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Surviving 2020: D. Bethel

Surviving 2020: D. Bethel

2020 was a year that upended all expectations. Though the threats that 2020 brought affected people in a variety of ways, for most it became a year of simple survival. For nerds, of course, we turn to the things that occupy our attention, inspire our imagination, or generate conversation. This year, we are looking at the things that helped us survive 2020. Today, co-host D. Bethel shares what kept him inspired throughout the year.


2020 became a year of self-reflection for most people; for creatives, it became a challenge to find inspiration in new places and ways. Working from home proved to be incredibly difficult when, all of a sudden, my creative, personal space became my classroom. Teaching, planning, and grading at my computer all day made it difficult to walk the two feet to my drawing table and work for another handful of hours on a Long John page. To that end, of all the things to provide inspiration, the sweet and sentimental video game, Spiritfarer, hit hard and unexpectedly.

Spiritfarer

On its own, Thunder Lotus’ newest game, Spiritfarer isn’t particularly notable. Yes, it looks very nice and the systems and loops are fun to juggle and the writing is top-notch. But it’s not revolutionary, at least not on its own. It’s just a good game. Honestly, that’s enough.

Spiritfarer is a management sim; playing as Stella, you takes over the role of spiritfarer––shepherding souls from death to the afterlife––from a retiring Charon. The majority of the game takes place on your boat that houses the spirits found along the way. During their tenancy, you talk to them, learn their stories, and help them get past whatever psychology holds them back from accepting their deaths. Once they have a moment of clarity, you take them to the “Everdoor” which sends them to their eternal home. For each spirit you recruit––taking the form of a different anthropomorphized animal––you do small quests to help brighten their moods. To do that, you grow crops, cook food, take them to specific locations, or harvest materials they want. With so many different spirits on your boat, your job is to keep all of these plates spinning while also maintaining your boat.

Also, it has a hug button, which is great.

The thing about this game is not what it is, specifically, although––as I said––it’s very good. Instead, it’s about what it represents and what came before. Spiritfarer‘s Canadian developer, Thunder Lotus, is renowned for their amazing art and animation; what they can’t be accused of, however, is being stuck in a rut. Their previous game, Sundered, is a procedurally-generated Metroidvania. Before that, their first game, Jøtun, is an isometric 2D-Zelda-like that had you battling giant bosses to get into Valhalla (I played both games on the Dan & Rusty Video Game Power Hour years ago).

Every game differs wildly from the last, with the quality of art and music being the only link between them. This also makes them unpredictable, but not in a worrying, nervous way. There is no doubt that their next game will be beautiful and good, even if I have no idea what kind of game it will be, and that’s what I found so comforting about this game in a year like 2020.

This is not a cinematic sequence; this is just something you can do in the game. Screencap taken by the author (click for a larger version).

While Spiritfarer is wonderful, I find its success validating for the mercurial ethos of Thunder Lotus Games, and for me. Though I’m slow with the output for my western webcomic, Long John, I also know it’s not the only story I want to tell. Seeing Thunder Lotus not only bounce between genres and styles without a care but to also be successful (in terms of execution) with every game they make shows me that a similar desire to bounce around with my own creative endeavors is not only possible but can absolutely work when done with integrity, thoughtful intent, and earnest excitement. Those qualities seep through Spiritfarer on every level (pardon the pun), and they were more than welcome in a year like 2020.

Turnips & Romance

Turnips & Romance

WEEK IN GEEK: In the lead up to the holidays, Andrew binges the entirety (so far) of Amazon Prime’s original series, Man in the High Castle, while D. Bethel has been playing the delightful yet simple Cat Quest in short bursts.

RELEVANT LINKS:

  • The charming Nintendo Direct where Mario & Zelda creator, Shigeru Miyamoto, guides us through the new Super Nintendo World theme park:

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The Noclip Option

The Noclip Option

CYBERPROBLEMS 2020: The highly anticipated new game from CD Projekt Red, Cyberpunk 2077, was finally released after a few delays and it had some…issues. From representation issues to severe bugs, Cyberpunk 2077 is a game that has encouraged a lot of discussion, discourse, as well as hot takes. Andrew & D. Bethel do their best to sort through the mire.

UPDATE: It looks like Sony has removed Cyberpunk 2077 from the Playstation store and is refunding the purchase price to all who bought it there.

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RELEVANT EPISODES:

  • Rhythms of the Algo” (17 January 2020): Where it was mentioned that the release of the Netflix original series, The Witcher, prompted a resurgence of popularity in The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt.
  • Playing the Menu” (20 March 2020): Where Andrew started playing The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt after watching the Netflix series.
  • The Cutting Edge” (29 May 2020): Where D. Bethel talks about picking up The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt after watching the hit Netflix series.
  • Con Artists #06 – Tickets & Tables” (11 December 2020): Where D. Bethel talks to Taurus Comics‘ Kyrun Silva about being an independent comicker in a world without comic book conventions.

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Weekend Ramboing

Weekend Ramboing

WEEK IN GEEK: Andrew befriends dogs and murders zealots in Far Cry 5 while D. Bethel finally gathers his thoughts (now that he’s seen it both at the drive-in and now at home) on the final X-based release from 20th Century Fox (albeit after Disney’s purchase), The New Mutants, directed by Josh Boone.

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RELEVANT EPISODES:

  • Episode 136 – Make It So” (02 June 2017): Where D. Bethel and Andrew discuss the controversy surrounding the release of Far Cry 5.
  • We Still Don’t Know $#!&” (31 May 2019): Where Andrew first enters the Far Cry universe with Far Cry Primal.
  • Arias In Embers” (21 June 2019): Where D. Bethel discusses––and defends––the second-to-last Fox X-film, Dark Phoenix.
  • Playing the Menu” (20 March 2020): Where D. Bethel discusses playing Shadow of the Tomb Raider, a game that seemingly had something important to say about colonization, but crumbled underneath the weight of a AAA budget and the expectations that brings with it.

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Nature’s Velcro

Nature’s Velcro

WEEK IN GEEK: This week, Andrew finds half of a game to enjoy in Owlcat Games’ Pathfinder: Kingmaker while D. Bethel expands his artistic repertoire by investing in an iPad Pro and finds a lot to like in it.

Here’s a recent post on D. Bethel’s Long John website about using the iPad to draw. Here’s the process video that Procreate (sigh) created of the drawing:

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The Cutting Edge

The Cutting Edge

WEEK IN GEEK: This week, Andrew and D. Bethel let you in on the newest in modern entertainment. Andrew takes a dip into Nickelodeon’s 2005 animated show, Avatar: The Last Airbender, while Dan finds himself charmed by the 2015 RPG by CD Projekt Red, The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt.

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RELEVANT EPISODES:

  • Shortcast 76 – “A Sense of Place” (30 Nov. 2020): Where D. Bethel mentions Red Dead Redemption 2 in a conversation with Andrew (who uses Fallout 76 as his example) to talk about world-building in video games and how they can be subtle with giving information to players to draw them in.
  • Playing the Menu” (20 March 2020): Where Andrew picks up The Witcher 3 after being inspired to do so by watching the Netflix show.
  • A Casualty of the Rhyme” (22 May 2020): Where Taylor Katcher shows up to talk to the hosts about the Snyder Cut being released on HBO Max.

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Bouncing Waveforms

Bouncing Waveforms

NEWS BLAST (COVID-19 EDITION): A lot of stuff is going on amid the global pandemic, and Andrew and D. Bethel are here to talk about it (if Dan actually was able to record his audio this time). They talk about the AMC theater chain shunning Universal Pictures amid Trolls World Tour‘s success, Civilization VI‘s bold new plan for a year’s worth of DLC and expansions, Marvel and DC Comics are shipping books again, The Flash has an abbreviated season (ending on somewhat of a downbeat), and New Mutants gets a theatrical release date…again.

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Arcabar

Arcabar

#CAPITALISM: With Disney taking ownership of the 4th of May, Andrew and D. Bethel talk about the role of ownership in public discourse for a bit.

MUNDANE FANTASY: Looking at where the world is now, and with the meteoric landing of Animal Crossing: New Horizons, D. Bethel and Andrew wonder––why do we love playing games about working…and love them?

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Feed the Fish God

Feed the Fish God

WEEK IN GEEK: This week, after giving a brief update on the announcement of IMDb TV’s revival of Leverage, Andrew talks about his experience playing Coldwild Games‘ delightful trading simulation game, Merchant of the Skies while D. Bethel finally got around to watching Netflix’s The Witcher.

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Part Racehorse; All Workhorse

Part Racehorse; All Workhorse

WHAT MAKES A REMAKE: With the incredible success of games like Resident Evil 2 and Final Fantasy VII Remake, Andrew and D. Bethel discuss the legacy of these new games (and their original versions) while also discussing all of the iterations of “re-” that you can find in media (reboots, remakes, remasters).

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