Story spoilers start 23 minutes in.
05:20 "Then you get the first platform puzzle and I wanted to throw my computer out the window."
15:50 "But there's also other parts [where] the mechanic is closely tied to the meaning of the game and those are the bits that work."
20:30 "It relies on information and ... intuition in a way that I find very interesting."
22:40 "It grinds the game to a halt not because it's a challenging part of the game but because it's not done well."
27:00 "...because it is such a strange story and it is such a strange out of left field experience for the player to be having..."
32:10 "But also she is playing a game with him. She doesn't care about him, she doesn't care about her parents."
36:40 "I love how stupid they are, though. I love the fact that they are all so stupid."
40:30 "...there's that great line where Suzy says, 'Oh, when I can sell the house?'"
45:00 "This very stark moment and the art he's choosing to use in that moment is pretty terrifying."
Download the podcast MP3 or play it right here in your browser:
- Electron Dance on Marvel Brothel
- Electron Dance on Beautiful Escape: Dungeoneer
- Nicolau Chaud interview
- Nicolau Chaud wins second place at Game Music Brasil 2011
- Electron Dance on Polymorphous Perversity
- "What I think is happening is that people don't have much patience for minigames and challenging gameplay in story-based games."
- Apparat featuring Soap & Skin "Goodbye"
“Much of it came from our camping adventures we took as kids. Every summer growing up, we’d travel to northern Minnesota with my Dad, uncle, brothers and cousins and spend a week in the wilderness. We’d spend the entire day hiking and portaging from camp site to camp site. It was really tough stuff, at least for us suburban kids. We injected a lot of the emotion and feeling of solitude from those trips into Miasmata.”
-- Miasmata developer Bob Johnson, interviewed at True PC Gaming
You’ve just got to play Toki Tori 2+. Go do that Dark Souls, it’s divine.
Click, click: how can I get excited about a this new release over here when there are so many other new releases?
Click, click: isn’t this exhausting for you as well?
At last, Deadly Premonition is out on PC and now you have no excuse! This is the best Twine I played this month, give it some minutes of your time. Your time. Give it--
Clunk, clunk: is this burnout? Is it boredom? I’m anaesthetised to the constant flow of new new things because I haven’t finished appraising the new things or even the old things. Don’t blink, you’ll miss this. Why would you stop to look? Why would you spend the hours? Nothing gets through the numbness...
...except when it does.
And then I read an unassuming piece on Tap-Repeatedly, last December:
If you like your first person games to be balls-out shooters, Miasmata isn’t for you. If meticulous exploration, flora-gathering, and looking for fresh water doesn’t appeal, Miasmata isn’t for you. It’s a slow, thoughtful game, one that reveals very little in terms of direction, and brings the realities of survival to the fore in a way rarely seen in the medium. Ultimately, Miasmata will resonate with a certain kind of player. I hope that there’s a large enough number of such players out there that IonFX reaps some rewards for risking such an off the beaten path design, because Miasmata is stunningly beautiful and an absolute feast of challenge.
I bought the game immediately. I knew, just knew. But it took me months to find the time to play it. Why would you spend the hours? Why would you? Maybe I was wrong. That’s not what I wanted to discover. When I played, I discovered that it was broken, damaged in transit. I discovered the fault lines in the code, its abrasive, rough edges.
I also discovered the island. Literally, inch by inch.
This is why Miasmata (IonFX, 2012) became the game that meant the most to me this year.
I guess I fell out of love with the first-person shooter.
I remember I lost myself in City 17, playing a man turned myth becoming legend. I remember I found joy in dismembering necromorphs aboard the USG Ishimura and tried not to think too much about the plot. I remember I crossed the Volga River with hundreds of other Russian soldiers and headed into the crucible of death that is known as the Battle of Stalingrad. I remember I fought the Covenant on an artificial ring world and tore through the Flood.
But in the last few years, I’ve found it hard to find similar enthusiasm to play a modern first-person killer. I found Dishonored (Arkane Studios, 2012) compelling because it was an echo of Thief (Looking Glass Studios, 1998) not because it let me kill just the way I like it. Somehow, the gun-toting cleaner got old.
Was I missing out? Did bullets now fly about in better ways than they did ten years ago? Time for an experiment. The post-apocalyptic Metro 2033 (4A Games, 2010) had been on my radar for some time, a game that seemed to bottle the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. (GSC Game World, 2007) aesthetic genie in a linear FPS. Reviews were mixed although Michael Abbott wrote "the things that make Metro 2033 unique and worth playing are the very things routinely overlooked in most critical accounts of the game."
A few months ago I had a gap in my game schedule and inserted Metro 2033 into it. The experiment was on.
Before recording a Counterweight, I write up a cornucopia of notes to prepare. However, if I have my notes in front of me during the podcast, my brain decides I have to "write an article in audio" and I stop listening to what Eric is saying. Now, I realise no one else listens to Eric either, but it's bad form for a podcast so I hide my notes when we record.
In this specially extended episode of Counterweight, Eric Brasure and Joel "HM" Goodwin tackle Gone Home (The Fullbright Company, 2013). In a first, Joel tells Eric to check his privilege. Spoilers within.
02:00 "It wasn't what I thought it was going to be - I'll be honest."
12:00 "And then you get the first audio journal and it suddenly morphs into a completely different game."
16:20 "I like it when games misdirect the player."
20:20 "Let's be clear about this, Gone Home still uses ... gamey conventions to work, right?"
23:10 "...would that have done well, say, ten years ago? That we're talking about the audiences moving on, not simply just the designers."
34:20 "I have never been in Casablanca in 1943 but Casablanca the movie works for me."
38:50 "I tended to feel this was a very good TV movie."
43:00 "There's a lot of gay cinema and gay literature out there which makes it seem like coming out is like the worst thing ever..."
47:50 "...you don't have to use your brain a lot in Gone Home?"
49:20 "That moment doesn't exist if you don't get that journal fragment..."
52:30 "It came across as being positive but I couldn't really swallow that."
56:10 "I really do look forward to playing the next game from The Fullbright Company."
Download the podcast MP3 or play it right here in your browser:
- Gone Home: Exorcisms and Buried Strata (Michael Peterson)"...the game’s discoveries come through environmental storytelling, only for the narration to belie that."
- Perpetual Adolescence (Ian Bogost): "But it’s also not unreasonable to ask how these players could have been so easily satisfied."
- The Transgression - You Can Do Better (Austin Walker): "I didn’t want to write about something this actually terrifying, I wanted to write about the one clever jump scare."
- On Gone Home (Amanda Lange): "A few blogs have gone up already saying things like 'I wanted to identify with this game, but I can't, for X reason.'"
- What a Difference a Year Makes (Matt Sakey): "It also made me walk around my house for a while and pretend I was a stranger."
- Robert Yang interviews Steve Gaynor: "So you’re saying that space feels game-y to you, when it’s technically the most realistic?"
The Stanley Parable (Galactic Cafe, 2013) was released last week and I ploughed through it over two nights, reaching a number of the game’s “endings”. I only dabbled with the original Half-Life 2 mod incarnation once, during IndieCade East earlier this year. But rather than fire up the mod as soon as I returned to Electron Dance HQ, I elected to wait for the remake.
There’s no doubt that the game is fun and you can almost smell the sweat and passion that’s been invested in its development. It might be best referred to, as Amanda Lange put it, “a work of absurdist surrealism”.
Okay, all good. But what does The Stanley Parable mean?
If you’re ready for spoilers, read on. If not, then you can choose to– oh GOD I’M NOT GOING TO MAKE THIS JOKE.
I’m not a fan of #screenshotsaturday. Even though the indie underground looks down at the mainstream's sexual obsession with photorealistic graphics, developers still smear images of game prototypes across Twitter every Saturday. I tune out the hashtag because I don’t want to fall in love with the game implied by a screenshot. I can’t actually buy the game I imagine it to be.
Still, even the most cynical grumpsters amongst us are not immune to screenshot seduction. I spotted a glimpse of Myriad (Erlend Grefsrud, 2013) on Twitter a couple of months ago which probably looked something like this:
After that, I hunted down a video of the game in action. After that, I sent Grefsrud an e-mail. Well, less an e-mail. More of a demand or threat. Hand over a copy of your game. Or else.
I remember the first time I met the beast.
It was early afternoon beneath a naked sun. Having strayed a little too far from the familiar geography of Outpost Draco, I had been relying on compass and guesswork to find my way back home. Not that the camp was home, especially as a dead body lay amidst the huts, but it was the only place I knew.
The noise of a heart beating made me pause my search and I stopped on the shore of a bay. I was no stranger to fever and exhaustion so first thought I was suffering from a new symptom of the plague that ailed me. I was in error, my health was fine. I looked out across the ocean but the beating continued.
Suddenly, I had a very, very bad feeling; a dark realisation blooming in my gut.
I spun around – the beast, the beast! A black, feline creature was creeping towards me over a small rise. Elegant, deliberate steps. Such majesty, such menace! Terrified. My back to the sea, what was I to do? Where was I to go? It was unbearably close, mere metres from where I stood. I couldn’t look away, fearing the beast might pounce.
I backed away slowly… wading into the sea, hoping the cat would refuse to follow. It continued to advance, forcing me further out into the bay where I had to swim to stay afloat. The beast arrested its advance, choosing to pace back and forth in the shallow water at the shore, patiently waiting for my eventual return.
In my beleaguered condition, I could not exert myself for too long and soon began to drown. I tried to reach another shore away from the beast, but it tracked my movements, trapping me in the deep water. I was checkmated.
Coughing, choking. And my vision went black.
Then Miasmata (IonFX, 2012) restarted again.
Last month I tried out a preview version of Boson X (Mu & Heyo, 2013) and gave it around 20 minutes but no more. This wasn’t because it was bad but because it wasn't my thing, a brutal slice of twitchplay that hangs out in the same bar that Super Hexagon (Terry Cavanagh, 2012) frequents. Got inhuman reflexes? Like intolerant gameplay? Love to grind your skills to success? Boson X is just the ticket for you.
Four decades into my life I don’t have the stamina to take on these challenges any more. Nor reflexes... but I never know whether that’s down to a poisonous mixture of disinterest and playing when fatigued. In an article about Twine a few weeks ago I mentioned “I am quite rubbish at it”.
Then I played Boson X night after night, determined to get on there as well.