WEEK IN GEEK: It’s an indie game kind of week as Andrew reports on the Zelda-like shop sim, Moonlighter, by Digital Sun while D. Bethel starts a conversation about everybody’s current favorite rogue-like platformer (kind of a Metroidvania, kind of not; definitely not a “roguevania”), Dead Cells, by Motion Twin.
E3 tends to throw a lot of information––and games––at the public. D. Bethel has thoughts on a few of them.
Having been a console-first gamer my entire gaming life, I tend to pay close attention to the news and videos coming out of the annual Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3). At this point, I don’t get particularly hyped about the games that get announced (I hear people that hit social media after a press conference exclaiming, seemingly in earnest, “I NEED THIS GAME NOW!” Chill, dude) especially since few games shown at E3 anymore are surprises, having been announced months or years earlier. If anything, being a guy who is way into process, I’m excited to see what state these previously announced games are in and what kind of games they actually end up being. It’s like a big public presentation of the middle portion of the transition from idea to final product.
With that in mind, there a few games really stood out to me, with a few that may have slipped under the larger coverage of the show.
The games I discuss in Shortcast 59 are only from the Sony press conference. Though I’ll be broadening my scope for this Spotlight, there was one game from Sony’s exhibition really got its hooks in me.
Sucker Punch is a studio with whom I’m nominally familiar. I never played the Infamous series of games, having been an Xbox 360 owner at the time of their release, but the idea intrigued me enough and the general response to the series was always positive, nor had I touched a Sly Cooper game as 3D platformers never really appealed to me despite the series’ general good regard among the community. With that said, I hold neither Sucker Punch nor their upcoming game, Ghost of Tsushima, to any metric aside from what they show of the game itself.
And what they showed of Ghost is fire.
In fact, it seems like a game made specifically for D. Bethel. According to Sucker Punch creative director, Nate Fox, Ghost is a wholly linear, narrative-focused game that takes the player through 13th century Japan in the midst of a war with the Mongols. With that, teenaged Dan, the Japanese history nerd, perked up. Additionally, it’s a historical samurai action game with no supernatural elements whatsoever as Sucker Punch aimed for “a grounded game.” Comicker D. Bethel, who’s making a western webcomic with no supernatural elements, perked up as well. Combined with the deliberate combat that looked similar (though let’s hope it’s not too similar) to Bushido Blade and Way of the Samurai, super gamer nerd Dan became invested.
Like with Rockstar’s Red Dead Redemption before it, the idea of a AAA grounded historical game that isn’t simply a tactical war game nor an RPG seems like an avenue less explored by big studios; so to see Sucker Punch tackle it (and with Red Dead Redemption 2 out this October!), I’m definitely keeping my eye on this one where, before, it wasn’t in my field of vision at all.
Sable – Shedworks (PC only at the time of this announcement) – Late 2019
Here’s where I walk back my console cred and mention a PC game. E3 held what it called its “PC Gaming Show” that showcased upcoming PC games in the same manner that other press conferences showcased console-focused games. Tucked among those games was Sable, and I can’t believe it’s real.
Games––like any art––start with an idea; often, that idea can be rather abstract.
I’ve watched the trailer a few times and I know it’s a game, but I couldn’t tell you what kind of game it is yet. The visuals stunned me. Surely a lot of people are going to be calling this a “hand-drawn” game, which it obviously isn’t. Instead, it’s doing some high-level and artistic cell shading that eerily––EERILY––evokes the work of French cartoonist, Jean Giraud (aka Mœbius). Most accurately, it seems to be an homage to his long-running Métal hurlant (a magazine Giraud co-created and was published in the US as Heavy Metal) strip, Arzach.
Created by the two-person UK developer, Shedworks, their main source of inspiration seems to be from the strides in open-world development that The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild made than directly trying to interpret the work of Giraud into a video game space. Instead, the game apparently focuses more on the exploration and interaction with this breathtaking landscape rather than on RPG-like character growth and battle. Apparently, there’s no combat at all in the game, which is an intriguing proposition (No combat?! How is that even possible?!?!) that brought with it, to an extent, an internal sigh of relief. Finally, something different aside from just the visuals.
My joy doesn’t come from gleefully pointing out that this game seems to ape Mœbius’ style or comic at all––there’s no joy in that––but that this game vivifies his aesthetic perfectly. This must look like what the artist had in his head from which he could only capture still frames and arrange them on a page. Of all the games being written about, Sable genuinely gave me pause.
Sea of Solitude – Jo-Mei (PS4, XBox One, PC) – Early 2019
As an academic English person––albeit one who specialized in Composition and Rhetoric––whenever popular culture reveals a literary depth to it, it draws my attention with laser precision.
I heard on a podcast––sadly, I don’t remember which one, but probably Waypoint Radio––about a game shown during EA’s press conference that caught people off guard because Cornelia Geppert, the creative director of German indie studio, Jo-Mei, got surprisingly emotional and thoughtful when presenting the game, Sea of Solitude.
While “getting emotional” seems to be a highly subjective term––Geppert comes across as more nervous and genuinely excited to show off her game at the largest gaming trade show in the United States––her candor with the game’s themes andwhat they are trying to say with the game surprised me more.
A major argument in the discourse around games is that they are superficial entertainment, escapist power-fantasy exercises and that’s the baseline level of appreciation for them. Some even argue that such an angle should be our only appreciation of them (“Keep politics out of games!” “Keep your X agenda out of games!” “Games should be more like they were before!” etc.).
The problem with that is games are made by people who think very hard about their games. Like with any creative product (or any product), the consumer doesn’t usually see the majority of effort that went into making it. That’s part of why we are so quick to offer hot takes on games, movies, comics, toys, videos, etc. We are reacting to the product put in front of us, not seeing the complex web of thought, ability, and troubleshooting behind the shiny veneer. To an extent, good games look effortlessly made.
Games––like any art––start with an idea; often, that idea can be rather abstract. This has become more visible as creators have been more vocal with their process. From Hideo Kojima’s thematic and increasingly abstract approach to his Metal Gear Solid series to the small and decisively personal games like Brothers and Papo y Yo, consumers are seeing the level of critical and artistic effort creators put into their games.
Usually we hear these things after a game’s release. That Jo-Mei presented their literary ambition first, before the trailer, partly illustrates why I liked their segment of the press conference so much. This seems like a huge step forward for the developer whose previous games don’t seem like anything that really broke through to the larger critical discussion.
Luckily, the game looks stylish and fun––like LIMBO or INSIDE crossed with a post-apocalyptic anime––I’m excited because it piqued my academic interests while also being a game that––superficially––looks like it’ll be a fun time.
E3 has been particularly exciting this year. After a year or two of the industry being hit hard by extreme successes (2017 was an outstanding year for games) and existential dilemmas (voice actor strike, labor issues, continuing GamerGate behavior), seeing good games at the show as well as developers tackling some of these issues (both positively and negatively) head on puts this E3 ahead in a lot of ways. At the very least, we get good games out of the static as developers, journalists, and players try to move the medium forward and upward.
Summer break is back with a vengeance, so the Shortcast run returns!
After a slight tangent discussing The Transformers and nostalgia, Dan and Andrew share their weeks in geek.
WEEK IN GEEK: Andrew plays Bioshock from the Bioshock: The Collection released to PC and consoles last year. Dan actually finishes a book before discussing it. This time, it’s the Kickstartered Wild Times: An Oral History of Wildstorm Studios by Joseph Hedges (now available for purchase).
Despite suddenly getting sick this week, Andrew and Dan are bringing you quality audio content to help you usher in the weekend.
WEEK IN GEEK: Andrew branches out to watch the first season of Syfy’s The Magicians, based on the series of novels by Lev Grossman, while D. Bethel focuses up and gets emotional playing the latest game (and last game for Sony, at least) from Fumito Ueda, The Last Guardian.
WEEK IN GEEK: Andrew takes a break from Civilization VI and Fallout 4 to play Bravely Second on his Nintendo 3DS while Dan plays through the well-made but wobbly-written Stories: The Path of Destinies.
ALL IN A NAME: Based on the article written by the McArthur Law firm, Dan and Andrew investigate the strange situation between Cards Against Humanity and a homage/derivative game, Humanity Hates Trump. Where can the IP line be drawn?
Leave your thoughts about this week’s topics as comments at forallintents.net. Be sure to join the official Facebook page and subscribe to and like the videos on the official YouTube channel. To help spread the word, please subscribe to, and leave a review of, the show on the iTunes store.
For all intents and purposes, that was an episode recap.
FEATURED MU SIC:
-“Stayin’ in Black” by Wax Audio
-“Phoenix Wright – Objection” by Masakazu Sugimori, Akemi Kimura, & Noriyuki Iwadare
Playing a bit of Thunder Lotus’ gorgeous adventure game, Jotun, live really exposed how scary doing such a thing is.
I listen to plenty of video game podcasts, such as Giant Bombcast (as well as the Giant Beastcast), Vice Gaming’s New Podcast, and Match 3, and they have all talked about––to varying degrees––the stress of playing in front of people. For some reason, I thought I’d be immune, but only once I began to broadcast gameplay did I suddenly became aware that anybody could stroll in and watch me die a whole lot. With each chunk of damage I took, the pinch of worry grew stronger.
I don’t think, in hindsight, that my lack of skill lessens the pure majesty of this game (which I first talked about during Episode 107‘s Week in Geek). About halfway through the stream, I wise up and show off some aspects of the game that really do show off the grandiosity and choices that––if implemented––could really do amazing world-building for a retro-isometric The Legend of Zelda game, if they ever wanted to go back to that.
Even though the player character, Thora, becomes so small that seeing her can become a problem if working through a particularly busy boss battle (ahem), and the top-down camera restrains the field of view, Jotun feels epic in the truest and popular sense of the word through the simplest of choices in, most obviously, art and, more subtly, play with perspective which I show off about halfway through the stream.
I hope to do more streams like this––haphazard hour-long plays with my dog making dog noises in the background. “The Dan & Rusty Video Game Hour” was a concept I bounced around this summer (if only to make myself laugh), and I held from pulling the trigger out of laziness more than anything else. Once I got the gumption, it mostly worked and I hope that––despite the constant deaths that befell me during the hour of play––you get some enjoyment out of it. I’ll need to work out some audio kinks, if they can be worked out (the game audio is incredibly loud), but streaming is still a trial and error thing for Andrew and me, so it’ll only get better, I’m sure.
If I do say so, I have a banger of a joke at the end that I’m still quite proud of. *self high-five*
A few weeks ago, I sat down to play Star Trek Online on the PS4 (shortly after it was released), though I failed to make a post for it up on the website (until now). Watch me play through the first two or so missions (essentially, the tutorial) of the Federation quest/storyline.
Although the video has been on our YouTube channel since I first played it back on September 10, 2016, it took me a considerable amount of time to “annotate” it using the YouTube annotation system. The annotations are visible only on certain viewing platforms (web viewing, mostly) and can be turned off. It’s mostly additional trivia and Star Trek facts that I was only able to think of after I finished recording the video.
The inspiration of the annotations comes from the Special Edition DVD releases of the original Star Trek movies. Technical editors Michael and Denise Okuda wrote a series of sub-titles that included weird facts and information about Star Trek, the design, and the implementation of the movie.
When I got new Transformers toys as a kid (and, perhaps, as an adult…maybe) I tended to throw away the packed-in weapons that the toys came with right away. Back in the ’80s, losing weapons was often a consequence of design; it was a problem that G.I. Joe toys had or M.A.S.K.toys had or He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (but not Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors, their toys were perfect…not really, I’m sure they had the same problem)––the tiny blasters or swords fit nowhere except for in the hands of the characters. This was less of a problem for the other toys mentioned (since they could just permanently hold their weapons at the ready), but the point of The Transformers was that, at indeterminate intervals, you shouldn’t be able to see the characters’ hands because they were busy being some sort of vehicle (or electronic device or firearm or planet) and, in that case, there would be no place for the weapon to go. So, they got lost.
However, abandoning the weapons of Transformers toys was a choice on my part, not on behalf of any political agenda I held at the age of 5 and 6, but because I wasn’t buying the toys to recreate action scenes. When I spent time with my friends, the talk around playing with toys often came down to the simple binary of who would be the bad guys and who would be the good guys (the Decepticons and the Autobots, respectively, in this case) so that we could either ad-lib or reenact a decisive battle that would result in either global tyranny or peace on earth. I wasn’t particularly interested in these scenarios, possibly because I’m an only child and would often play with my toys alone, and big action set pieces weren’t fun nor particularly interesting.
Week in Geek: Andrew nearly swims between the polar ends of Final Fantasy by watching Final Fantasy X HD Remaster and playing for himself Final Fantasy for iOS. Dan, on the other hand, has been playing The Swindle on PS4.
Dungeon Master’s Guild: Dan and Andrew discuss a few of the facets involved with Wizards of the Coast’s and Dungeon & Dragon’s news about the newly opened “Dungeon Master’s Guild” whereby user-created DnD content can be sold without worry of legal repercussion.
Starman: Andrew and Dan spend some time to talk about the death of David Bowie, despite the fact that their exposure to his work was tangential and limited at best. However, it must be said that his work and impact was hard to ignore.
If you would like to share your thoughts on any of this week’s topics, please leave a comment at forall.libsyn.com. Be sure to join the official Facebook and Google+ pages for updates and conversations among listeners. E-mail the show at forallpod [at] gmail [dot] com. The best way to help the show would be to leave a review on iTunes to help spread the word to new potential listeners.
For all intents and purposes, that was an episode recap.