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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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U3DS

U3DS

WEEK IN GEEK: This week, Andrew enthusiastically plays the 2nd edition of Pathfinder, despite not fully enjoying the first edition, while D. Bethel gets really excited to play an adventure game based on one of his favorite comics, Blacksad, but gets horribly disappointed by Blacksad: Under the Skin.

RELEVANT EPISODES:

  • The Volumometer Incident” (10 July 2014): Where Andrew shares his experience playing the Pathfinder card game.
  • Starting By Starting” (03 January 2020): Where D. Bethel discusses the noir adventure game inspired by H. P. Lovecraft, Frogwares’ The Sinking City.
  • Nature’s Velcro” (03 July 2020): Where Andrew plays the computer RPG, Pathfinder: Kingmaker.

RELEVANT LINKS:

  • Here’s D. Bethel’s fan art of Blacksad.

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Earl British

Earl British

BETHESDA, WA: In a surprising turn of events––in the same week that Sony gathered all the attention for announcing the prices and release dates of its upcoming console(s)––Microsoft announced its acquisition of Bethesda Softworks––developer of the The Elder Scrolls series and the Fallout series and publisher of franchises like Doom and Wolfenstein––for a price tag of approximately $7.5 billion. Andrew and D. Bethel ruminate (and, at times, speculate) at what this could mean for Bethesda, and gaming, for the future.

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RELEVANT EPISODES:

  • Episode 61 – A Lot About Hmm” (21 Aug 2015): Where Andrew buys a Playstation Vita.
  • Nothing But Feet” (13 Dec 2019): Where D. Bethel discusses the sidelining of Campo Santo’s second game, In the Valley of the Gods, after Valve purchased the studio.
  • News Cruise” (07 Aug 2020): Where D. Bethel revealed that the Golden State Killer committed his first Sacramento crimes in his neighborhood.

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Something About Werewolves

Something About Werewolves

WEEK IN GEEK: This week, Andrew watches the recent Netflix-made video game documentary series, High Score, and gets inspired to finally check out the very strange––and controversial?––game, Night Trap. D. Bethel finds serenity as the ferryman of the dead while playing Thunder Lotus Games’ Spiritfarer, a game that is a far cry from their previous games.

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Aiming For Whales

Aiming For Whales

EPIC WIN (OR FAIL): It has been a few weeks of high drama in the world of video games as Epic––the company behind Fortnite and the Unreal Engine––sued Apple after Apple delisted Fortnite from its storefront when Epic violated its terms of service as a developer. It’s a complicated, convoluted issue with a lot of far-reaching and severe consequences for those who don’t really have a dog in this fight––the players (not to mention the impact it could have on smaller indie developers). Andrew and D. Bethel attempt to unravel all the goings-on in this very interesting and possibly paradigm-shifting event.

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Choose Your Weapon

Choose Your Weapon

WEEK IN GEEK: Andrew watches the documentary about the creation of Dungeons & Dragons that re-establishes the importance of co-founder, Dave Arneson, called Secrets of Blackmoor: The True History of Dungeons & Dragons, while D. Bethel enjoys––but fully understands the criticisms of––Sucker Punch Games’ new open world samurai game, Ghost of Tsushima.

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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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