herobyclicking
We've got a brand new website!
It's been a long time in the making, but we're excited to announce that we've launched a brand new website! The new design was driven by community member feedback and fine-tuned through lots of user testing.
 
Aside from the new look and feel, the new website features:
Improved Fundraising Pages
Everyone's fundraising pages have been reformatted to make it easier for you to tell your donors what Extra Life is, how their donation helps kids in your local community and celebrate all of the hard work you've put into your fundraising efforts. 

 
More Ways to Donate
With more and more of your friends, family and community members supporting your fundraising efforts on-the-go, we've added Apple Quick Pay and PayPal One Touch to quicken the donation process. 
 
We will have the option to donate in CAD in 2018 and are working hard on finding a solution in the meantime. Stay tuned!
 

 
Streamlined Registration
We've removed about half of the required fields in the registration process. If we need your shipping information, we'll just message you at a later time! And when you're all signed up, the site will automatically send you over to your participant page so you can start personalizing it and making it feel like home.
 

 
Legacy Avatars 
& Achievements
Newly designed legacy avatars and achievement badges show others how committed you are to Extra Life and to saving kids' lives. Unlocking achievement badges is as easy as connecting your social accounts or personalizing your fundraising page. 
 

 
The new website will be a work in progress as we continue to improve the participant dashboard, fundraising tools and broadcasting resources. We're even working on some custom leaderboards that allow YOU to see where you rank against other Extra Lifers raising money for your Children's Miracle Network Hospital!
 
Spend some time taking a look around the new website and let us know what you think! 
 
For The Kids, 
Mike, Liz, Lou & Jeromy
Team Extra Life
Children's Miracle Network Hospitals 

LeaveIt2Beaver
Hey Extra Life Community -
 
We have some exciting news to share! In an effort to help make fundraising more fun, more accessible and ultimately easier, we’ve added two new applications to the Extra Life experience. Now you can fundraise through Facebook or on the go from your phone!
 

Extra Life Facebook App
Fundraising has never been quicker or easier than with the new Extra Life Facebook App. It installs in just a few seconds and allows you to opt-in to automatic status updates, upload Extra Life profile and cover pictures and ask your entire Facebook network for donations in just a few clicks. To start fundraising through the Extra Life Facebook App, login to to your Extra Life account, and click "Fundraise with Facebook" in the participant dashboard.
 

 
Extra Life Mobile App
Manage and share your Extra Life experience on the go with our new Extra Life mobile app. This free app lets you fundraise and connect with others through SMS, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn & Email. You can update your Extra Life page and check your fundraising progress all from the palm of your hand.

Download the app here: iPhone | Android
 
We’ve also spent the last couple of months improving the mobile experience on the Extra Life website so give the new apps a try. We want to hear what you think so send any feedback and ideas to community@extra-life.org or comment below and let us know!
For The Kids,

Mike Kinney
Team Extra Life
Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals

Jack Gardner

 
If you've been watching the news the last few days, you might be feeling a bit down about the world. However, it's always helpful to remind ourselves that there are good things in out there waiting to be made or discovered. One of those good things is, of course, petting dogs. Well, someone made a game about doing that and it's free! 
 
Will Herring, an animator, illustrator, game maker, and do-all-the-things-er, realized that petting dogs is easily one of the best parts about going to any party. Of course, that meant he had to capture that experience in a game. Enter Pet the Pup at the Party. Players take on the role of a socially awkward house guest who has mustered up the courage to arrive at a party. However, there are a LOT of people at this party and all of them seem to be strangers. What's an introvert to do? Why, scour the house for good dogs to pet while avoiding making eye contact with strangers!
 

 
"Legend tells of a ~very good puppo~ hiding somewhere in this house!" reads Pet the Pup's description, "the clock is ticking and you’re running out of small talk… can you find the pup at the party?" To find each pup, players have to follow the sounds of arfs and borks to their source in the party. 52 good puppos can be pet, each one become a part of an adorable gallery of good dogs. 
 

 
You can download Pet the Pup at the Party for free on its website. Sit back, relax, and pet some good dogs. BORK!
 


Jack Gardner

 
At the end of July, McDonald's held a Twitter giveaway. It was an innocuous event that took on pop culture significance because what they were giving away, their discontinued Szechuan sauce that had been used to promote the Disney film Mulan, played an integral role in the premier of Rick and Morty Season 3. This made the sauce a particularly prized commodity in the public consciousness - everyone wanted some of that sauce.
 
In early August, McDonald's announced the winners and one of them happened to be Robert Workman, writer at comicbook.com and host of the ARG Podcast. Workman decided that rather than use it on food or drink it straight from the bottle, he would put it up for auction on eBay to help pay off some bills and give the rest to Extra Life, among others. 
 
Workman explained his decision in an interview with Inquisitr, “I intend to help out the Extra Life Foundation, which a few friends take part in every year with their once-a-year marathon; and Ablegamers, which my friend Steven Spohn is part of. It depends what the total amount is but I’m going to help these guys out. I may find a third organization depending on the total tally.”
 
 
That eBay auction has now concluded with the sauce going for a sizable, undisclosed amount. Workman initially committed to donating 10% of the auction to Extra Life, but the auction quickly ballooned to a larger amount than he had initially anticipated. He decided to include more charities and give each charity an equal part of the proceeds. He shifted his giving strategy to benefit Extra Life, AbleGamers, Take This, Gamers Outreach, and Ronald McDonald House Charities, splitting 25% of the auction between the five charities. 
 
Workman shed more light on his decision to auction off the sauce rather than keep if for himself in a Twitlonger post:
 
 
 
According to Workman's Twitter, the winning bid was placed by deadmau5 who should be receiving his sauce shortly. Enjoy it for all of us, deadmau5!
 
[Correction: This article originally stated that the Szechuan sauce sold for $15,350. Mr. Workman reached out to alert us that the coveted McDonald's sauce had been sold for less than the going price and for an undisclosed sum of money.]

Jack Gardner

 
After Bungie concluded their work on Halo: Reach, they turned their eyes toward a game that a small segment of the company had been fleshing out for years. That game would eventually become Destiny after overcoming numerous development challenges. Destiny's devs had to contend with a malicious engine that required obscene amounts of time to load changes, stratospheric expectations, a rough split with its long-time composer, and the decision to scrap the entire story with less than a year left of development time. The stakes were high. But when Destiny released to the public, Bungie thought they had a winner on their hands - Destiny was, after all, the most pre-ordered game in history! Unfortunately, the critical reception was mixed. Despite this, Destiny certainly accrued a huge following over the years, which led to Jason Pfitzer from Northern Heart Games, this week's guest, to nominate Bungie's FPS MMO hybrid. 
 
Looking at Destiny several years after its launch and subsequent revisions - is it one of the best games period?
 
Each week we will be tackling a video game, old or new, that at least one of us believes deserves to stand as one of the greatest games of all time. We'll dive into its history, development, and gameplay, while trying to argue for or against the game of the week. Sometimes we will be in harmonious agreement, other times we might be fighting a bitter battle to the very end. However each episode shakes out, we hope that everyone who listens will find the show entertaining and informative.
 

 
Outro music: Destiny 'Hope Rising' by Jillian Aversa and zircon (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR03002)
 
You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is (sometimes) available as well, so you can watch what we are talking about while we talk about it!
 
You can follow Jason on Twitter, @JasonPfitzer, and be sure to check out the game he has been working on at Northern Heart Games! Pinbrawl is a competitive, four-player pinball melee. Having played it at multiple stages in its development, I can confirm that it's very fun.
 
 
If you want to have your opinion heard on air, share your opinion in the comments, follow the show on Twitter, and participate in the weekly polls: @BestGamesPeriod 
 
New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday

Marcus Stewart

Review: Tacoma

By Marcus Stewart, in Features,

 


 
Like Gone Home before it, Tacoma’s intriguing setting and compelling storytelling largely supersede its relatively light gameplay. Fullbright’s sophomore outing trades the nostalgia of the 1990s for a fascinating, mildly unsettling, near-future space setting. As a lone contractor, mega corporation Venturis hires you to visit the deserted space station Tacoma to retrieve the ship's AI, ODIN. But the intrigue in that task pales in comparison to learning the captivating stories of Tacoma’s distressed crew, who disappeared after an accident. Tacoma’s mission doesn’t always fire on all cylinders, but its highpoints in characterization help carry it to the moon and back.
 
Tacoma’s story unfolds by watching decrypted scenes of the team recorded using augmented reality. A simple polygonal model represents each person. Think of it like watching a holographic ghost, with characters distinguished by designated colors and physiques to compensate for a lack of physical details. The age of recordings range from a few days old to several months or even a year. Witnessing past celebrations, emotional turmoils, and intimate moments stirred up emotions ranging from optimism, foreboding, and, at times, even voyeurism.
 
These genuine feelings stemmed from the well-written dialogue and stellar voice performances from the likes of Carl Lumbly (Alias, Justice League) and Greg Chun (Overwatch, Nier: Automata). Tacoma’s crew feel like actual, relatable people trapped in a horrific situation, not just NPC’s spouting lines. Connecting players to each team member are the familiar personal burdens each carry: Tragic personal losses; the pressures of appeasing a high and mighty family; coping with professional failures; long distance parenthood. The ways those stresses influence their responses to the larger situation feels logical and nuanced, as do the emotional interactions between characters. 
 
The sympathy and endearment these performances generate act as the driving force behind exploring every inch of Tacoma. You don’t need to see and hear everything to finish the game but I wanted to. I felt compelled to read every email and pick up every object in the hopes it would shed more light on these people. Before long, my motives shifted from a purely objective curiosity to legitimately hoping the crew had survived their predicament. That emotional connection also adds weight to the otherwise predictable and well-worn revelation about the nature of the disaster. 
 

 
Tacoma’s alien setting makes picking up garbage feel more worthwhile than it did in Gone Home. I lived through the 90’s, so I inspected objects in that game primarily for nostalgia. With Tacoma, Fullbright presents an almost eerily plausible future with unique ideas such as corporate loyalty becoming a form of spendable currency. AI’s advanced enough to pen their own autobiographies (seriously) are trusted to oversee major operations like hospitals and residential blocks, guiding and advising the humans within. This future is both exciting and terrifying, but you’ll miss out on much of it by ignoring the random junk around you. I enjoyed having an incentive to rummage through trash bins.  
 
From a gameplay standpoint, recordings have a neat investigative quality due to a rewind and fast-forward mechanic. Replaying scenes to catch important details reminded me of combing through videos in the indie hit Her Story, especially using older conversations to add context to more recent ones. I would have liked for recordings to demand a little more deductive skills in gathering info, but I get that Tacoma wants to tell a story and not hang players up on puzzles. On that note, problem-solving in general never comes close complicated; you’re typically just looking for codes to open doors. Even still, Tacoma offers more active involvement than its predecessor, and that’s ultimately a good thing.
 
In a nice touch of realism, several recordings feature multiple conversations occurring simultaneously in different areas. Additionally, characters may enter or exit discussions in progress. Thus, replaying scenes multiple times and following different team members around is a must if you want to experience the full narrative scope. A fun nosiness comes from watching a scene, seeing someone walk away, then replaying the scene again and following that person to see what they’re up to. Overall, this conversation system feels like a cool and smart spin on interactive cutscenes, especially for this genre.
 
 
Conclusion
 
Tacoma possesses more complicated gameplay than Gone Home, but you still wouldn’t be off-base if you said it only consisted of walking around and eavesdropping on NPC’s. While that might seem shallow, the wonderfully written characters bring value to that experience. Tacoma largely succeeds in presenting a fascinating world worth exploring, backed by novel storytelling mechanics. Your stay is brief, but once you get to know Tacoma’s crew, you’ll be glad you stepped aboard.  
 
Tacoma was reviewed on Xbox One and is also available now for PC.

Jack Gardner

 
Godzilla has always been a popular character in video games. The giant, rubbery lizard-dragon has stomped his way across more consoles than most franchises can shake a stick at, though not always to the greatest success. Recently a new game was revealed called City Shrouded in Shadow that seems to feature not only Godzilla, but a slew of monsters from Japanese pop culture.
 
So far the confirmed roster includes the following from their respective series:
 
Ultraman Franchise
Ultraman 
Alien Zarab / Imitation Ultraman
Ultraman Tiga
Kyrieloid
 
Godzilla Franchise
Godzilla
King Ghidorah
Mothra
Battra
 
Neon Genesis Evangelion Franchise
Evangelion Unit-01
Sachiel
Shamshel
 
Gamera Franchise
Gamera
Legion (Soldiers and Plant)
Gyaos
 
Patlabor Mobil Police Franchise
AV-98 Ingram
Type-5G/1C Grau-Bear
CRL-98 Pyro-Buster
 
That's a pretty huge roster and one might be forgiven for thinking that it looks like the roster for a fighting game. In a way, A City Shrouded in Shadow is a fighting game, but players won't be doing the fighting. Instead, players take on the role of one of the civilians trapped in the city as this battle royale of monsters takes place. As either Ken Misaki or Miharu Matsuhara, players must make their way out of the city as it plunges into chaos. 
 
 
A City Shrouded in Shadow is much more interested in the drama caused by the appearance of these monsters rather than the monsters themsleves, which is certainly a different take on giant monsters in video games. That makes A City Shrouded in Shadow stand out from the crowd. 
 
Currently, A City Shrouded in Shadow is only set for release in Japan on October 19, but it certainly seems like the kind of game that could gain a substantial cult following in the west if it has the storytelling chops to back up its ambitious premise. 

Jack Gardner

 
This is Quill. She's the protagonist of an upcoming VR title called Moss and has enraptured thousands of gamers across the United States. How did she achieve that feat? Simple. She introduced herself - in American Sign Language. 
 

 
Last week, Polyarc animator Richard Lico made a routine tweet about his work bringing Quill to life. He'd had a bit of inspiration and decided that the voiceless mouse might be able to use sign language to communicate. "Since she can only squeak, I figured I'd play around with ways she can communicate with the player. Also a great perk for our deaf players," he tweeted.
 
Seeing an endearing mouse using American Sign Language in a video game understandably caught a lot of attention, snagging tens of thousands of likes on social media. 
 
"Quill often needs to communicate with her guide, [the player], and I'm exploring ways in which she can do so. I came up with the idea of using ASL in conjunction with her existing pantomime methods, and wanted to test the idea," explained Lico in a short video posted the next day. "I had never animated sign language before, so I did some homework, and created this as a test example of what she could do in game. The response has been positive, and we're super excited about the opportunity to help support those who rely on ASL." 
 
 
In Moss, players take on the role of a spirit guide for Quill as she embarks on a heroic journey. The plan for Quill was always to have her communicate wordlessly with the player. She would use squeaks and broad pantomiming motions to get her points across. However, the strong reaction from the gaming community toward Lico's animation seems to have cemented the use of various ASL signs in Moss. 
 
“Sometimes she’ll pantomime if there’s not a good sign for it, and other times she’ll flat-out sign language what she wants you to know. This tweet really confirmed that we should do this,” Lico elaborated to Kotaku. “I’ve been blown away by the responses. Especially the ones where you get actual deaf people saying ‘Thank you.’ I just had no idea, being able to emotionally connect with something like that.”
 
While this might seem like a small thing, sign language has largely been absent from video games. In fact, searching for any other results for sign language in games only turns up results for games that help people learn sign language, a barren Reddit thread from 2016 that mentions how some sign language is used in the background of Fullbright Company's Tacoma, and articles about Quill. There was some buzz way back in 2009 that Half-Life 2: Episode 3 would include a deaf character and sign-language, but... well... it's a Half-Life game and Valve, so we might not be seeing that any time soon. It's pretty incredible that Quill might just be the first video game character to communicate with predominantly via sign language in video game history.
 
Moss is set to release sometime this winter for PlayStation VR. 

Jack Gardner

 
Earlier this month, Waypoint ran a month long game jam called New Jam City that attracted a number of interesting entries. One of these entries lovingly resurrected the Noid, an advertising mascot for Domino's Pizza in the mid-80s. Strangely, the Noid managed to become somewhat popular, resulting in several video game adaptations of the character over the years. One of these was Capcom's Yo! Noid! for the NES in 1990. It wasn't a particularly great game, which is why the creation of a direct sequel, even as a game jam entry, is turning some heads.
 
Yo! Noid II: Enter the Void ia a reimagining of the Noid as an early PlayStation One/N64 platformer that plays like a strange cross between Mario 64 and Tomb Raider. The game begins with the titular Noid losing his trusty yo-yo and platforming through New York City to get it back. However, that certainly isn't the end of the adventure. After obtaining the yo-yo, the Noid falls into the Noid Void, an interdimensional wasteland populated by strange mushroom creatures and peppered with various pizza-themed levels and collectibles. This is where Yo! Noid II opens up and allows for exploration and a great deal of puzzle solving. 
 

 
I'm going to level with you, this game is actually fun. Not in an ironic, "haha, isn't it dumb that they made a game starring the Noid?" way (though don't get me wrong, it is absolutely dumb that someone made another game that was in any way affiliated with the Noid, a fact that the developers certainly understood and embraced to great effect)- I genuinely enjoyed playing Yo! Noid II. Wall jumping and running work rather well when paired with a ledge grab mechanic that comes in very handy. The Noid can even use his yo-yo to swing between platforms, pull levers, and open pizza portals to other worlds. 
 
Oh, the Noid also dabs now, because of course he does.
 
All of this is done in an endearingly janky style that's meant to be a call back to those early 3D platformers that both enthralled and frustrated a generation. It's unclear if the somewhat wonky and temperamental camera was designed to bring out that style or if it's simply a frustrating camera. However, for a short nostalgia experiment with a sense of humor like Yo! Noid II, I'm willing to give the benefit of the doubt. 
 

 
Yo! Noid II: Enter the Void is a far, far better game than the Noid has ever deserved, but it's free at the moment and certainly worth your time. You can download it directly from the developers to see what the Noid is up to in this age of HD gaming. There's also an official soundtrack because why not? The Noid is a thing again, so why not?

Jack Gardner

 
Everything is stories. We talk in stories, we learn from stories, we distill our experiences into stories. Our history is the culmination of a million different stories all thrust together, bound in books by people who sifted through those multitudes of stories. And from those histories we gather lessons and ideas; dreams of what might be.
 
But what if some of those stories weren’t exactly true? What if some of them were, in fact, beautiful lies?
 
That’s the idea behind Johnnemann Nordhagen’s Where the Water Tastes Like Wine. Nordhagen helped co-found The Fullbright Company and programmed Gone Home, however he left the company in 2014 to try new and wonderful things after the success of Gone Home. He went on to found Dim Bulb Games, a studio where he felt he could pursue a collaborative dream. That dream has finally manifested in the form of a trek across a Depression-era United States that mixes the countryside mysticism of tall tales with the stark realities of living.
 
I had an opportunity to talk with Nordhagen about the creation and stories of Where the Water Tastes Like Wine. Dim Bulb Games’ first title has brought together writers from across the game industry to tell stories; stories that might shed more light on the history of the United States; stories that might just help lift the veil of what Nordhagen refers to as “the shining lie.”  
 
 
So, can you tell me how the idea for Where the Water Tastes Like Wine came about? It seems really collaborative with all the writers you have, [gesturing toward a piece of paper covered in the names of contributors] I saw that list right there.
 
Johnnemann Nordhagen: Yeah, so I got the idea for the game--I was travelling around a lot after finishing my last game, Gone Home. I traveled the world and I was encountering a lot of other travelers. Every time you do that, you swap stories with them. You say, 'Oh, you should definitely go here,' or, 'I got my pocket picked here; watch out!' Thought it would be cool to make a game about that. I also really like American roots; music, blues, bluegrass, jazz, things like that. And so, I wanted to pull it to America, set it during the Great Depression with all these songs. You're in this world of down-on-their-luck gamblers, and people are selling their souls to the devil at the crossroads. It's kind of like a folkloric world, right? But I also wanted to bring in a little bit of American history and the lives of people who have maybe been forgotten by modern history. You've got sharecroppers in the South, or Pullman porters, Navajo women during the Long Walk of the Navajo. I'm obviously not the right person to write all of those stories. So I went out looking for other writers to help me tell these tales and fill out this roster.
 
This game spans the entirety of the United States from the East Coast to West Coast?
 
JN: That's right. You can walk anywhere in the U.S., except for Hawaii and Alaska, of course. But yeah, you can walk anywhere you want. You can also hop trains, or hitch hike to get around faster. Each of the different regions of the game has its own set of stories, its own set of characters, its own music and also its own color palettes. They're all very distinct little regions. 
 
How did you manage to get an entire country into your game? That's a pretty big scope!
 
JN: Yeah, well, it is a pretty big scope! It's obviously scaled down, it's not the real size of the U.S. I've done a lot of work to map it out and lay it out. I also tried to put characters that came from different areas of the country so I could tell stories about all these different places. 
 

 
Is there a goal to the game, or is it open exploration; choose a destination, go?
 
JN: Right, it's an open world game, so you've go to choose your own direction. There is a framing story to the game, which is that, in the beginning of the game, you lose a hand of poker to the wrong person. Because of that, you're cursed to wander the U.S. carrying stories around, spreading them. You're kind of the Johnny Appleseed of folktales, basically. And part of your job is to also collect the true stories of these people's live and add those to the Big Story of America.
 
Did you write the overall arching narrative, or did you have one of your--
 
JN: No, I came up with the overall story. Yeah, yeah. I did a lot of writing that fills the gaps in the story. And then the little adventures, we call vignettes, those are written by other people. Then each of the characters, of course, are written by someone else.
 
You built an entire game based on telling stories to each other. I feel like that's a really outside of the box way of going about game design. How did you come up with the gameplay around that concept?
 
JN: It took a little while and some bouncing around to get there, but…. I really like the idea of telling the stories is the way we share culture and idea among people. That's always been something that I've tried to get in there. Over time when I was working with the game, just various pieces fell in to place where it became the natural way to do it. I want it to be about folktales and the way they change and grow, how [people] spread them around, and how that works.
 
I also, when I first started making the game, I thought it would be really interesting to try to avoid combat mechanics. I was wondering, ‘how would you do a game if you can't do that?’ The last game I worked on was Gone Home and that was a first person shooter without any shooting in it, right? And so when I started coming up with ideas for this game, I was thinking like well, what's another kind of genre of game that I could look at, taking the combat out of it? I actually thought about JRPGs and what you would do if you remove fighting from JRPGs. This has moved so far away from JRPGs it's not really there anymore, but you can see a little bit of where I was going with the overworld map and the interactions with the characters, the kinds of encounters you have. I guess all of those areas is where that came from.
 
 
How exactly does the storytelling mechanic work? 
 
JN: So what happens is that you have these little adventures, these vignettes. They're like little text adventures where you have two choices, and you can feel your way through this adventure that happens to you. You get a story at the end of that. Then you have the story of whatever happened to you during that time. Because you're choosing from two different branches, you can sometimes choose what kind of story it is. ‘Is this a love story? Is this a tragedy? Is this about family? Is this about being trapped?’ And then you gather these stories into an inventory.
You take them and you [encounter characters throughout the world], and when you tell these characters a story- You tell them a story about a family, for example, they'll tell you something about their family in return. They'll also ask for different moods of stories. So they might ask for a scary story, and if you tell them a scary story about family, whatever that would be, you'll not only hear what they have to say, but you'll also gain their trust and move forward in their story. So the next time you meet them, you might get the next chapter. When you get to the final chapter of their story, they'll also reveal their true self to you and you'll see an actual visual transformation take place and they'll be a really exciting piece of art you get to look at. 
 
And there’s another aspect of the storytelling mechanic, as well. As you tell these stories, they sometimes get told around behind your back and they'll grow and tell in the way that folktales do and "level up" as they do that--and come back to you the same story, but bigger, better, weirder. 
 
Part of my attraction to this game is just that there's nothing else like it? There aren't a whole lot of games that completely throw out combat mechanics and are about something other than violence. And maybe some of the stories involve violence to some degree, but that's not the focus of the game. 
 
JN: I think one of the interesting thing about the stories in the games there aren't a lot that are directly violent, but there is a lot of systemic violence that you see. We're trying to talk about the more of marginalized people in the United States. So you hear from a lot of people--sharecroppers whose union was busted by cops, by Southerners with guns. You hear about the Long Walk of the Navajo where the U.S. military uprooted an entire people and forced them to walk hundreds of miles across the desert where many of them died. So no, there's not combat in the game, but yeah, you are always immersed in this sort of systemic oppression and violence. It's lurking in the background, always.
 
Often stories that delve into the past have a message about the present. Have the current social or political climates had any effects on this game? Does it have a message for modern times?
 
JN: Aah, it's actually really weird, I didn't actually set out with that in mind, but reality has gotten closer and closer to this game, to be relevant to this game, as time goes on. It's very strange. I started this in 2014 and now it's like, wow, 'What the heck happened?'
 
I think there's a lot that happened [during the Depression-era] of American history and a lot that happened to these characters that's very relevant to what's going on today. There're definitely political messages in this game put there both by me in designing the game and also by the individual writers as they're writing their characters that I think are very relevant to what's going on today. 
 
I'm really glad that I feel like I have something relevant to say about our current life, the way it is right now, with my art. At the same time, I wish things weren't the way they are. I wish I didn't feel like we were entering an era similar to the Great Depression.
 
You mentioned traveling around, sharing stories—Where the Water Tastes Like Wine seems like a really good fit for that theme, but why the Depression-era? Was it the blues-y aspect of the time? The ridin' the rails culture of it?
 
JN: It was all of that. I really like this sort of music, the blues, bluegrass. I love the world contained in the stories, as well as the music itself. Those songs are all about this era and this magical way of existing. It's also the heyday of travelling in America in a lot of ways. You know, more than two million people were displaced, or homeless, wandering the streets during the Great Depression. So that hobo era is a really powerful time [to draw upon].
 

 
You decided what kinds of characters would be in the game, and then the writers wrote the stories around those characters. So how did you decide which characters you wanted to include?
 
JN: I think there were a lot of interesting stories from around this period. Stories neglected in American history that you don't often hear about, especially in video games. [For example, in doing background research for the game] I did not know the extent of the Mine Wars when the U.S. military was dropping bombs from planes on West Virginian miners. That’s a big deal! And you don't really hear about that at all, so I wanted to capture more of those stories. These characters represent events that you don't hear about as often. 
 
Maybe the rougher bits of history that get glossed over in textbooks? 
 
JN: Exactly, yeah, yeah. That's what this is supposed to be, exposing the truth of the American dream in some ways. There's a character at the beginning who tells you America is built on stories and all those stories add up to a ‘big, shining lie.’ That's the phrase he uses, a shining lie. And he asks you to go out and find these true story and add them to the Big Story and talks about a tarnished truth being better than a shining lie. That’s part of the idea for the game.
 
I know you had a lot of contributions from other writers, but for the parts that you worked on, did you look back at media like Sullivan's Travels, media from or about the time?
 
JN: Yeah, actually. The way the characters worked is that I did all the research for those characters. I found a bunch about these different people, gathered a bunch of factual information. Then, I would go to these writers and say ‘Hey, can you write a Pullman porter for me? Here's what a Pullman porter is. Here's all my research; here's some cool facts.’ And they took that and they made these into these real, three-dimensional people with wants and needs, and hopes and dreams, and families. All the good parts of writing, right? I did a ton of research. Both for the individual characters, and, of course, the era in general.
 
For the research, if there are people--maybe this is getting a little too niche--who are interested in this time period, what were some really good resources you found?
 
JN: Yeah! There's a great book about the dust book called The Worst Hard Time that is really, really a great read. There's also...I watched the Ken Burns Dust Bowl documentary. I watched, there's a fantastic John Sails movie called Matewan. It's like fictionalized history, but it's about the kind of Mine Wars of West Virginia, the turn of the century--that's really great. There's a book call Sister of the Road, it's supposed to be an autobiography of a woman hobo travelling during the era. There's also a number of books I read about the Great Depression that I'm blanking on names of. I drew a lot from fiction, too. Things like Huck Finn, On the Road, I pulled from all sorts of different places for the characters. They have their own stack of books that I worked from. 
 

 
You basically just took all that information, threw it at writers, and they gave you back gold?
 
JN: Yes. It's amazing, amazing stuff. I'm super lucky to work with all these talented people, and they gave me back just amazing, amazing writing. This game is most spectacular on three fronts, I would say. It's my game, so take this with a grain of salt. The art is really amazing, the music really, really wonderful, and most of all, the writing is our strongest pull. I think that anyone could pick this up and enjoy the writing for its own sake. 
 
Did you handle the art style? It's very distinctive.
 
JN: Thanks! No, I didn't. I'm not an artist at all. I'm kind of the programmer and creative director. I have a team, a company that's called Serenity Forge. They're doing the art for me and helping me with the design.
 
How did you wind up linking with them?
 
JN: Actually at IndieCade last year, we were at a party together and we were talking. I had just lost my art team for various reasons and needed a new one! So they were willing to do this co-development thing with me, and it’s worked out really well. I'm super happy to be working with them. 
 
The music is also really good. Where the Water Tastes Like Wine draws heavily from blues, bluegrass, folk. That's all original music that's been composed for the game. Each character has their own piece of music in addition to the overworld song that changes character as you go from region to region. There's like an Appalachian-bluegrass in the Northeast and it becomes a folk song in the Midwest, a little bit more blues-y in the South. 
 
How did you go about composing that music? To clarify: It's not based on older, pre-existing songs?
 
JN: It's all original, but it is very much in that vein. I'm not the composer. My composer is Ryan Ike. He worked on Frog Factions 2, actually. […] He's fantastic, he's amazing. Everyone who has played the game has said the music is really good, so I'm very happy.
 
Did he also play the music?
 
JN: He performed some of it, but mostly we got live performers to do a lot of the stuff. People that sing and play banjo and guitar and violin. […] He's really, really good at this.
 
So he just took the idea and ran with it?
 
JN: Yeah, yeah. He was super, super excited to do this because this is unlike most game music. It's very different.
 
 
Where did you get the title for the game? It seems kinda like that old song about the Big Rock Candy Mountain?
 
JN: I'm really glad you asked that question, actually. It's a line from American folk culture. It pops up in a bunch of different folk songs, it shows up in stories. It's a folk saying, ‘the place where the water tastes like wine.’ It's always a place that's somewhere nearby, but inaccessible. It's maybe the next county over, there's a place where the water tastes like wine. And all of the stories in the game feed into this theme of people looking for something. They’re looking for… for their promised land, their Big Rock Candy Mountain, their place where the water tastes like wine. And of course, the sad truth at the heart of that is that there is nowhere where the water tastes like wine. The whole game is about the failure of the American dream to live up to what it has promised us.
 
[…] One thing I wanted to add, the whole game will be voice acted eventually. It's not in the demo now, but we're adding voice acting for all the characters.
 
Have you run into any problems with the voice acting strike? Has that made casting any harder?
 
JN: One of the things I--I don't know how much I can say about this--this game, a lot of the characters in this game are union members. There's a coal worker in the United Mine Workers; there's a farm worker from the United Farm Workers; we've got the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and the Sharecroppers’ Union and a bunch of other characters in there. I am personally a big fan of unions, and union labor, and I would really, really like to support SAG-AFTRA and get union actors to act this game. I don't want to make any promises, but that's what I'm trying to do.
 
How has public reaction been to Where the Water Tastes Like Wine so far?
 
JN: It's been really nice to have people check it out and play it [at events]. This is not the type of game I expect to resonate with everyone, right? This is very much a niche game. But, the people who have come by and have heard about it, and been interested in it have been really interested and really enthusiastic. I've gotten a lot of rave reactions from people. 
 
And it will be on PC, and then eventually PS4 and Xbox One, right?
 
JN: Later this year or early next year. We're gonna try to figure out if we can avoid the horrible rush window of all the big stuff popping in the fall and Christmas season. We're also talking about a tablet version for iPad. 
 
Any plans to bring Where the Water Tastes Like Wine over to the Nintendo Switch at some point?
 
JN: I would really love that, but I have not talked to Nintendo at all. I have development agreements with Sony and Microsoft so I'm going to say those have worn me out. I'd love to bring it to Switch, but I don't have any news on that front. So, Nintendo, call me!
 
~~~
 
A big thank you to Johnnemann Nordhagen for taking the time to answer questions! Look for Where the Water Tastes Like Wine to become available in early 2018 on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.

Jack Gardner

 
In 2008, the now defunct Lionhead Studios released what many saw as the culmination of founder Peter Molyneux's vision. Molyneux had hyped the original Fable as a game that would change the very fabric of the industry, which left fans very underwhelmed when it released as a solid, but rather run-of-the-mill RPG. With Fable 2, things were destined to be different. Molyneux apologized for his salesmanship of Fable and swore that things would be different. Fable 2 managed to deliver on what Lionhead had seemed to promise with the original - it was actually a different kind of RPG. Also, there was a dog and it was very endearing. 
 
It's time to ask: Is Fable 2 one of the best games period?
 
Each week we will be tackling a video game, old or new, that at least one of us believes deserves to stand as one of the greatest games of all time. We'll dive into its history, development, and gameplay, while trying to argue for or against the game of the week. Sometimes we will be in harmonious agreement, other times we might be fighting a bitter battle to the very end. However each episode shakes out, we hope that everyone who listens will find the show entertaining and informative.
 
 
Outro music: The Sims 3 'Musicolours' by Guifrog (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR02420)
 
You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is (sometimes) available as well, so you can watch what we are talking about while we talk about it!
 
If you want to have your opinion heard on air, share your opinion in the comments, follow the show on Twitter, and participate in the weekly polls: @BestGamesPeriod 
 
New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday

Joseph Knoop

 
For as long as combat games have been around, there have been plenty that put players in the driver’s seat of all kinds of vehicles, from apocalyptic race cars, military fighter jets, and space ships galore. For players wanting a more nautical experience, pickings have traditionally been slim, especially if they wanted to go beneath the ocean’s surface and face the depths below. The team behind Aquanox: Deep Descent are on the case with an expansive prequel to the original Aquanox games of 2001 and 2003.
 
Quick refresher for those of you, like myself, who might have missed the original deep sea shooters. Aquanox takes place in a world besieged by nuclear war and resource scarcity. After humans leech everything possible from the surface, the few remaining survivors fled to the depths of the sea, scavenging and fighting for as many supplies as each faction can grab. Their strength comes in the form of submersible combat ships, complete with a small army’s worth of firepower and technology to aid in the fight against the hazards of the deep.
 
Extra Life got the chance to preview a hands-off demo for Aquanox: Deep Descent from developer Digital Arrow and publisher THQ Nordic.
In Aquanox: Deep Descent’s single-player mode (10-12 hours long, according to the developer), players will build up a home base full of upgrades for their ships and the community. Ships are fully customizable, with players spending credits earned completing missions and scavenging resources on upgrades for engines, armor, weapon loadouts, electrical systems, and more. Ships are already divided into classes, though, like the light scouting class, the fighter, or the siege ship. For example, siege ships are primarily the tanks of Aquanox, built to take and deal massive damage while sacrificing ease of movement.
 
Aquanox: Deep Descent’s single-player mode also acts as a drop-in-drop-out co-op mode. When a friend joins, they can choose one of the four available main characters to play as, along with their ship’s traits.
 
Combat in Deep Descent moves much like a space flight simulator (think Eve: Valkyrie or Elite: Dangerous), but with the added twist of water impacting movement. Natural momentum carries a ship further and in a less direct way than an airplane might, meaning every dodging maneuver against enemy ships must be calculated for maximum advantage and minimal damage. The last thing you want is to crack open the hull of your ship on a rock or a poorly dodged torpedo. You’ll also be able to maneuver in any direction, opening up possibilities for offensive or defensive strategies.
 
 
To hear it from the developer, Aquanox: Deep Descent may, to some players, feel like a more tactical round of Unreal Tournament, flitting around the environment to land a carefully aimed shot at a distant target. From a hands-off perspective, the comparison certainly carries some weight, as victory often goes to the player who can not only maneuver more strategically around their opponent, but also who can react faster and with more precision, balancing combat in a way that, while perhaps not perfect, fits within its own world just fine.
 
Like those quirky combat games, Aquanox will also feature a variety of weapons that will have players adopting unique strategies. There’s the Shrapnel cannon, which launches a close-range burst of debris at opponents for devastating damage. There’s the the Hazard, or “Gooey,” which launches canisters of explosive bio-chemical liquids that stick to enemies and can later be detonated. Then there’s the high-powered Shard rail guns that let players snipe from afar, making the vast expanses of empty water a threat to all.
 

 
Secondary weapons include mines, as well as mortar fire that can strike from above. Other secondary weapons perform specific actions like automatically firing at enemies within range or from any side, giving you the chance to slip away.
 
All these abilities will be available in Aquanox: Deep Descent’s multiplayer mode as well, which includes solo deathmatch, team deathmatch, capture-the-flag, and a domination mode.
 
To Digital Arrow’s credit, what we’ve seen thus far of Aquanox’s updated world looks impressive. For fans of “aerial” style combat games, the amount of customization and the frenetic pacing of these seadog fights are impressive. For those wanting a more exploratory adventure, the game’s visuals certainly hold up, and obviously look more impressive than its predecessors. While a game like Subnautica is incredibly expansive, Aquanox’s style seems decidedly more pronounced, with the darkness of the ocean depths shimmering against plant life and wreckage.
 
Aquanox: Deep Descent is scheduled for a 2017 release date on PC.