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Series 1 Commentary, Episode 11

December 21, 2010

The rest of a boring slog through the optional undead dungeon. The boss is defeated near the end, but discussion until that point includes my unfinished contest game that throws LOST, the film Adaptation, and the play Six Characters in Search of an Author (and I was right…it was Pirandello) into a blender using the “meta” setting. Big Rick Cook was a bit confused by my initial description here.

Speaking of RPG Maker community members, Wavelength and JPS get namechecked in this episode, the latter for his template for XP and gold gains.

Have fun, kiddies!


Early Works EP

December 18, 2010

Pull the Reverse Switch
Fading Out

Series 1 Commentary, Episode 10

December 17, 2010

There’s nothing to see, here. Move along, folks.

Sadly, this is the very definition of a filler episode. It’s a slog through an optional dungeon, and the only commentary to write home about refers to some of the battle mechanics and other things that are of interest only if you likewise create games using the software. Without further ado, the unbridled enjoyment is contained below.

Series 1 Commentary, Episode 9

December 4, 2010

Lots of techie stuff in this one. This is being posted almost half a year after the previous one. The episodes are newly captured (up until episode 13 were recorded in the half a year ago timeframe, however), and are now 1280×720 resolution, with pillarboxing. The quality seems to be a significant step up, though.


A response to Roger Ebert

July 2, 2010

I just posted this on his blog, in response to the “Game as Art” debate.

Personally, I think Flower is the best choice that could be made that you may in fact have the patience to appreciate as “art.” The entire game can be played in a single sitting of about 2 hours. I’ve written a critique here on a few of the reasons I think the game is about as close as we’ve come to pure “art” in video game form.

This theme is furthered by the last level, where you are tasked to bring life back to swingsets, slides, etc (things children played BEFORE the advent of videogames, and more than likely rarely do nowadays). Once the game is “beaten,” the formerly quiet, lifeless, dark apartment that serves as the stage select is now inundated with sunlight, voices of children playing outside, and a jazz musician playing from somewhere outside of the apartment. I believe the message conveyed here is again, everything in balance. There is a time and place for videogames, but there is also a time and place to build community instead of holing oneself into an apartment and participating only in an online community.

And here again is where Flower is the most subversive game ever made, in my estimation. On a console that at the time was struggling under its own weight, and whose manufacturer desperately needed it to be a success, a game is published first party that carries the underlying message, “Turn off your Playstation 3, go outside, meet people, and experience real life instead of a simulated version of it.”

This, of course, does the game no justice. Flower has been referred to as a poem in video game form, which I think is accurate. One can appreciate the aesthetic qualities, and possibly be emotionally moved by it without having come from a generation where video games are a perfectly viable entertainment option.

But as alluded to above, only if you are OF this generation and care to look a bit deeper will you understand the subtle themes it conveys, and really, just how subversive it is. In terms of subversiveness, I would compare it to Wall-E. To the untrained eye, both are escapist entertainment, and to the average moviegoer or gamer, both might appear slow and boring. But both have fairly profound things to say (Wall-E about late American capitalism, and Flower about the video game industry, video game play mechanics and their goal-oriented nature, and really, why we as gamers even play games in the first place, and what makes a game a game).

Flower is the only game that ever made me cry, and within the same gameplay session, also made me feel ecstatic to be alive. I’ve been a gamer since the Atari days, and Flower is the best game I’ve ever played, and my second-favorite of all time.

My film equivalents, as a reference point, would be Todd Haynes’ [Safe] as the best film I’ve ever seen, and Peter Jackson’s Heavenly Creatures as my favorite of all time.

As much as Shadow of the Colossus is held up to be the poster child for “Game as Art,” I think that only by having a fair familiarity with gaming would one be able to place that descriptor upon it. Which, for most of us like-minded gamers posting here is not a concern. But for Ebert, it might not be the best choice. Flower, I think, is a better example to hold up to a non-gamer.

I make games as a hobby, and actually cycle through inspirations. Lola Rennt, Memento, and various Richard Linklater films are huge influences on my ideas. Lately, though, I’m almost more akin to the idea of “Game as anti-art,” or, because some do not like that term, “deconstructionism.”

Currently, I’m of the mindset with my game ideas of taking games, what they represent, their conventions and play mechanics, and most especially, player expectation, and deconstructing them by subverting all these things (again, especially player expectation) into something completely different.

I do not know if a game made with the intention of forcing its players to confront their reasons for playing games, and exactly what a game even is would even qualify as art, without even looking at aesthetics. Even within the gaming community at large, I have a feeling that only a very small percentage would even understand the intention and what I was attempting to convey. And those who do not have any familiarity with games would no doubt fail to understand the meanings.

So, on the opposite end of the spectrum, the Japanese game designer Suda 51 is sometimes hailed as an “artiste,” mostly for the same reasons that film directors such as Terrence Malick are hailed as “artistes.” They are working within the same medium as many, many others, but have a sensibility and a way in which they convey ideas that are uniquely their own.

Granted, Suda 51’s games themselves run more on the David Lynch side, aesthetically, in that they are sometimes almost TOO abstract and challenging and difficult. And I’m not referring to how “hard” the games are when I say challenging and difficult. I’m referring to the ideas and concepts he is conveying.

So, does this idea of taking one’s preconceived notions about an entertainment medium (in this case, games), and forcing that selfsame person to confront all of these preconceptions to determine for himself (yes….sorry….most “gamers” ARE male) why he plays games, and what they mean, count as art? Or would that be considered “anti-art”? Or can “anti-art” or “deconstructionism” even be considered art?

I liken this to, again, my personal “best film I’ve ever seen,” [Safe]. It’s a film that one more than likely cannot fully appreciate without having an appreciation for the medium itself, and without having the motivation or wherewithall or capacity to view what’s on the surface a bit more deeply. On the surface, to one who cannot or will not look at the film on more than a superficial level, it’s slow, plodding, and boring with no reason to empathize with the characters and no deeper meaning.

But beneath the surface, if one looks closely enough, and takes the time to contemplate what he’s seen, there is a veritable world of meaning, which demands repeated viewings.

I personally strive to make a game with even one iota of that impact. I know, of course, that for every 100 players, percentage-wise, only 2 will “get it.” But it’s really those two who I hope to reach.

It’s been stated in the newest issue of Game Informer by Ken Levine, the creator of BioShock, the Ayn Rand-esque masterpiece from a number of years back, that gamers need to stop trying to compare our….ummm…artform to film, as we inevitably are seeking approval from “real” critics like Roger Ebert. I’m paraphrasing here, but he basically insinuates that we have an inferiority complex about our pastime, and that we need not compare games to film, as they are intrinsically different.

With all the film references I’ve made here, I’m not sure if I’m helping or hindering our “cause.” But that’s my two cents stretched to at least a five dollar bill.

Series 1 Commentary, Episode 8

June 23, 2010

In this riveting episode, I discuss weapon choices, the inability to not choose a fourth party member, and the timeframe involved in creation. I also wander aimlessly for a portion, looking for a town that I can’t see on the expansive and bland field map.

Obright and his games (Ursus Quest, Tree of Life and Mercer’s March) are mentioned. As well, I go a bit more in depth with more of my other failed game ideas, with a decent amount of techie talk as to why these game ideas just did not work out. Actually, a decent amount of techie RPGM3 stuff is discussed throughout. And I reference my narcissism (yet again).

Retail games mentioned include Gladius, Disgaea, Mass Effect, Dragon Age, and Final Fantasy Tactics Advance.

  • Series 1 Commentary, Episode 7

    June 17, 2010

    Kinda a wasted episode (count the number of times I use the word “kinda” in these episodes…if it were a drinking game, you’d be plastered before each episode ended), in terms of gameplay. Again, I discuss more of my influences, including Run Lola Run, LOST, Psychonauts, and Richard Linklater. In addition, I go over some of my future plans in terms of my game-making “career,” and some of my other artistic endeavours. I discuss my favorite types of character builds, from the arcade Gauntlet to Phantasy Star Online to Demon’s Souls, and the genesis of my idea for a director’s commentary (referencing Draygone’s LPs at the Pavilion). Also, more failed and never-finished game ideas are referenced, including a pseudo-MMO made with RPGM3, and its similarities to an ARG (alternate reality game).

    In terms of gameplay, I find one of the rare random drops, and discuss the gaining of spells, and how it relates to guild and alignment choices. Also, I forget many details throughout and probably look like a dumbass.

    “How about a game of lucky hit? Would you like to try a game of lucky hit?”