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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.

RELEVANT EPISODES:

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FEATURED MUSIC:

The Battle Is The Game

The Battle Is The Game

WEEK IN GEEK: Andrew finds the retro-JRPG stylings of Square Enix’s Octopath Traveler engaging and fun while D. Bethel gets challenged making the new pages from his webcomic, Long John, into short videos for Instagram, forcing him to look at his own work in new ways.

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Cuddle Point

Cuddle Point

WEEK IN GEEK: This week, Andrew dives in to Hello Games’ No Man’s Sky after another patch while D. Bethel relays his experience going to see Kevin Smith present his newest film––Jay and Silent Bob Reboot––as part of a traveling tour for the movie when it came to Sacramento.

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Robot Monsters From the Future

Robot Monsters From the Future

THE FINAL COUNTDOWN: As 2019 hurries to a close, our hosts kick up their feet and just chat about the things they’re doing to occupy their time until the new year rolls around. They talk about everything from the winter Steam sale, to finishing Outer Wilds (no spoilers!), to Lovecraftian tabletop games (Fate of Cthulhu), video games (The Sinking City), and novels (Winter Tide), to developing for web browsers, to––of course––Doctor Who and Star Wars.

RELEVANT LINKS:

  • Weird World News“––a module for Fate Core by friend-of-the-show, André La Roche.
  • La Roche, André. “Spotlight: The Joke’s On Us.” A Website [ , ] For All Intents and Purposes, 27 October 2019––André’s critical look at one of the most divisive movies of the year.
  • Wildfire––the game by Ryan Kubik.

RELEVANT EPISODES:

  • Shortcast 03 – Interview with André La Roche” (31 December 2014): When we actually had friend-of-the-show, André La Roche, on to talk about writing for tabletop games, thus becoming a friend-of-the-show.
  • Episode 89 – High-Five Forever” (25 March 2016): Where D. Bethel talked about the revisionist Lovecraftian story, The Ballad of Black Tom.
  • Shortcast 21 – Love the Stank” (30 December 2016): Where Andrew first talked about playing Stardew Valley.
  • Shortcast 77 – Smash Talk” (14 December 2018): Where our hosts talk about Series 11 of Doctor Who, which introduced the world to Jodie Whittaker’s Thirteenth Doctor.
  • End-Of-Year-Cast #001 – #WIN” (28 December 2018): Where our hosts go over the things that defined 2018 for them.
  • Plants Having Sex” (05 April 2019): Where Andrew first talks about playing No Man’s Sky.
  • Threadnaught” (13 September 2019): Where Andrew talks about the big No Man’s Sky update, No Man’s Sky Beyond.
  • Tile Pile” (22 November 2019): Where D. Bethel discussed his first impressions of Outer Wilds.
  • “Universe of Nonsense” (06 December 2019): Where the trailer (and release date) for Series 12 of Doctor Who was discussed.

INFO:

FEATURED MUSIC:

Nothing But Feet

Nothing But Feet

WEEK IN GEEK (kind of): It turned out to be an accidental Week in Geek episode as D. Bethel talks about his disappointment with Valve Corporation’s sidelining of Campo Santo’s Firewatch followup, In the Valley of Gods. On the opposite side of breaking news, Andrew finally gets around to watching Star Trek: Discovery and kind of unabashedly loves it.

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Plants Having Sex

Plants Having Sex

WEEK IN GEEK: Andrew dives into the storied No Man’s Sky and kind-of-fights with Dan about games media coverage while D. Bethel relates his experience speaking about comics––and his webcomic, Long John, to a college graphic novels as literature class.

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08 February 2019 – It’s Always a Game

08 February 2019 – It’s Always a Game

Image Sources: Unknown Worlds Entertainment (top)/Team Cherry (bottom)

WEEK IN GEEK: This week, Andrew and D. finally return to video games for their Weeks in Geek. Andrew gets lost (in a good way) playing Subnautica by Unknown Worlds Entertainment while D. Bethel explores the mysterious labyrinthine world found in Team Cherry‘s Hollow Knight.

Andrew’s accidental screenshot while trying to escape the maw of a Reaper Leviathan in Subnautica.

RELEVANT LINKS:

  • Part 1 of D. Bethel’s playthrough of Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon:

RELEVANT EPISODES:

INFO:

For all intents and purposes, that was an episode recap.

FEATURED MUSIC:

-“Disco Medusae” by Kevin McLeod (incompetech.com)*
-“District Four” by Kevin McLeod (incompetech.com)*
*Tracks are licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Episode 161 – Mustache Nonsense

Episode 161 – Mustache Nonsense

Image source: BBC

WEEK IN GEEK: Andrew gets impressed with The Bard’s Tale Trilogy remastered collection on Steam while D. Bethel watches Venom and, even though he enjoyed it, wonders why it’s hitting such a strong chord with viewers.

DOCTOR BOO!: With Spookytober drawing to a close, Andrew and D. couldn’t not talk about Doctor Who, so they dove into the archive to talk about what they argue may be one of the series’ scariest episodes yet, series 4’s “Midnight.”

LINKS:

  • Haddonfield Has a Posse.” Episode 7 of Halloween Unmasked, where John Carpenter talks about the two types of fear.

INFO:

For all intents and purposes, that was an episode recap.

FEATURED MUSIC:

-“Disco Medusae” by Kevin McLeod (incompetech.com)*
-“District Four” by Kevin McLeod (incompetech.com)*
*Tracks are licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Shortcast 67 – Baguettevania

Shortcast 67 – Baguettevania

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.

RELATED EPISODES:

RELEVANT LINKS:

INFO:

For all intents and purposes, that was an episode recap.

FEATURED MUSIC:

-“District Four” by Kevin McLeod (incompetech.com)*
-“Disco Medusae” by Kevin McLeod (incompetech.com)*
*Tracks are licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Spotlight: Games at E3

Spotlight: Games at E3

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.

Ghost of Tsushima – Sucker Punch Studios (PS4) – Release TBA

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.

Pages from the first appearance of Arzach in the pages of Métal hurlant (1975). Source: Humanoids Publishing.

An image from Mœbius’ Voyage d’Hermés series (2011), created for boutique clothing company, Hermés. source: Hermés

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 and what 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.

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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.