Electron Dance
12Apr/13Off

Open Mike #2

antennae

A week where The Ethics of Selling Children had an unexpected resurgence of tweet love thanks to Joe Martin. A week where superbrothers™ became a supporter of Electron Dance. A week when I discovered no one was interested in reading about an ARG that nobody was interested in playing in the first place. But one vital question remains.

If you had to choose between superbrothers™, Joe Martin and The Aspiration, who would you take out for dinner and maybe coffee?

On the other hand, you can talk about anything you want. It's open comment time.

Download my FREE eBook on the collapse of indie game prices an accessible and comprehensive explanation of what has happened to the market.

Sign up for the monthly Electron Dance Newsletter and follow on Twitter!

Electron Dance Highlights

Comments (50) Trackbacks (0)
  1. Okay, I get it. Nobody wants to be first.

    As for what I’m playing– I have become obsessed with Starseed Pilgrim since the last open thread and believe I am closing on completing the game. I’m finding it tough but making progress.

    Also finished Gemini Rue which I enjoyed more than I was expecting. I missed the romance with point-and-clicks (I hated them for replacing text adventures) so I’m never sure how I’m going to get on.

    Generally steered clear of Bioshock: Infinite but I did read this interesting take on reactions via @secondquest (don’t completely agree, but food for thought) and I’ve yet to read an Infinite piece on Tap-Repeatedly about AAA values.

  2. I wanted to be first! But you posted the thread while I was asleep!

    So, Thirty Flights of Loving. What’s the deal? I’ve only played it once, for reasons I will get to shortly, but aside from the very cool look it kind of seems like it’s Hey! Nonlinear storytelling in games, without any puzzles or twitch to keep you from advancing (or retreating as the case may be) the story. Which, cool, I guess, but aside from ten million movies* didn’t Photopia already do that in 1998? I mean, I’ll probably appreciate more of it on replay, but I don’t feel entirely whelmed, and sometimes I have trouble going through doors. The credits are great, though they completely exaggerate the effect of the Bernoulli principle on airplanes.**

    OK, here’s why I haven’t replayed it yet. So I get to the end and I find a menu that includes Gravity Bone. The game everyone has been hocking*** me about! I don’t have to try to figure out some funky way to play it on a Mac! So I play it and all you — you — you gamers**** who have been telling me to play Gravity Bone owe me an apology. Because Gravity Bone is a first person platformer where you can’t see your feet and the jumps are finicky as hell and the reload system is completely broken even as it’s designed to work and the horrible platforming bit is fifteen minutes in and it kind of seems like it’s supposed to be immersive but there’s nothing less immersive than a cycle of “jump fall hit escape because the game doesn’t even have the courtesy to kick you to the menu when you die return return return jump fail repeat jump succeed hit escape to save return return arrow return jump fail escape return return return oops that’s save now escape arrow return jump fail repeat.” And then? And then? If you quit the application because you want a rest, say, or because you want to find a video to make sure you’re supposed to be able to do that last jump***** WHEN YOU RESTART THE APPLICATION IT CRASHES ON LOADING AN OLD SAVE.****** So I have to do the whole beginning over to get to the annoying platforming, and let me tell you, under those circumstances replay really loses its charm.

    See, the thing is I think all you gamers are experienced at first-person games so the platforming is not such a pain to you. You might have to try it a few times but it’s not a total roadblock. But I don’t have all that experience with first-person platforming, I didn’t slog through the ending of Half-Life or whatever, and so for me instead of a subversion of gaming conventions whatever GB is a nugget of tooth-breaking frustration wrapped in some delicious candy that doesn’t taste as good the second time. (Like, I bet you never had trouble getting through doors in the game.) It reminded me of when some interactive fiction aficionados said to Jon Blow that they had as much trouble dealing with FPS interfaces as he has dealing with IF interfaces, and his response was “But you fumble with FPSes because you’re bad at FPSes, and I fumble with IF because fumbling is essential to the nature of IF!”******* Some gamers (not you, necessarily, I mean Blow) are very used to the things that they’re used to and don’t necessarily see how they can be difficult for someone who’s not used to them.

    *This raises the “The twists in videogames that are the most amazing mindblowing moments ever tend to be twists that show up on ‘Ten worst movie twists ever’ lists” problem. Which is not entirely fair, because games and movies are different mediums, and I’m also reading about these twists rather than playing them because they aren’t in games I play. But Photopia is a game, and I have played it!

    **As I understand it, it’s more that the wing is angled up — I would tend to go on to explain this as “So the air is hitting the bottom of the wing and pushing it up” but that’s surely wrong.

    ***As in “hock mir nisht a chainik,” which you have to Google for yourself because if I link everything I want to in this post I’ll get spam filtered for sure.

    ****Said the way Elvis Costello sings “pity” in “Little Palaces,” which is by far his best song.

    *****And I admit I’m somewhat spoiled on Gravity Bone anyway, and it probably really does spoil the experience, but I don’t have that much compunction about spoiling a game that’s released on a platform I don’t have and anyway by the same token that spoilage is over four years old so it’s not entirely so spoily.

    ******This is admittedly not the fault of all you guys who recommended Gravity Bone because you didn’t have to deal with the issues in the Mac port. Still, developers: If I’m going to spend money on your Mac port, could you please try to have it not be bugged?

    *******OK, that one really needs a link: here.

  3. Eric mentioned that you’d liked that piece I linked–I’m happy you enjoyed! I have a similar reaction–I find it a fascinating take that’s totally off the mark but has kind of forced me to go back to the drawing board with my own planned coverage. It’s the kind of piece that we do have to respond to. I’m personally planning something elaborate because, as someone who’s always been fascinated by mediocrity in my critical work (), I find Bioshock Infinite to be the apex of mediocrity. It is the most flamboyantly mediocre game I have ever played. It’s notable for its very genericness.

    But let’s not go too far into that–I am still planning on writing something :) But the game broke me a little bit. I’m just tired of playing that kind of thing. It’s the tiny straw which has totally broken my relationship with AAA gaming, I think.

    I need to return to Starseed Pilgrim–I was being so super cocky during the first couple of sessions with it, and now reading Joel’s comments on it, I’m terrified to return. I’ll get to it at some point.

    I’ve been having fun with some Bundle Shit lately. J.U.L.I.A. took up a good couple days of extremely, extremely enjoyable progress until I hit a wall with the puzzles and found myself walkthroughing it–still, I’d recommend giving it a play. I have my hands on the first episode of Cognition as well–Amanda’s recommended it to me and one of these days I’ll get to it I swear.

    I started The Real Texas last night and it’s charming as hell. It’s in the Indie Royale this week. I’m playing it with the “invincible player” option turned on and I’m getting a different experience than I think I would have if fighting counted. It’s a colorful, odd adventure that plays a little like an RPG. What I love about it is while it’s definitely in the Odd, Surrealist type of vein, it’s not excruciatingly so like most games are. Like, it’s weird but it’s not Quirky. I goddamn hate Quirky and I’m glad that it doesn’t stoop to that, at least not so far.

    Speaking of Bundles, has everyone heard of what’s going on with the Free Bundle these days? Here’s Priestman from Indie Statik on it: http://indiestatik.com/2013/04/11/pleasure-booth-babe-used-to-promote-cypher-discount-sale/ Essentially, the guys behind the Free Bundle decided to use their site to promote a cyberpunk game they made; controversial enough, but they decided to feature a little minigame on the site to further promote the game. There was a steamed-up “pleasure booth” (an in-universe strip booth, essentially) where you could “wipe away the steam” and see–well, not “everything” because it was pixellated, but either way, it’s an…ill-advised promotion. Which, I have to say, if the developers the Cabrera Brothers had said, look, it’s an adult-themed text adventure, it takes place in a sleazy cyberpunk universe, and we wanted to make a game we would find sexy–I mean, I wouldn’t buy the game, I’m not the audience, but I’d respect that because, you know, we’ve all got our kinks. But the comment on IS must be seen to be believed–it’s one of the most bizarre justifications for casual sexism that I’ve ever seen in the gaming community. I find it personally hilarious.

    Anyway, the game that’s taken my most attention has been Terraria. It’s one of those games which I’m veeeery slowly figuring out–not as bad as Starseed, obviously, but it does keep some things under its hat as secrets to discover. Again, after Infinite, I’m tired as shit of playing morally-questionable assholes who spend their time shooting people in the head. Terraria goes no further than bopping slimes and vampires with a sword, and most of the action is really just spent chipping away and mining ore. I’ve been needing quiet games where I can just stretch out on the couch, listen to music, and zone out.

    Fucking Infinite. I need to finish my replay.

  4. I would take superbrothers™ out on a date, as those pixel people seem extremely small and therefore cheap to feed.

    I’ve still been chugging away at my PS2 collection. After Ghost in the Shell, I moved on to Samurai Western, which is extremely silly and mostly pretty fun. For a game where you go up against hordes of gun-wielding bandits using a sword, it’s generally not too frustrating. Also much appreciated is the ability to not only accessorize your samurai with multiple cowboy hats and mismatched boots, but also resize and move them around however you want. I immediately made the first hat I got giant, which made the cutscenes way better.

    Unfortunately, the last few stages of the game are too hectic to be enjoyable, and my pet peeve of games where you get knocked down several times in a row was ever-present. I beat it and messed around on higher difficulties, but most of the unlockables are just more of the same. Oh, and the music was pretty neat; Noriyuki Asakura has a distinct style that works acoustic guitar into traditional Japanese motifs, and he crosses that over with Western movie music for this game.

    Then I went on to Rygar, which is an action/adventure re-imagining of an old Arcade/NES game. While the presentation had a lot of effort put into it, it was hard to tell how to handle difficult fights without taking lots of hits. From looking at some guides, apparently it is possible to get good at, but it just doesn’t seem worth it. I could tell from playing the Devil May Cry games that there were ways to play better, but Rygar doesn’t give off those vibes. It’s been a long time since I’ve liked a game enough to finish it, but not keep it, which was helped by it being rather short. So, while I’ve been meaning to revive my blog and talk about these games, either Hardcore Gaming 101’s done it better, or the game is actually not worth revisiting. Rygar did get ported to the Wii, but they gave the main character a silly anime makeover, and it’s otherwise the same game with motion controls tacked on, which sounds awful.

    Still haven’t hopped back aboard Gothic 3… I remember even less of what I was doing or where anything was. I also tried to see if I could beat Zaga-33 again and made a fool of myself. I might uninstall Gothic and give something else a try. Probably Deus Ex: Invisible War or Two Worlds. And I’ll slip Lone Survivor and Home somewhere in there, too.

  5. I’ve been playing a lot of Wadget Eye stuff. Gemini Rue, Resonance and Primordia are three of the games they produced but didn’t really make. Make make, I mean.

    Both Gemini Rue and Primordia are excellent games with engaging stories, cool puzzles and strange philosophical debates that unfortunately never really become as interesting as the writers intended. Resonance is horseshit.

    Some time ago I managed to overcome my hate for IFs and played a few and really fell in love with the whole idea. Sadly, I’m won’t feel like playing another one until I find a decent interpreter for Android tablets.

  6. On a more positive note, the Gorogoa demo was sweet. It was a couple of months ago that I played it.

  7. @matt w Not only do you outlength me, you added motherfucking footnotes to your comment! I know when I’ve been beaten by the better man.

    I thought Gravity Bone and 30 Flights were lovely little games but I kind of feel like they’re better when you divorce them from narrative. At Indiecade East, I saw the Well Played Session giving a close play of the game–where some of the other talks were more overarching themes or riffs on the game, since 30 Flights is such a short game, presenter Drew Davidson basically played the game while giving a running commentary. I liked the concept, but I think Davidson went a little too far trying to reconstruct the narrative of the game.

    Now a lot of this has to do with the fact that I’m a reforming Narratologist–I’m still a couple years from agreeing with Romero about story in games like being story in a porn film, but I’m close–but I personally found 30 Flights and Gravity Bone to be better less as a linear story and more as a series of impressionistic images about the life of a spy. There’s an emotional arc in both games–30 Flights in particular is excellent at swapping moods and feelings from scene to scene, a lot of the game’s power comes from jerking you from a chaotic shootout to a quiet bedroom scene to a drunken party to a chase. Figuring out who these people are and what the connection between the two games is and when what event happened at one time is, to me, an exercise in futility since the game works on a level divorced from its text. It’s one of those games that’s a little more akin to music–sure, the lyrics are *there*, and they’re important, but it’s not poetry: There’s a LOT of other stuff going on, and paying attention to just the lyrics is missing the goddamn point. I think I personally liked Gravity Bone better because its structure makes it *slightly* less of a “piece together the plot” thing, but there are things going on in 30 Flights that kind of show Chung to be one of the most disturbingly interesting videogame directors out there. The art direction and set design is also astounding. I’ve played some of Chung’s earlier works, many of which I found a little too esoteric to be enjoyable, and I get the sense he might be a visionary who just hasn’t found the right project yet. I think 30 Flights and Gravity Bone are more notable for the quality of his directing, and I’d love to see him working from someone else’s script.

    Oh man Photopia. Here’s a terrifying Internet Fact about me: I played that game in 2001, when I was a senior in high school, and based on how much I fucking love that work I’ve been following Cadre’s blog ever since. I used to be heavily into playing IF, but I’m very shitty at puzzle-based IF and I find that a lot of IF authors don’t realize that what works on a page does not work in a game. This is a problem I see with a lot of Twine games and one of the reasons I haven’t released any: When a game is being made of the prose, it needs to be written in a very different cadence than normal, a much clearer one. Either way, Photopia is a masterpiece–I would join in urging that everyone who has not played it SHOULD. http://www.adamcadre.ac/if/photopia.html Seriously, kids. Seriously.

  8. I’m already bored of “what is gamz” debates so even though the internet has been “enlivened” by yet another re-run of a debate that clearly hasn’t killed enough people yet, I am not participating.

    I’m still wondering what’s going on with the Chloe Sagal thing. If anyone doesn’t know what I’m talking about – here’s a Eurogamer page describing the situation.

    If anyone has been caught out using words online with loaded meaning and causing offence, here’s an interesting piece by Helen Lewis of The New Statesman (picked up from George Buckenham’s Twitter).

    @matt We worked through the Bernoulli principle is my course on Hydrodynamics at the start of my PhD. The equations drop out that the shape of the wing introduces a pressure difference and it’s that which causes lift. The shape is critical – why couldn’t you just fly with a flat wing at the correct angle?

    On Gravity Bone, let’s just say it’s for us FPS experts to go wow and think: this is really cool in an FPS game.

    As with Richard, I wasn’t as blown away by Thirty Flights because it’s more about a showcase for clever environmental narrative than player agency. Gravity Bone delightfully subverts a few FPS tropes, whereas Thirty Flights has little to do with them. As Richard says it’s more about paying attention to what is around you than rushing through and winning. It might be an additional log on the environmental narrative bonfire that I’m thinking about writing. My thoughts are finally crystallising on this. (I guess if you want to see the ending of Gravity Bone – just go watch a YouTube video.)

    @Richard. I’m trying to get myself into adventures a bit hence playing Gemini Rue. Who knows what is next. I saw the Indie Statik article and it is just plain weird; that sounds like a couple of a guys who are not following anything going on gaming culture today.

    I’m going to admit here and now that I love Starseed Pilgrim but it has been tough love. You are going to probably see two articles on the game – one spoiler-free and another which is spoiler-smeared.

    I’m not sure what you mean about “he went a little too far trying to reconstruct the narrative” because aside from a few obviously reaching points I think Drew Davidson probably got what Brendon was aiming for. It matched a lot of talk I’d heard online (believe me, I missed half of that stuff on my playthrough). I also think that Thirty Flights appeals to *certain* people, like 2D shooters appeal to some and JRPGs to others. It’s an environmental narrative paradise; if you like to puzzle out that stuff, you’re going to love this. If you’re more a shoot-first-ask-questions guy, you’re going to shoot through the game in minutes and not return.

    I’ve never been big on Photopia and the reason for that is simple: it’s like Twine. Now I just have to figure out why Twine bugs me. Actually I do have some ideas why, personal reasons, which also pulls in The Baron here (which I did play everyone!!!!!). If it’s interesting enough I might eventually write something along the lines of Why I Don’t Like Twine. Although I won’t phrase it like that obviously because the last thing I want is to trigger is a war between the Pro-Twiners and Anti-Twiners (Whiners). Someone will throw in “Twine isn’t a gamz” at some point and THERE GOES THE NEIGHBOURHOOD.

    @BeamSplashX The correct answer is take The Aspiration to lunch, Joe Martin to dinner and … superbrothers are obviously gonna stay for breakfast.

    I’d be really interested to hear from any readers who have played Lone Survivor. I didn’t get any feedback on the LS piece I did last year and all I heard was praise online. (Back up; Ketchua did respond to me on Twitter at the time, as he was an LS enthusiast.)

    @David: I’m hoping to follow you into Wadget Eye soon. Gemini Rue had some great voice acting (aside from unnatural engine-induced pauses in conversation) and I liked the ending; I didn’t see most of that coming until moments before. I thought Resonance was supposed to be pretty good? What bugged you so much?

  9. Gemini Rue’s twist is very good, yes. The ending in general is good too, unless you decide to check the computer in the last room and get to hear the contradictory speech that happens then about the irrelevance of the past. I think it still bothers me that it all seems to be a big argument in favor of the existence of the human soul. It had indeed some great voices, and Primordia’s main character is played by the same actor as Gemini’s, so you can get more of that epic Odin baritone.

    And yes, Resonance was supposed to be pretty good. Mechanically it does some pretty original things that should either work or at least be interesting enough to keep you playing. And it probably does, just not with me. The puzzles are just arbitrary, in the worst possible sense of the word. The short time memory inventory is pretty incredible, until you realize what a pain in the ass is to see each room as the chore of deciding which objects are important enough to memorize and which aren’t. You should give it a try though, it does do some strange stuff that’s worth checking out.

  10. Credit to Bio Infinite where it’s due, after 30 years(!) I realised the line is ‘When the working day is done’ and not ‘What in the world can they have done’ in Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.

    Wondering how much Disney would want for the rights to Koronis Rift.

    Thinking that games criticism has too many Kaels and too few Eberts.

    Terrence Malick has almost completed his transformation into Bill Williams; his actors are now just sprites.

  11. @HM:
    I’m definitely excited to give LS a shot. I actually still have his demake of Silent Hill 2 (http://superflatgames.com/wordpress/?page_id=139) on my computer, but I never got around to that, either. Got some catching up to do, y’see.

    @Ben:
    You could’ve gotten that in 2009 if you listened to Starfucker’s fantastic cover. Or checked a lyrics site, but there’s no sport in that.

  12. I’ve just added a comment to another John Brindle’s specific salvo in the new Mechanist Wars. I’m more lawful neutral these days, so I’m not arguing one way or another, but I felt like I had to stand up a little bit for the MDA framework even if I’m not proficient in MDA-fu.

    @David: I fear Gemini Rue is a game I best not think too deeply about. Shortly after finishing, I began to wonder if half the game was actually pointless plotwise – given the ending, why was Odin forced to go through a whole lot of grief trying to figure out where Center 7 was? But, yeah, more Odin baritone would be great!

    @Ben: I wish I got the reference about Kael vs Ebert. But I’m sure Disney would hand over Koronis Rift for a few magic beans.

    @BeamSplashX: Yeah, as I never played the original Silent Hill 2, the demake seemed kinda pointless for me.

  13. @Beam You’re right, of course, but the thing with deeply ingrained misheard lyrics is that you never think you’ve got it wrong. Vicariously enjoying your playthrough of all the Japanese PS2 games I imported at release, by the way. To tenuously connect the two, I’ve since discovered my editor of the time had an entirely different mishearing of that GJWHF line.

    @HM Renata Adler’s scathing Kael piece (http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/1980/aug/14/the-perils-of-pauline/?pagination=false) now reads like a 30-years-prescient indictment of games crit tone. I love Kael, for what it’s worth, but Ebert’s baseline human warmth and openness to change his opinion(!) are sorely missing, not that there’s an avenue for giving ground in our accelerated ‘first week is everything’ release culture.

  14. @Ben Took me a while, but I got through it! I find the linked letters page of defenders interesting;the same thing happens today but with less editorial curation – the comments. Or worse, the Twitter hate-bomb.

    Adler’s point about becoming a columnist essentially killing the critic is precisely why I would never take a writing job for another site. Although I still have to churn something out every single week I can choose to write about a variety of topics and avoid having to “find something interesting” in the new game that week. Games are even worse than movies, of course, because whereas you know you can be “done” with a movie in three hours no such thing is true of games.

    However, I’ve found the “brutal” weekly schedule has taken a toll on my ability to build pretty sentences that add a little sparkle to each post. I’m often writing right into the weekly deadline and, most times, rather than employ some colourful sentence whose meaning is suspect, I kill it and opt for something more to the point. I don’t like looking back and seeing paragraphs that just seem… cute. No doubt others can dredge up plenty of cute examples.

    I can easily see how you end up as a Kael.

  15. @HM If you–or anyone!–want(s) a list of some mid-90s classics, I can cobble one together.

    Actually this is a general question–there’s a couple of genres like adventure and IF that I know a bit about, and that I know there are a lot of people who want to get into them–or at least get an overview of them. Would folks be interested in That Sort Of Thing? I’ve been wanting to get some love to some overlooked older works.

    Maybe my issues with the 30 Flights talk was half due to differing interpretations and half due to I simply didn’t find Davidson particularly funny. Also it was the first talk I saw and if you remember I wasn’t feeling my best that day. That was probably it! Maybe this is a dodge but it WAS a couple of months ago. I could be mistaken.

    Twine is the accoustic folk solo act of indie games. I used to have an acoustic folk solo act. I performed under the name The Water Supply and I wrote intricate songs about my feelings, with overlapping harmonies and interconnected lyrics and everything, and for the most part everyone hated it because let’s face it–who the fuck wants to see an overly earnest asshole singing dramatic songs about breakups? At the time I was massively offended at my lack of an audience, but a few weeks ago, Riot Fox was playing a show. Now the music scene in New York is a bit of a more pop-rock influence, we’re still getting over the Brooklyn 80stastic Williamsburg scene, and so we play a lot of shows with a lot of weird acts that are a lot softer and lamer than we are. And one of the acts before us was an acoustic folk dude wearing a Fargo had, 19-years-old, singing about life and relationships as if he had a fucking clue, rhyming “my darling” with “my starling”, my drummer and I sitting at the edge of the bar, whispering comments to each other–and while there are going to be some fucking amazing person-with-guitar acts, hell, there’s Joni Mitchell and Ani DiFranco and Bob Dylan but you know something? You are not them. A good acoustic act can be amazing, but there’s such a tiny percentage of those that are worth a damn.

    So yeah, I don’t think Twine is ultimately Bad. I enjoyed Amanda’s scubadiving game, Howling Dogs while I’ll never love I can appreciate, I can’t completely discount an entire medium. But you know, I’ve paid attention to avant-lit type of things, hypertext fiction, and all Twine is to me is a different method of writing hypertext fiction. One which might be more gamelike, but which still sits somewhere in a continuum.

    The whole “game or not” debate, though, is not at all about games. It has to do with personal validity. Most of the time, the works which are being talked about are hyper personal works–dys4ia comes up in this topic a LOT, and that’s dealing with a very sensitive issue. We’re dealing with a myopic bunch of geeks, uncultured geeks, who are taking the term “game” to mean “valid work”. “Is dys4ia a game” does not mean “Is dys4ia a game” but “Is dys4ia valid”. I personally don’t consider it a game. I don’t go to it for the things I go to games for. And yet that does not change its message at all. It takes the grammar of videogames, yes, but uses them to create a work that straddles mediums. I say to call dys4ia a game limits what it is.

    But we’re in an identity politics phase, one which needs to place a disclosure of identity first and foremost. And just as the designers of Zinester Games wish to have their identities seen as valid, they want their works to be seen as valid. I have no problem with this–I don’t think any of us have a problem with this–but any time I hear people wanting Proteus to be seen as a game, or suggesting that the definitions have something to do with privilege–all of the definitional arguments suggest a deep, deep, deep insecurity, a wish to enter the “cool kids’ club” but a feeling that their works *don’t* have a validity unless they’re attached to a medium that it superficially resembles. For all of the focus on forging one’s identity and an acceptance of the slippages and continuua that “queer” encompasses, I find it heavily ironic that saying that dys4ia isn’t a game is akin to a critique.

    Of course, we’re a culture who thinks that calling games “art” is a qualifier and that “making you cry” makes something art–To The Moon is an unfortunate, unfortunate side effect of this–so, I mean, there you go.

    Funny, a few years ago we were all clamoring about the fact that we couldn’t find the Pauline Kael of videogames. That’s actually how I first found out about her.

  16. Richard. You forgot Leonard Cohen. You broke the rules, now I pull out all your pubic hair! …Sorry, too much Tenacious D intake.

    I’m… I’m trapped in Free Allegiance. Please. Save me.

    I am hopelessly in love with Star Citizen right now. It looks like one of the game’s mechanics will be SCRAM, before, after, and during combat. I cannot begin to fathom my love for this. https://robertsspaceindustries.com/engineering-ship-components-systems/

    I’m writing a piece on the infinitely sad Battlefield 4 promotion -fully half a year before the game’s meant to be released. I mean, just… just look at it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EOqezNZHGFU

  17. @mwm I know this makes me a Horrible Person but I haven’t gotten into Cohen yet. I got a Greatest Hits in grad school and it didn’t do it for me. Not sure if it was a bad way of getting into him or if it wasn’t the right time. Point is I’m not yet ready for him. Don’t judge bro.

    I’ve been on a huge Bowie kick lately. His new album is consistent with his 2000s work–a few tracks which prove that Bowie is still fucking amazing, then everything just kind of blurs.

    Also I have picked up Le Ton Beau de Marot by Douglas Hofstadter. It’s a definite Project Book for me, but it’s awesome.

    What? I’ve got other interests besides videogames.

    If anyone’s interested, I made some conceptual progress on Breakfast in Skyrim today! I’ve finally been able to explain the concept to someone!

  18. No, there’s a lot of legitimate complaints against Cohen. His lyrics *seem* really honest and heartfelt, but extremely obfuscated, like he wants to tell his life-story, but not to you. Some of his albums have more musical flamboyance than they need, which universally hurts his music. His early voice is pretty unlovable too, which really hurts the concept of a lyrical album.

    Greatest-hits albums always suck. His newest one, on the other hand, is probably his best; I recommend it.

    As long as we can agree on the divinity of the Dylan, there is room still for you in Leonard’s heart.

    Bowie really impressed me with this album. Think he’ll live long enough to make another?

  19. Err, his newest album, not his newest greatest hits album. “Old Ideas”

  20. Well, my PS2 wasn’t spinning discs for a bit, but a single piece of tape inside the tray fixed everything. Meaning, Crimson Sea 2 has mostly overtaken my chances at giving Invisible War a go just yet, though I’m at least sure I’ll be playing it next instead of Two Worlds. Shame the lovely updated texture pack doesn’t work on the GOG version (as far as I can tell).

    The Crimson Sea games are essentially Dynasty Warriors with guns in space. The first one was exclusive to the original Xbox, while the sequel was exclusive to the PS2… for whatever reason. I hear the first had more varied levels, and my short time with 2 has already shown recycled stages, which is a bummer. That said, it’s surprisingly quite difficult and requires using your full repertoire of moves to survive, which I’m enjoying more than I thought. The level hub also reminds me of the town areas in Phantasy Star Online, which is just blatantly aiming straight for my heart. I’m glad my computer can’t quite handle PSO2, or my march through both my games and music library would be halted indefinitely.

  21. And HM, I gave the demake a whirl and I can tell you you’re not missing much. That said, I’ve heard that the PC port of Silent Hill 2 is quite good.

    And a quick aside about Dynasty Warriors with guns in space- the Dynasty Warriors: Gundam games actually don’t follow Crimson Sea’s combat style, which is both bewildering and mildly irritating. I played the heck out of DW:G2, but it almost never stopped feeling like a missed opportunity. Omega Force (KOEI’s team behind most of the Warriors games) can be incredibly hard to understand in this regard. They still don’t seem too open about how they make games, though maybe it’s the Western press’ understandable lack of interest.

  22. I wound up talking about Gravity Bone at the beginning of class yesterday. It didn’t actually have anything to do with class — as I walked in one of the students asked if I’d played Portal (somehow they’ve got the impression that would be likely) and I had to cite Gravity Bone to explain why I didn’t believe that Portal would only take me 2 1/2 hours. Though when I explained I thought I ought to be spending my money on Dutch free jazz instead one of my students said “Oh, Misha Mengelberg” which was a pleasant surprise.

    Anyway I intend to return to those games sometime though I do find it a bit disconcerting that so many people are telling me “Oh, you can YouTube the ending.” Isn’t playing it part of the experience? I do need to replay Thirty Flights and see if it tells me anything else. Also there seems to be something a bit esoteric about a game for FPS aficionados to appreciate, though I suppose the Dutch free jazz fan shouldn’t complain about esoterica.

    Maybe I’ll give Lone Survivor a whirl sometime, though I’m not sure I do well with scary games.

    I predictably enough found the Helen Lewis piece tiresome. I understand not wanting to always police yourself with respect to “walking out the front door” and the like but when it gets to truculence about terms like “tranny” I think this is not so much letting the perfect be the enemy of the good as using the impossibility of perfection as an excuse for not giving a rat’s ass. If a not remotely transphobic person somehow finds themselves using “tranny” (and how does this happen? I don’t know any Americans who refer to Pakistanis by their first four letters), then the thing to do is apologize, sincerely, and then not do it again.

  23. I *liked* Lone Survivor for a little while but then got bored with it–refresh me, it was Joel’s piece where he said that he found the backtracking and such a little too irritating and confusing. I agree: I’ve seen some successful attempts at putting a 3d building into a 2d space, but I don’t think Lone Survivor’s method is good.

    I played through Ascension the other day which is a similar game. Disliked the ending, and wasn’t sure if I got a Bad Ending and missed some stuff or if things were just vague and unfollowed–and I’m not sure if I want to play it again to find out. It was free, I believe.

    Like I said, I’m getting half of this shit from bundles and I’m not sure its provenance.

    My gaming obsession this week has been A Valley With No Wind. The company’s games are all on sale on Steam this week for ridiculous prices–AVWNW 1 and 2 are sold as a bundle for $3.47 this week, for fuck’s sake–and I’ve picked up most of them. (The only two I haven’t picked up are their puzzle game, which I might anyway to support the company, and their 4X-ish game, which I’m always terrified of but, again, I might pick up anyway.) I’m actually loving the two games so much I’m planning a series on them. The games are incredibly tough to describe given that the company’s MO is to take a bunch of genres or takes on a genre and mash them all together and see what sticks. They’re platformers structured like MMOs with a city building sim attached. I would heavily, heavily recommend you pick them up if you’ve never heard of them because they’re seriously, seriously interesting games. And they’re online multiplayer–if anyone wants to run a few rounds let me know because I’d like to play some online shit.

    Weeks after anyone cares, I’ve finally figured out my Bioshock Infinite arc, so I’m going to be writing like a motherfucker this week–my GOAL is to publish a 5-part series, one article every day next week, so watch this space. I will be spoiling like crazy, but if spoiling the game prevents one person from wasting their time and money on it, then my entire career will have been worth it.

    The only term I’ve seen “tranny” used in a remotely acceptable manner has been in Troma-style productions, where everything has a lurid, campy offensiveness to it–where the humor comes from the fact that it’s an exaggerated grand guignol of repulsiveness. In other words, because “tranny” IS such a vulgar term at best. But the Lewis story is one of those that I only have a tangential view of. I get most of my news from Twitter, and the people I follow tend to not be at the center of such controversies. Right now people are backlashing against games journalism, the term “check your privilege”, and whether or not games do or do not represent ME. It’s extremely bizarre finding people who, after years of saying things, have similar opinions as you.

    That being said, my opinion on the Zinesters vs. Formalists debate is I want to bring the whole thing down.

  24. @Richard:
    I tried the demo of the first A Valley Without Wind. It seemed alright, but no aspect of it was really solid enough, either on its own or to even make it more than the sum of its parts. The second one looks way, way better in every regard, so I’ll probably give the demo a spin.

    Also, it’s a shame to hear that the 2D navigation of 3D space in Lone Survivor isn’t improved over the Silent Hill 2 demake.

  25. @BeamSplashX I can definitely see that. For me, I got two games for $4, so the fact that there are major flaws in both of them, largely as a result of their experimentalism–isn’t at all a problem. It’s an ugly game, visually–the second game only upgrades them to “tolerable”–its music is awful, it feels aimless at spots, and it’s not the kind of game that makes you feel like you’re accomplishing anything. And yet there’s such a rough charm to it.

    What I find I love the best about Arcen’s games is the way the games teach themselves to you. There’s a couple of short levels where they explain some of the various systems, but–AVWW1 especially–there’s so much and so many things that aren’t obvious at first and other techniques that only come into play if you’re a better player, so they don’t spend their time being exhaustive. At the same time, the tutorial is such a good idea of the foundation of the game, and the in-game documentation is exceedingly well-written. I’ve actually been spending a lot of time on the developer’s blog, they’ve written some extensive release notes and some behind-the-scenes stuff, and the amount of care that they give for both the game and the community is astounding.

    If the first one seemed a bit aimless and fatty, that’s definitely the case in a lot of ways, and the team has said that a lot of the sequel was the desire to fix the issues which happened in the first. It’s a much leaner game–it’s a lot closer to a Risk-style board game now. You alternate between the world map, where you place your units and build buildings, and the levels, which are more like traditional sidescrolling affairs instead of the sprawling, fractal dungeons the first game had. Progress in the map makes the sidescrolling areas a bit easier, progress in the sidescrolling areas opens up more of the map. It’s a more finite campaign: You’ve only ever got the one map, there’s only one overlord to fight, and your or his defeat ends the campaign to try again. I haven’t gotten as far in it as in the first, but while it’s no less deep, it has an extremely different feel. Either way, they sell both games together so buying one buys the other–and seriously, it’s $4.

    I feel like someone in this thread mentioned never playing Silent Hill 2 but I can’t seem to find that. This indie horror talk is making me think: Would it be possible to play SH2 for the first time today and like it? I loved the game–I played a couple hours of it at a friend’s dorm my freshman year of college and that inspired me to buy a PS2, the first gaming system I’d had since my Nintendo and whose games inspired me to begin writing, so in a LOT of ways, Silent Hill 2 is responsible for my videogame writing career, the fucker. If only I’d never played it I would just be a rock star. But it’s been years since I’ve played it–anyone have any ideas about whether or not it’s superdated?

  26. (Note: Spoilers for Gravity Bone and Thirty Flights of Loving.)

    I beat Gravity Bone, finally! Part of this was making sure I had enough time to play through, thanks to ye olde restoring bug. And don’t get me wrong, except for the annoying platform bit and the attendant sudden focus on the really terrible UI for save games, I like it. The furnace room that has a furnace room inside it is great, as is photographing the birds in the room full of secret plans, and running across that long table. Though I think some of it seems to be kind of FPS inside-jokey, like the crates in front of the air duct (?) and the doors that only open from one side. Which, I guess it’s fine to make something that really works best for FPS players, but I feel like it could’ve been more closely tailored to my needs. I’d kind of like to play again to see more clearly what the woman does in the room with the long table, but if I can’t restore my save then it’s probably not worth it.

    I’m curious about the reconstruction of the Thirty Flights narrative. I guess a lot of it didn’t seem too mysterious for me but then I’m not sure exactly why Anita is pointing a gun at me which I guess would be a big deal. Also, how closely was the wedding related to the big job?

  27. Also, Gorogoa, people! If I said it was like Counterfeit Monkey as a graphic game, would you talk about it with me? I, disgracefully, have yet to finish Counterfeit Monkey, and I’m not even stuck.

  28. @matt w I totally forgot that I played the Gorogoa! I was trying to convince Brasure to play it but he was scoffing, especially when i found myself totally unable to describe it and the best I could do was “it’s, uh, a, like, really pretty point and click game but I can’t really describe the central mechanic but trust me it’s super cool” so I don’t think I sold him on it.

    Have not played Counterfeit Monkey–IF is an EXTREMELY hit or miss taste for me, like a lot of us seem to feel, and while I love certain things like Photopia and Shade I’ve always had difficulty with Short’s work, mostly because I know her “conversation games”. The way everybody talks about Galatea makes me ache for how much I’m missing, but I’ve just never been able to do well with it. But I’ve loved Nord and Bert Couldn’t Make Head Or Tail Of It and Ad Verbum, also Undo, so I might enjoy this one!

    Right now I’m continuing to take advantage of Arcen’s games being super cheap on Steam, so I’ve been playing Shattered Haven, which is actually kind of interesting if you juxtapose it against Walking Dead.

    Skeletal draft of Part 2 of my Infinite piece is done! This part is going to have the bulk of the foreshadowing, and so most of the work will be done after the fact. I hope you’re all excited.

  29. Just tell Brasure… no wait, does he read these comments? I’ll tell him myself. Hey Brasure! Just play the damn thing for ten minutes, OK? You’ll see what the deal is.

    If you like Ad Verbum there’s a pretty good chance you’ll like Counterfeit Monkey, probably? The conversation shouldn’t be a problem — instead of having to type “a whatever” for anything that might look interesting, whenever there’s a conversation you get an explicit prompt for whatever topics you might choose.

  30. @Richard:
    Silent Hill 2 is as dated now as it was when it came out, mostly. The textures aren’t as sharp as they could be, but the whole game has an intentionally grainy and foggy look anyways.

    Unless you play the HD Collection version, which has lots of bugs, no fog, and different voice actors. God dammit, Konami.

  31. Lots of interesting stuff to talk about here.

    Firstly, great link HM to Helen Lewis’ Perfection in Language. I remember at school our humanities teacher reading out a passage from the bible then reading the same passage out after making it politically correct. Suffice to say it was even more boring and painful to listen to.

    Regarding getting back into adventure games: after Grim Fandango I honestly thought my adventure gaming days were over because I thought it was pretty damn horrible to play. Horrible controls. Horrible interface. Too many horrible puzzles/solutions. I don’t remember Beneath A Steel Sky being so irritating and I played that as recently as… 2008? Something like that. It was The Dream Machine’s first two chapters that reminded me why I enjoyed adventure games so much back in the day. Both myself and Hailey loved them so we’re eagerly awaiting the next installments. We daren’t play the third because we’ll only want to play the fourth one immediately and it’s not been released yet!

    I’m considering playing Lone Survivor soon but I’m kinda sorta concerned that I won’t appreciate it having not played Silent Hill 1/2. I should have played those games but like X-COM back in the Amiga days, I just missed them for no good reason. I loved the Silent Hill demo I got with… Metal Gear Solid? Anyway, I’d be very keen to play them now even if that ship has long since sailed. It’d be interesting to see how they stack up nowadays. I wasn’t aware of a PC port until recently either, and yeah, I heard the HD Collection was a bit shit and condemned by one of the original developers.

    I’ve never been one of those people who enjoys listening to music which is primarily driven by lyrics. I’ve always preferred more… uh, ‘musical’ music. Lyrics have always taken the backseat for me and I only tend to pay attention to them after many listens or if the singer has one of those voices that I just can’t help but focus on. I realised long ago that I’m also crap at making out what most singers are saying.

    I’ve not heard Bowie’s newer stuff yet but Hunky Dory frequently finds its way on to my stereo. I did hear a few tracks off of Heathen while I was at university around the start of the millennium but not much since then. I actually nearly saw Bowie at a festival about 8 years ago in Scotland but he had to cancel his performance due to illness. The Darkness took his place. Yay.

    Ahh, AVWW. I picked them up at full price shortly before the sale following a dabble with each demo and was really surprised by them. After all the flak the graphics received, including from myself now and then prior to playing them, I was actually shocked at how… charming, and occasionally beautiful I found the first game and perhaps to a lesser extent the second. As Tom Chick said, the second game looks more traditionally better looking. They’re strange, strange games though. Unfortunately I’ve not returned to either game since buying them (d’oh), but I fell in love with the fractal dungeons in the first game so was a bit disappointed by their disappearance in the sequel. However, what I loved in the sequel was the turn-based Rebuild elements draped over the side-scrolling part of the game; allocating your soldiers, reclaiming territory carefully (in a similar fashion to AI War), fortifying buildings and scavenging and farming resources. I really ought to return to them at some point. And I actually didn’t mind the music, at least some of it. What’s multiplayer supposed to be like? Also, I love the gravestone delivery of help messages, made me chuckle a few times.

    Speaking of AVWW, I’ve been playing a lot of Terraria recently with friends. I think dabbling with AVWW made me hanker for some multiplayer co-op action and Terraria has a few similarities even if it’s more Castlevania meets Minecraft rather than say, Shadow of the Beast meets Rebuild or Actraiser. Playing Terraria with friends who’ve put a lot of hours into it already and who aren’t afraid of looking at the wiki for stuff does kill some of the sense of personal discovery and progress though. Having said this, some things you’d never discover on your own.

    Looking forward to your articles on Bioshock Infinite. I really enjoyed Infinite despite having a laundry list of issues with various aspects of it, many of these have been made even more acute after a playthrough of Minerva’s Den and getting reacquainted with Bioshock 2, my preferred entry in the series.

    I’m just about to start Dishonored and XCOM so it’s all terribly exciting.

  32. What’s this about me being attacked by Gozilla?

  33. Godzilla. Fuck, Brasure. You can’t even make a joke correctly. Anyway I’ll play this Garthia game I guess.

  34. As a side note, Crimson Sea 2 on Normal difficulty can be really, really goddamn hard, and it’s only partly because the camera is awful.

    @Gregg:
    I actually had to check GameFAQs to be sure Silent Hill 2 came to PC. I wonder if it’ll find its way to GOG some day. I foolishly sold my copies of both 2 and 4, which stings since I recently felt like revisiting 2 (not that I actually would, but knowing I can’t without rebuying it sucks).

    I did keep 3 since it ended up being my favorite- you can (and should) get that one for PC, as well. 3 is notably less subtle, but it has the best presentation. Also, you get the good ending almost by default on your first playthrough, making it the only Silent Hill where I’ve gotten the good ending on the first playthrough.

    The fractal dungeons in AVWW1 drove me fucking bonkers. I felt more comfortable trying to find six staircases back to the surface while blinded in Angband. I mean, I died in the latter case, but I felt more comfortable.

    I have never owned Bioshock 1, but I know all its gimmicks and story beats, while all I know about 2 is the twist that’s as obvious as Dishonored’s twist, and that it plays better than 1. Twist sounds like some kind of soda made with Twizzlers when you keep saying it.

    @Eric:
    Are you using the built-in spellcheck on Gozilla Wirewox?

  35. “I remember at school our humanities teacher reading out a passage from the bible then reading the same passage out after making it politically correct. Suffice to say it was even more boring and painful to listen to.”

    Oi, wasn’t that Orwell’s “Politics and the English Language“? I will grumpily observe that the phrase “politically correct” is part of the problem (actually I have problems with the whole Orwell thesis, since a lot of the big lies of our times are communicated in perfectly clear prose–jargon is a problem but it isn’t exactly the problem he thinks it is.)

  36. @Beam: Wait, what? Bioshock 2 (possible) spoilers below!

    Spoilers!

    Bioshock 2’s greatest twist is that it doesn’t have one. It just tells a more personal story, simply. There are no big reveals or impressive contortions as far as I’m aware, unless I sussed things out so effortlessly I didn’t notice it! Also, as weird as it is to put this in spoiler brackets, saying there is (or isn’t) a twist is a spoiler in itself! I went into BS2 expecting a twist (come on, it’s Bioshock) and didn’t get one. That was a huge surprise and so damn refreshing.

    End spoilers!

    @matt: I will look into those, thanks!

  37. Just finished Cart Life with Melanie for the first time. After three days of not understanding the tutorials’ orders and getting everywhere after closing hours, I finally had my stand running and a total of -256 dollars. I just gave up and waited for the last day. I got in the Courthouse and talked to my sister. When our conversation ended, suddenly credits. Thank you for playing Cart Life. I didn’t understand whether that was the actual ending. I got the “congrats on doing so well with this character” message. Reopened the game, Melanie appeared to be cleared with the best ending, so I tried to watch the ending again, and the game just glitched into nothingness. Strange things happen…

  38. @Gregg:
    I recall reading about it and the phrasing made it sound like a twist. But if it’s not, and not played off as one, that’s better.

  39. @Beam: Yeah, I think Richard Cobbett referred to a twist in his recent retrospective. Actually, his retrospective was a pretty good companion piece to my own (published around a similar time too) as he focussed more on the plot aspects whereas I spoke mainly about the mechanics, which he didn’t care so much for.

  40. I want to drop by quickly and say I haven’t been ignoring this thread, it’s just I’ve had writing lethargy over the last week and there’s so much in here to respond to! Perhaps I’ll write a proper comment after the Kairo piece goes up tomorrow.

  41. @Gregg I barely played Bioshock 2 but I LOVED your piece on it. Given that we seem to have some similar tastes, maybe I’ll give it a proper try at some point.

    I’m very fond of Terraria on the 360, but I’m hitting a wall with it. There’s definitely a lot of unexplored stuff on the map, but I’ve crafted most of the interesting things I see available and my explorations haven’t yielded any real fruit.

    It’s been several days since I last played Valley–did I mention I’ve been on a crazy grazing spree? Bought about a thousand XBLIG stuff this weekend–including Leave Home and qrth-phyl (working on a piece on the former) as well as Diehard Dungeons. All are enjoyable. And I picked up a few things from the Greenlight Bundle that’s going around (groupees.com), so. The point is, goddammit.

    I’ve spent much less on indie games in the past two weeks than I did on Infinite, I’ve gotten many more games, and even the shitty experiences had something interesting to say. I’m actually thinking of pivoting and incorporating Infinite into something larger.

    Tim Rogers’s piece had a lot to do with it. Rogers is one of the biggest catalysts for getting me down the particular writing path I’m on–that is, I think he’s the original bullshit charlatan games writer who has nothing to say and has hosed a lot, a LOT of people into thinking he’s deep when he’s really just a narcissistic graphomaniac. At least he can string a sentence together. Now, when I write 2700 words it’s not just on the box art and it’s not done to sucker people into wasting their time–reading a Rogers article is the textual equivalent of that game where you have to hold down the spacebar for as long as you can and you get a high score if you do it the longest–but I’m still looking at all the tens and tens and tens of thousands of words that EVERYONE’s written on Infinite–

    –and Infinite was a pathetic excuse for a videogame on every level. It was boring to play, Elizabeth wasn’t a Human but a slightly better robot than other games feature, the only way for it to be any worse, any more self-serving, any more arrogant, would have been if it had ended with Elizabeth turning around, winking, and morphing into the face of SHODAN, who said, “Hello, insect!”, and then a video of Levine. (“We’ve had fun today, but there’s something that’s not fun: Extremes. Take care of yourself.) It was the nadir of mediocrity. The only reason it got any attention because it cost ONE HUNDRED MILLION DOLLARS and because it was THE SEQUEL TO BIOSHOCK, THE HIGHEST RATED SHOOTER OF ALL TIME. Its story does not deserve analysis. Its comments on videogame sequels are banal and idiotic. It offers nothing of value, no importance, nothing–and because of the cost, because of the marketing, because of its nature as a followup to Bioshock (the game which proved that Art could be Mainstream!), it deserves to be. If Bioshock Infinite has any importance it will be one of the biggest explosion in Games as Art, in Mainstream Gaming. Bioshock Infinite is product. It is a just-add-water-and-microwave prepared food. A way of dressing up gun culture in vaguely-sophisticated clothing in order to get us to accept violence. I’m goddamn tired of playing a gun and I am tired of reading people trying to figure out the Symbolism of the Gun or whether or not the game is a good representation of minority issues or how good the shooty bits are.

    Bioshock Infinite is the game which has forced me to admit that, like Zinester games, mainstream games are total bullshit. The way no one is making that point–the way mainstream games are still seeming Canonical–is cementing that realization about most game writing, which I’m already predisposed to disliking. You know it’s one of my normal points to lambaste the Critical Distance crowd for their worship of Dragon Age II (Fenris, drool!), a bloated, puerile, pornographic wish-fulfillment fantasy–normally the sort of thing they make fun of but because this was one which pandered to their particular wish, it was totally okay!–over Cart Life, which came out around the same time. Bioshock Infinite is a weird, haunting obsession beyond anything it deserves but it seems the desire to write about it is a compulsion.

    So I guess why I’ve been stalling is it’s really hard to write about THAT.

  42. That was me again, not realizing I was logged out. Although wall of text, “bloated, puerile”, making fun of Zinesters and pretension–I mean if you had to ask…

  43. @Richard:
    I’m now at a point where there’s all these games I must play for myself. In fact, the more vehemently people opposed to Infinite tell me to avoid it, the more my interest is piqued. Oddly enough, I’m starting to see the inverse response to Resident Evil 6 of all things- a few supporters have popped up from unexpected places and my interest in it is bizarrely renewed. I may end up liking, disliking, loving or hating either one, but my curiosity is pretty much incurable now.

    Besides, I liked TRAG on the PS1, and NO ONE praised that game. I even unlocked everything when I had outgrown my 100%-ing phase. You may have heard of TRAG from such varied places as this comment or nowhere else. All you need to know is it’s anime Resident Evil 2 with no horror elements.

    I gave the demo of A Valley Without Wind 2 a spin. It’s much more enjoyable, but it makes me wish things were even more discrete and less random. I understand that 1 and 2 are much more open to modding as they are, but since I’m not interested enough in the base game to bother with those, that’s a moot point. The strategic phase rules are nicely geared towards guerrilla war, and the idea kind of reminds me of Midwinter, though I believe Midwinter wasn’t procedurally generated. I’d like something similar but with a more personal touch, even if it proved to be less replayable. I can see why someone would adore it, though.

  44. Going back to the “we are all games” debate, the idea that we’re really talking about validation I find kind of interesting. Because if the whole school of Twine, dys4ia and Proteus decided to say en masse “okay, we’re not games”, I wonder what then happens. Do blogs stop covering them? Do we expect Steam to still pick up the odd self-proclaimed non-game work? Are they out of the IGF? What happens to that ecosystem of “software art”?

    I read Tadhg Kelly’s piece on formalism vs zinesters and it started out with the suggestion that recently ludological perspectives were being conflated with issues of control and oppression – and this muddied the waters. I had some sympathy for that, because the same thing happened with The Ethics of Selling Children (TEoSC).

    Ethics is often cited at the same time when “attacks on personal writing” are mentioned, slurred through association and not taken on directly. The other response is “but I think personal writing is important for alternative voices to be heard” which, again, implies that I’m against it. The debate that I wanted to have was dismissed: the responsibility of writers, readers and (most of all) editors to think about this willing sacrifice of personal privacy which will eventually impact everyone. But it gets conflated with a discussion about minority voices.

    Unfortunately, Kelly then conflated his own piece with a load of stuff that seemed intent on denigrating the zinester movement. We did this before and we fucked up and you’re going to do the same too if you stay angry. Oh well.

    (It’s weird how that Anti Games picture of “Emotion” versus “Activity” is becoming far more representative of the current dichotomy in games than I had expected.)

    I also have sympathy for Helen Lewis’ piece. They say the pen is mightier than the sword and Twitter has got lots of angry pens. Twitter is like comments on steroids sometimes, where if you tweet something offensive – maybe not even deliberately – you can get the hate pretty quickly. I’m not saying I’ve been subjected to this, but I’ve observed it many, many times since I joined Twitter in 2010. And what’s the instinctive response when you have a bunch of people shouting at you? Either run away (bye Twitter) or become belligerent and retaliate against what feels like to the person concerned like a crowd of bullies. This is the new normal.

    Richard, I did look at Tidalis (Arcen’s puzzle game) previously and I liked it at the time although my thoughts became complicated after writing it. I felt that the puzzles became much more dependent on luck as they became harder. A successful player had to be fast at reading and predicting the board; if you couldn’t do that, then it became a game of chance, just doing whatever you could before the blocks overwhelmed you. I played a little bit of AVWW2 (Arcen sent me a press key and I gave it a go) but it just didn’t click with me. I just couldn’t absorb the density of the game’s ruleset. It’s the same problem I had with AI War which I last attempted to play during Christmas 2011.

    Matt, there’s a lot of subtle story hidden in Thirty Flights (exactly: why is Anita pointing the gun at you and pulling the trigger?) but you really have to go looking for it. And I think that’s one of the differences between Gravity Bone and Thirty Flights that causes me grief: I didn’t have to analyse Gravity Bone to get it but Thirty Flights, without the analysis, can come across as just a sequence of cool-looking cutscenes. There’s cleverness in Gravity Bone as well, but you don’t need to grok all of it to appreciate the game. (e.g. Gravity Bone deliberately skips binding an item to 3 on the keyboard to convince the player that a lot more game is coming)

    Still, a lot of people are doing things which are Gravity Bone-like, little games that break the rules and play with environmental narrative… so maybe the impact is reduced now.

    I suppose I should jot down Gorogoa somewhere. In the same list I’ve got Silent Hill 2 and Metal Gear Solid with “one day” scribbled beside them. Obviously Mass Effect is in that list. And Bioshock 2, you bastards.

    David! Glad you’ve got through Cart Life once, although it sounds as if you were frustrated more than anything. That’s the Melanie ending, all right. I wasn’t able to watch the ending again, either… which reminds me, I really should get the latest update to Cart Life and have a go at playing Vinny.

    Beam, I am so with you on Infinite. I really want to play it now because of all the wordfrothing that’s been done about – SOME IN THIS VERY COMMENT THREAD.

    “I think he’s the original bullshit charlatan games writer who has nothing to say and has hosed a lot, a LOT of people into thinking he’s deep when he’s really just a narcissistic graphomaniac.”
    Honestly, you people are so close to discovering the truth about Electron Dance, it is seriously scary.

  45. Gorogoa isn’t like those other games! It takes half an hour or maybe an hour to play through the demo (which is all there is). I’m not even sure it has a save feature — which is a mixed virtue, admittedly, but as I’m saying it’s short. You could play it on a Starseed Pilgrim break.

    I guess I have to look around in Thirty Flights some more. I thought I had investigated pretty thoroughly — for instance I got stuck going through the door on the way to the wedding (this is what happens to me in FPS-likes, I can’t figure out whether my character is lined up with where I need to go) and Anita and Borges were out of sight by the time I left, so I went down to find the malfunctioning stairs first. I also spent a while swimming in the water with the swans on my first playthrough, not necessarily on purpose.

    But if figuring out what happened depends on a close reading of the heist map I will be annoyed. It’s like, have we talked about Gene Wolfe before? There’s obviously something great there but his aficionados tend to be all like “Well something on p. 3 subtly contradicts something on p. 149, and that shows that the narrator is a completely unreliable time-traveling alien.” Which I feel makes excessive demands on me. I did look up the place-names in “Are Ye Right There Michael?” once to confirm that they were pushing the train back to Ennis rather than on to Kilkee, but usually I don’t like to have to take notes when playing a game or reading a book.

    I have some further grump about Helen Lewis but not now.

  46. @HM:
    We all know the truth, but like how you go about it. Also, I imagine you’ll find Metal Gear Solid to be what professionals call “clunktacular” in terms of controls, but it’s still uniquely silly and has heart.

    @matt:
    Your comments on Wolfe remind me of why I can’t discuss music with metalheads, even if they aren’t so far gone as to say that metal is “the only real music left” (at which point they’re dead to me). The argument that metal shredding is more difficult than a catchy indie riff is meaningless in terms of both the difficulty in coming up with it and the listening experience. That said, I feel like Gravity Bone’s trickery might’ve been harder to come up with than Thirty Flights’ hidden narrative.

  47. @matt: Oh my God those Mac versions of Gravity Bone/Thirty Flights sound disastrous. As for “having to take notes” maybe you wouldn’t have liked Kairo so much =)

    @BeamSplashX: Actually I’ve only got MGS2, never managed to get hold of a copy of MGS. So I’ll be like “great Solid Snake! whaaaat Raiden????” all over again. (I think it’s impossible to play this game non-spoiled.)

  48. In that case, you can enjoy the glory of Hideo Kojima completely disappearing up his own ass. I think Metal Gear Solid, when taken in jest, ends up becoming the greatest silly video game saga of all time. I really can’t imagine how a story involving a secret society codenamed “La-Li-Lu-Le-Lo” ever pulled of blockbuster presentation values, and then combined that with interesting and varied mechanics when you actually have agency.

    It’s a real shame that some people try to engage with it seriously and end up utterly disgusted. That said, it’s worse that some end up thinking Kojima is legitimately the best writer in the industry.

  49. I don’t really mean to disparage Wolfe. He can be pretty great and I even think that putting things together is worthwhile — I have no aesthetic problem with difficulty. (One of my favorite books in this vein is Shirley Hazzard’s The Transit of Venus, though I find it more scannable.) And there’s a couple of his stories where I’ve seen some actually convincing explanations of what’s going on; but some of the stuff people say about it makes me think either “There is nothing in the text to support that” or “If I need to do that much work to extract the true meaning of the text, it’s not worth it.” Though in many cases I can appreciate it without attempting to extract this stuff anyway. Or I’m grateful that someone else figured it out and I can just read some spoilers.

    By the way, have I not made it clear that I’m angling for someone to give me a hint on Thirty Flights of Loving? Someone give me a hint on Thirty Flights of Loving, please.

    About Tadhg Kelly and “what iz gamz?”: It kind of seems to me like this. Someone says, “Music is reading or memorizing a complex score and reproducing it on an instrument or through your voice.” And someone else says “Hey, my music isn’t like that! And I think it’s artistically valid and important to me!” And person one says, “Look, that’s just not music. You can call it something else — soundpoetry or something — but music has to be fully notated.” Well, I think that would not just be making a politically neutral definition; it’d also be setting up something where music was only to be played by people who devoted most of their lives to it from the beginning, and bound up with an establishment that was not excessively friendly to women and black people and Latino people. It’d be saying “If you haven’t been doing this obsessively for most of your life and in the way that we say you ought to be doing it, your stuff doesn’t count.”

    And that’s how Kelly comes across to me. When he says games “must operate under the joy of winning while mastering fair game dynamics,” he’s pushing a definition of games that tends to require the creators be game design obsessives, and that if you’re not someone who’s spent his time thinking about game formalism, your work either doesn’t count or is bad as a game. Which given existing game culture is going to tend to push people who aren’t a certain kind of dude to the margins. And it doesn’t help that he and Koster are condescending to the folks who aren’t fitting their conception of games — the tell with Koster is that he compared dys4ia to a PowerPoint. Everyone hates PowerPoint. (The tell with Kelly is his entire piece.)

    As for what happens if they stop calling themselves games — well, it is a bit ironic that “game” is being used as a validation here. But it does seem to me that calling stuff “games” gets a certain kind of attention that it can’t get if it isn’t called games. I’ve occasionally looked at the Electronic Literature Collection, and (aside from Inanimate Alice) the only things there that I’ve ever seen mentioned on gaming blogs/sites/whatever are the interactive fictions, which also (even Galatea) get called games. If Twine/dys4ia/Proteus wind up getting labeled as whatever non-game classification Koster and Kelly would prefer, my guess is they wind up in the same ghetto.

    Lewis: OK, I’ve never been on either end of a Twitter dogpile, and also Lewis is a woman and I am not. But it’s my understanding that yer members of oppressed groups have to deal with lots of shit the whole time, microaggression the term seems to be, in a way that might not be entirely unlike being at the bottom of a Twitter dogpile except you can’t opt out of it by getting off Twitter or by not tweeting something offensive. So that crowd of bullies who are making Lewis’s friends feel belligerent and retaliatory — well, they’re maybe feeling a little belligerent and retaliatory to the bullying they’re receiving. And my sympathies aren’t with the people who are tweeting offensive stuff. And if it drives people off Twitter, that’s probably a good thing, because Twitter is horrible (and if you’re going to be talking about stuff that might be offensive it’s probably best not to do it in a medium that makes nuance impossible).

    Also it depends on what’s causing the static whoever is getting. Talking about “walking out your front door”? Yes, I agree that it would be unreasonable for someone to get a Twitter dogpile about that. Using “tranny,” which with a little digging appears to have something to do with one Caitlin Moran? Come on, anyone who tweets a slur would not be in a position to get belligerent when they get called out for it. Perfection in language is certainly impossible, but there’s a lot of room between perfection and that.

  50. Comments closed ahead of the next round.


Trackbacks are disabled.