedition, bringing weapons and restraints; they aimed to murder Congress members or take them hostage. Some threatened to kill not only Pelosi, the Democratic Speaker, but Mike Pence, Trump’s own VP.

It’s become clear that this was no protest or exuberant mob– it was a deliberate attack, and the ringleaders went right to various Members’ offices. They failed to get their hands on anyone; I’m sure there will be whole books written on why that was. But it was way closer than it should have been.

A question that’s become almost a joke over four years is “What would it take for Republicans to turn against Trump?” Personal corruption and a torrent of lies didn’t do it, nor did abuses of power, attempts to ruin America’s alliances, concentration camps for migrants, cozying up to Putin, unlabeled feds bundling dissenters into vans in the middle of the night, a pandemic on track to kill more Americans than World War II. But what did it for quite a few of them was their own president egging on a mob to kill them. Who knew?

It was an attempt at a violent coup to overthrow democracy. The “fascism” charge should be open-and-shut at this point. So why are the pundits so sure it’s not?

Before we get there, let’s look at one expert that’s willing to call Trump a fascist: Robert Paxton. He wrote, “I have been reluctant to use the F word for Trumpism, but yesterday’s use of violence against democratic institutions crosses the red line.”

This is significant for me, because he wrote the book that I reviewed back in the Bush administration. His definition is worth quoting:

Fascism may be defined as a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation, or victimhood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy, and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion.

At the time I concluded that Bush wasn’t a fascist– largely because the use of violence wasn’t there. Trump’s coup attempt crosses that line.

One objection would be the clown-car aspect of Trump and Trump’s supporters. It wasn’t a successful coup attempt. But this misses the point.

  • Trump is the president… the guy with the nuclear football. His incompetence may have saved us for now, but…
  • Half the Republicans in Congress supported his attempts to overturn the election.
  • Trump retains the support of a majority of Republicans (though his approval has declined since the attack).
  • The extremists– the people with the guns and restraints– were emboldened by the attack, and plan to do more.
  • Ever hear of Hitler’s Beer Hall Putsch? A failed coup attempt has historically led to more attempts.
  • Hitler and Mussolini made far more use of violence. But both were put into power legally, by the conservatives of the day. They were contemptuous of democracy– but used its institutions to get into power, only dismantling them afterward.

Why are the fascism experts besides Paxton reluctant to call Trump a fascist? The objections mostly come down to one of these things:

  • Worries that some “real” fascist will come down the pike, and we won’t know what to call them.
  • Quibbles over the historical details of early-20C fascism.
  • Wise-ass comments that Trumpism has American roots.

The first objection does make a point, just not a very good one. Suppose Trump had succeeded in denying the election results. Would it be comforting, or educational, or pedantically correct, to say that he wasn’t a “fascist”, but an “authoritarian”, or a “right-wing populist”, or a “nationalist”? Jesus, people, we’re talking about an illegal coup ending our 250-year American democracy. You don’t win a prize by denying it the word “fascism”. And you know, people who successfully execute a coup don’t end their criminal careers with that. The violence and vindictiveness would only ramp up.

The various quibbles are interesting to historians. E.g. the New Statesman article explains that Hitler and Mussolini were war-mongers intent on grabbing new territory. Yes, but there are historical reasons for that. Germany and Italy came late to the European imperialism party; one had just lost a World War and the other felt like it had. This was, if you remember, a time when Britain and France still had their colonial empires; the feeling was that that was what great nations do. Plus, they were small nations by US standards– their only way to feel like superpowers was to expand.

The US has a very different history and sense of itself. Though the rest of the world thinks it’s imperialist, it’s mostly via soft power; our actual colonial empire was not very important. American nationalists aren’t at root very interested in the world: they are consumed with the threats they see internally.

Finally, some historians are concerned that people over-emphasize 20C Germany and Italy, forgetting the long history of right-wing nationalism and white supremacy at home– everything from the Confederacy to Jim Crow to Joe McCarthy to the Klan. Again, there’s a point to this: there is no need to sync up events today and a hundred years ago, and think that Trumpism is a repeat of Hitler.

But the more general answer is: yes, Trumpism does recall some of the more lawless parts of American history, and that shouldn’t be news to anyone.

It’s worth noting that the real fascists, the people who really like Hitler, are already on board with Trumpism. A bunch of them participated in the attempted coup– proudly wearing their Nazi T-shirts. It’s undoubtedly true that they would turn on Trump on a dime if he isn’t nasty enough for them. But they’ve been made welcome in the GOP, and until that problem is solved, fascism will be a major factor in US politics.

Finally, the Jan 6. attempt– unlike the two months of legal shenanigans– created a real fissure in the Republican Party. For once we don’t have a few pursed lips expressing “concern” over Trump. We don’t know how meaningful that is, yet; we’ll get a much better idea during the impeachment trial.

Trumpism isn’t gone, and the large fraction of the GOP electorate that cheered him on won’t disappear. But things might start to look different in a week, when Trump is out of office and can’t post on Twitter– and a bunch of Senators start to realize that they have the power to keep him from running again.

Minecraft Islands

I could write about the coup attempt… it turns out the one thing that will make Republicans maybe turn on Trump is if he sends a mob to attack and kill them, who knew? But you’ve probably heard all about it, so I feel like talking about Minecraft.

A streamer played something that looked interesting– a Minecraft mode called Islands. It’s not a mod, it’s a world generation option. You get floating islands in the void, all one biome. It’s kind of like Skyblock but you can do actual mining. Here’s my base; you can see some of the islands as well as my attempt to make it look like the Nether.

Since it’s only the Plains biome, there’s a lot of stuff missing… you can’t even get clay, sand, or most types of tree. The islands don’t extend down far enough to get diamonds. On the other hand, you can pick up some exotic materials from wandering traders. Although the single biome is a little dull, the restrictions, and the fear of falling in the void, make it pretty interesting. (The Nether is normal.)

The pool was my first really big project. It’s quite deep, probably 15 to 20 blocks. Unfortunately it doesn’t generate squid or dolphins, though it’s an excellent source of Drowned.

I just finished the ziggurat today. It looks quite nice from the inside:

Actual ziggurats were, perhaps disappointingly, not hollow. But a hollow one is easier to build and has an interesting interior. Note that every block has nothing below it: I had to place each block on a temporary scaffolding block, and then remove the scaffolding.

I lucked out with this world, I think: I spawned pretty near a village, and not far from a ruined portal.

One of the curiosities of the Island mode is that deep mines– the ones with railroads, cave spiders, etc.– still generate, but below the islands. So they just hang there, all visible, in the void. Likewise strongholds. Villages often generate partly or wholly down in the void too. I found a lone cleric villager in one, but when I checked later to rescue him he was gone, poor thing.

What next? Not much, perhaps… I may have done everything worth doing. I may just wait till the Caves update is done and try a regular world again. Also I’d better see how V is doing. (People have told me the game gets better after the Heist chapter.)

Obenzayet and Almea+400

First, if you haven’t seen it, I finally finished the Obenzayet grammar. I started it around 1997– much of the lexicon was already visible on the Proto-Eastern page, but now you can see what a Naviu grammar looks like.

I’ve been steadily doing stuff over on my Patreon. Here’s a teaser: a map of Ctesifon at its height in 1750.

Here’s a list of what I’ve done so far on the Patreon:

  • An essay on the Cadinorian constitution
  • An essay on the Verdurian constitution (these two together are about 70 pages)
  • A timeline of future technology
  • Modern Verdurian terms (this is now on my website)
  • An essay on how to write fantasy given that most actual historical kings and kingdoms were appalling
  • The new base map of Lebiscuri
  • A grammar of Bhöɣetan, the first known language from Lebiscuri
  • A map of the Verdurian subway system as of 3625
  • An architectural diagram from my Middle East book, and a quick tutorial on how to do stuff like that in Illustrator
  • The Obenzayet grammar (it appeared there first)
  • Ongoing: A series of historical maps of Ctesifon, from ancient times into The Future. This will be part of the archeology section of Almea+400.

So, a lot goes on there, and it’ll keep going on. Plus, people ask interesting questions and point out all my typos. Sign up to see these and more!

If you can’t, that’s fine too– eventually most of this stuff will be available on my website, or as a companion volume to the print Historical Atlas.

Cyberpunk 2077: first disgruntled thoughts

I started Cyberpunk 2077 and I’m not far into it, just 9 hours. I’ve looked forward to this game for a long time– maybe too much, because it doesn’t seem to be what I was expecting. So far I’m not enjoying it much, but I hope it gets better. (Feel free to tell me if it does!) I haven’t played enough to call this a review; mostly I want to get my initial reactions down.

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First, the infamous bugs. I just got a new computer, because the old one was having disk problems. This definitely improved performance, though last night I noticed weird graphics glitching (trees from the distance weren’t getting culled). But nothing has really got in the way. I got stuck in cyber mode a few times, but learned that this isn’t a bug, just undocumented– you hit Caps Lock to get out.

The good things: it looks great. It’s very… cyberpunky. It’s certainly everything I wanted visually. The basic setup. Some neat characters, like Judy.

The bad things: everything else. I’m just going to go through my notes and complain. Note that there are spoilers for The Heist here.

1. The goddamn cutscenes. The Heist– the big mission that sets up the basic game predicament– is a bunch of short on-rails action sequences and one damn cutscene after another. It’s the sort of thing that makes me think CDPR forgot they were writing a game; they wanted to make a movie instead. 

An example: at one point you are guiding a little robot through rooms in a skyscraper. This could have been enormously exciting: navigate foot-high vents, wait for guards, solve minor puzzles, whatever. Instead, it’s literally divided up into rooms, where the big puzzle is “Use detective vision to find the next vent.” There is only one vent (or other objective) to find, and you don’t even get to pilot the robot.

Later on they give up on even this level of interaction. You just get one cutscene after another. At best you get a few dull dialog choices to make.

2. Combat is boring yet difficult. Enemies are bullet sponges– one website claims that a headshot at close range with a pistol removes 1/4 of the health bar. Whuh? I guess Borderlands 3 is like that, but in BL3, shooting pretty much is the gameplay and they’ve made it fun. In C77 it’s more like “you must eliminate these mooks before we’ll dole out more story.” And I dunno, is the heart of cyberpunk “shooting mooks with a pistol”?

3. Yet when you briefly play Johnny Silverhands, you can mostly one-shot enemies. I get that they wanted to tell the story at that point and not impede it with really
difficult mooks… but as I say, the entire mission is on rails, so in the rest of it they did want to impede the story with mooks.

4. Where is the damn ammo? I am probably missing obvious sources, but I ran out of ammo during the Heist missions, and yes, I did look for ammo boxes. Why doesn’t
picking up enemy guns give you ammo, as in every other game? Note that you’re absolutely screwed without ammo; luckily I was almost at the end and could just run to the elevator.

5. Yet again, this is a game with stealth where stealth doesn’t seem to be a viable option. Did CDPR play the Arkham games (they must have, see below) or Dishonored? Your options are wimpy, things like give an enemy a little shock, or blind them for a few seconds. You can disable someone from behind, but the levels are tiny, so the Arkham/Dishonored strategy of carefully observing enemies and taking them out one by one is rarely possible. And your “quickhacks” are severely limited: in effect, you can maybe use them for the first two of the dozen enemies you face in a level.

6. You get level-ups, but they seem to be hardly worth it: things like “increase crit chance by 1%.”

7. The Keanu thing, ugh. So you get a hallucination of Keanu in your head, who apparently is able to physically punch you, and also wants to take over your brain. This is… the plot of Arkham Knight. At least Joker was amusing.

8. An earlier mission makes a big deal of “braindances”, interactive memories. And there hasn’t been another one since. If it’s a device that’s used only rarely, they expended way too much effort on giving them a complicated UI. And it’s still basically “use detective vision to find the colored interactable objects.”

9. Like many others, I want to see my V. Supposedly they did first person view for “immersion”, but I find it less immersive. I want third person as an option, at least.

10. The grimdark. I guess it comes with the territory, but cyberpunk shouldn’t just be noir, it should have some sort of added futuristic grotesquerie. The game doesn’t feel like a Gibson novel, it feels like Grand Theft Auto. Everybody talks like a gangster, the story relies a little too heavily on killing your pals, and not even the villains seem to be having fun.

11. The intro sequences are another huge missed opportunity. You pick a background and get maybe half an hour of distinct gameplay, then you’re given a freaking
montage of Moving Up in Night City with Jackie.

I understand that choices have to be made when making a huge game. But this is a strange and bad choice. Being a near-helpless noob is an awesome narrative opportunity. The Fallout and Elder Scrolls games get this: the first ten levels, when you don’t know what you’re doing and every enemy is weird and ammo and health are scarce, are the best parts of the games. It would have been great to explore the city, take on side quests, learn what the bewildering build options are for, scrounge for beds till you get the reward of Your Own Hovel. Instead, you’re apparently an established minor mook with your own place. It feels like this whole part of the game was rushed, in order that they could do… what? I don’t even see the tradeoff gains, though surely they’re out there.

12. Speaking of your own place… V’s is boring. Contrast e.g. Adam Jensen’s apartment in Deus Ex, which is a master class in environmental storytelling. There is almost nothing to do in V’s place, nothing that distinguishes her from the NPCs, apparently no customization options. The only things it offers are a place for checking your mail, a vending machine, and a mirror, all of which could easily have been provided elsewhere.

13. While the main mission is on rails, the open world is provided essentially without any guide. I’m not as enamored of open worlds as I once was. Apparently you can do things like find all of Keanu’s old gear, which sounds about as fun as collecting CD-ROMs in Saints Row 2. Which are the fun side missions? I shouldn’t have to consult websites for this.

14. I’m really uncomfortable with the treatment of Japan. There was some of this in Gibson and Stephenson, but I didn’t get this sense of othering from them. There’s a CEO? yakuza leader? who talks like a samurai, wears samurai robes, has a rebellious son, and talks about Americans as “barbarians”… I mean, jeez, maybe you could get away with this in 1975, but does CDPR think this is how Japanese corporations work today? (It’s the American CEO, not the Japanese, who is likely to be an unquestionable despot.)

15. A minor point, but characters sometimes harrass you if you’re not addressing the main task. This is extremely annoying if, e.g., you’re searching for the one goddamn interactable object in the vicinity.  

Related: I ran into some cops hassling someone.  All three had interaction symbols over them… but I couldn’t seem to get into position to see how to use them, and when I got near the cops got aggressive. Did they do playtesting at all?  (When Valve used to make games, this used to be something they were excellent at. You were never confused in a Valve game except at points you were supposed to be confused.)

16. The city is often on multiple levels– cool!– but the wayfinding does not take account of this– annoying! 

What would I have liked instead? I’m not sure, but my major changes would be:

  • More expansive levels– comparable to a Dishonored level– where staying in or regaining stealth would be a viable strat.
  • A slower start that really builds up your experience in Night City.
  • Way less emphasis on guns. I haven’t played Watch Dogs, but maybe CDPR should have? I think “corridors filled with gun-toting mooks” should have
    been stricken from the level designers’ toolkit.
  • Tell the story with gameplay. If you can’t do that, maybe your story needs work.

If that would be hard to do… make the game smaller. I would rather have a smaller number of well-crafted levels than a huge number of half-assed ones.

Edit: Thoughts later on; final thoughts on finishing.