Friday 2 January 2015

I think I am going to talk about Video games right now in this post

Print Friendly Version of this pagePrint Get a PDF version of this webpagePDF Because I played these games and I liked them and people talk about video games alot and there is over lap with rpgs.

And some of them were interesting like a book or an art can be interesting. Like uneasy emotional response that is good but disquieting.

But mainly I think it's a good chance to talk about mediums , pacing, frustration, delayed gratification , and imprinting

Anyway this will prob go in some other direction and I might make reference to that scene in Watership Down where the fucked up rabbits who have internalized the fact that they are actually farm animals and because they can't confront this fact they make bullshit mosaics in their burrows about nothing, which is the most apt metaphor for modern life I know.

I know I could certainly make bullshit mosaics because of my inability to contemplate the truth of eventual annihilation and complicity with life under captialism.
Or possible because I just like it.
It is a mystery

Anyway click the titles to go the relevant website. Most games are free or cheap because I have a piece of shit computer and am cheap so most of the games I play are weird little indie games or shit house flash games and the overlap between
Not from Anodyne from here


which means "not likely to cause offence or disagreement and somewhat dull" and "a painkilling drug or medicine."

Relevant? Prob not

I forget the name of it like all the time. And then mashing various combinations of syllables trying to find it .
Anyway it's basically Zelda. But sad and weird and possibly might need that crucial amount of imprinting on video games limited palette landscapes and the evocation of them despite or even because of there limitedness .

The medium is telling you that your emotion is for a place that doesn't exist. You are a Kākāpō
fucking the back of someones head
What does that have do with Anodyne? You play young who is an old man. A sage gives him the standard save the world script , cynically and routinely , and soon you find the broom that is to be your weapon and tool and you begin exploring a familiar landscape but one that seems empty and sad. Stones give unhelpful messages, there is a section of a highway that incongruously sits among the green fields and rivers and you fight the classic bats and blobs. Eventually you upgrade your broom to move dust around to make a raft and get rid of barriers and exploring looking for the dungeon entrances. SO it's that pokemon, zelda thing that shows up in my dreams still to this day. Trekking back and forth over a landscape looking at it carefully trying to open new path ways.

The games exploration gets to places that seem to be more in Young's head or someone else head anyway. A fleshy blood realm. A place haunted by dead acrobats. Other Dimensions of crystals. A memory of a fire. You are exploring someones something. Is it Youngs past? Is it a purgatory ? Some clump of psychospace Young has formed onto? It doesn't seem all about him anyway. Again the feeling like the medium is stating its fakeness. This time to itself. You never really understand what is happening

It surprises. It unsettles.

The two moments that most stick out for me are spoiler territory so highlight to read
You go to this black and white world with horrible static. There is people here. You've only seen one before, and she was nice. You go up to one and press the interact button. You stab them and they die bleeding.
Because they are coded as enemy pressing the attack button doesn't open a dialogue box. It attacks them with a knife which has replaced your broom. Though this area is implied to be more memory (glitched haunted and diseased) than others , it never reveals it all to be a dream or psychotic vision. It threats to but never settles there. There is not consequence or explanation. You just killed someone.

The other bit is after you have defeated the final boss and got the new game plus power. A ability to swap any 2 squares allowing you to dismantle the landscape and step beyond the borders of the levels. It feels like nonclip mode or using a level editor to explore what you couldn't before. Then you find new areas and more content and there was shock for me , that the game hadn't ended. Like watching a play, applauding, the curtains fall, and you walk back stage to compliment the performers and there is another play happening. 

It doesn't go as far with this as I would of liked but it still impressed me.

Other moments less striking are getting to climb a wind turbine or meeting someone you can talk to but seems tangential to the actual plot but more significant somehow because of this.

Gameplay wise it is solid. Like Zelda for Snes but less formalatic with the dungeon new weapon next dungeon thing. It moves well , the world holds surprises, the sound track is perfect. This one of my favourite games and I will play it again soon (if this computer lets me) and to a follow through review.

Relevance to RPG wise? The joy of exploration and a place unfolding slowly and in surprising ways. I want to run the next game on a single island or otherwise have it limited geographically but not in scope. Like an Island can have a mountain. The Mountian can have a cave. The cave can have a shaft that links up to a glass ceiling tomb at the bottom of the ocean. The ocean can lead back to coral reefs running the island and the sunken temples of the shallows. The west beach can be all broken statues and the east beach the dangerous mating ground of titanic King Crabs. The North is a cliff with ruins build in the side and graves added later. The south is peaceful and has remnants of a wharf built to trade with people who don't come anymore.

By having everything close it interconnects , it coshares a history , even when parts ignore or over write each other.


Let's talk difficulty. I've played games that had a bit that was hard and at a certain point nothing that game will do past that point is worth me trying that bit some more. Other people get more of kick from beating a challenge than I do. I don't want a cake walk but I will flat out make a cost benefit analysis and walk away from a game.
Sometimes when I hear people talk about how good a challenge is because of how good it feels to beat it I think of a joke: A man is smashing his head against a brick wall. Someone comes up to him and asks him why he is doing that. He replies "oh because it feels so great when I stop"

But suffering is not enjoyable  because its immediate absence is noticeably pleasing. But in video game it is an antiflavour , a term that I used as an umbrella for any combination of boredom, frustration, and fear. You want to do a thing and you fail and so must keep doing the thing you don't want to do. Even though that thing may of been initially  fun . Like being forced to play a level again. Or try a jump again.
It's an antiflavour because its more about when it's not there or how it works with other flavours (immersion, story, skill mastery,progression and novelty off the top of my head but that's not a rigorous list.)

My taste for it is possibly why I hate level drain as a player , other just any mechanic fiddlyness.
It clashs with my sense of progress ( a flavour which I think I need to be prominent) , that what I have done previously has mattered.  It breaks some unspoken sense of fairness of mechanics. I can lose arms , eyes, all my stuff , but atleast I will keep my advancement mechanically.

Though body swapping, transmogrification or curses might render this progression irrelevant some how that is still mine.

 Even though I enjoyed being 1st level or whatever being made to play it again somehow is a bad taste of antiflavour.

Though I think it could be more down to the sense undead are just not cool enough for me to break the rules in such a way. I could deal with it more if it was built into the fabric of the setting like Anthonys Picaro's soul eating  or some setting in which you could lose levels if a rival people dug up and ate your ancestors.
There would be sense it is some cosmic transgression. A wight is an angry dead guy in world of medusas, astral travel , dragons, dimensional invaders , and fuck knows what else.
Zak has said that makes undead scary and scary is good. The trouble is fear only happens when you have internalized the worlds reality . Otherwise scary is annoying. IF you started playing a game and got told one player would decide if you had to stop playing , you would think that was bullshit and would not fear the possibility , more chafe under it.
Though d&d , while a litttle more complicated than that,  works that way. There is some consistency that is accepted that makes it when you character burns up in the lava, it's okay, because that is what happens because lava.

I digress and I'm losing my point.

Probability Zero is hard. It is a descending rogue-like platformer.
Rogue-like in the sense it is procedural generating, it has some form of exp , and it all goes back to square one when you die. And you will die. The game riffs of the "on a long enough time scale all survival rates have a probability of zero" or something similar. In-fact your health bar is a constantly changing message on your chance of returning home/seeing your children again/ etc , and lists a fluctuating X in XXXXX chances.

The number of tens serves as a rough guide. The numbers change but the size of the second one in decimals is basically  the amount of hits you can take. When it gets down to a 1 in 1 kinda thing your eyes will be red and you will take one more hit and then it's game over.
The game scrolls downward endlessly forcing you to quickly navigate its lose maze, getting caught off the screen (above or below) is instant death. A variety of enemies are present and killing them gives you stars. Get enough stars and a line will appear soon below and progress past it gives you a level up and a little bit of health. Each level up pauses the action and gives you a choose of powers , all are extremely useful and the game seems to enjoy the difficult of your choices. A projectile attack or the ability to not get hurt falling? Block breaking or being able to hurt enemies by landing on them? Spike immunity or one kill punchs?
Powers are on tiers that become available on progressive levels (note it's still continuing the same endless scrolling shaft) , one tier needing you to waste a level up to unlock it. Which I feel was a complete mistake.
Others are accessible only if the previous version of it is unlocked.

As you descend you need more stars from enemies to unlock level ups. The enemies are joined by tougher kinds with more complicated behaviour. Bosses occasionally show up , tearing up the place and fucking with you. The blockscape features more spikes and greater drops. There is a constant feeling that you just on the cusp of getting into a comfortable flow, with just one more level up so you can stop taking spike damage or get that one kill punch etc. But you fail and you die inevitable.
And though there is a lot to like here the antiflavour has just a sprinkle too much fuck you in it for me. I want their to be an easy mode (there is normal which shit on me, and hard which did it from a greater height) and another mode which is bascially bullshit as well from the amount of enemies it throws at you.
It's so very carefully calculated to never quite give you the break you need and I reached a point where I just could not be fucked. You should play it though. It's fast , it's great, I think there is more hidden content than I found (look for star block placed further in the walls than they should. I didn't test it but just noticed it in peoples lets play videos) .
The enemies behaviour is good , each bastard having distinctive movements and often additonally things you won't notice at first. Like monsters that eat your power ups or other monsters giving them a range attack, or parasites that cause an inflicted monsters to burst out more parasites or projectiles that destroy things that you wish they wouldn't .

There were some more games I was going to go on about but I'm done now.
Might do another post covering them as well.

But yeah play both these games.

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