Jump to content

Jack Gardner

Members
  • Content count

    2,511
  • Joined

  • Last visited

  • Days Won

    5

Jack Gardner last won the day on May 10

Jack Gardner had the most liked content!

Community Reputation

425 Excellent

5 Followers

About Jack Gardner

  • Rank
    Junior Member
  • Birthday 08/22/1991

Extra Life

  • Hospital
    Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare

Profile Fields

  • Location
    Minnesota

Contact Methods

  • Twitter
    @Riverboatjack

Recent Profile Visitors

The recent visitors block is disabled and is not being shown to other users.

  1. It's hard for people to game if they don't have reliable control over two hands. That very simple premise has given rise to various organizations like dedicated to hacking traditional controllers or even fabricating entirely new and specialized controllers on an individual basis for wounded veterans, people born with disabilities, and those who have been through traumatic accidents. These groups, like AbleGamers or Warfighter Engaged, have spent years working to find solutions for people who love gaming, but find it difficult or even impossible to use a traditional controller. Yesterday, Microsoft announced something amazing: The Xbox Adaptive Controller. This device will release later this year and can be customized to a very wide variety of specialized peripherals to create set ups that anyone can play with regardless of physical ability. The back of the controller has clearly labeled plug-ins for a variety of external buttons, switches, and joysticks that can then be physically placed anywhere for the most convenient use by the player. It can be used to play Xbox One and Windows 10 PC titles and supports button remapping. It can even save three different game profiles so that it can switch seamlessly between different game types on the fly. Solomon Romney, a retail learning specialist for Microsoft, has had months to test out the final build of the Adaptive Controller. "I can customize how I interface with the Xbox Adaptive Controller to whatever I want," he said. “If I want to play a game entirely with my feet, I can. I can make the controls fit my body, my desires, and I can change them anytime I want. You plug in whatever you want and go. It takes virtually no time to set it up and use it. It could not be simpler." Romney was born without fingers on his left hand, which makes operating a traditional controller difficult. "I get to redesign my controller every day and get to choose how I want to play. For me, that's the greatest thing ever." For Microsoft and the people who worked on the Adaptive Controller, this is the culmination of years of effort to justify the creation of a niche peripheral designed for an often under-served group of gamers. The journey began back in 2014 when Twitter, through a twist of fate, connected a Microsoft engineer with Warfighter Engaged, a nonprofit that works with wounded veterans to keep them gaming. The organization's founder, Ken Jones, was a mechanical engineer and struggled to create gaming equipment to meet the specific needs of all the veterans who came to Warfighter Engaged seeking help. That connection blossomed into an awareness at Microsoft for this underlying need in the game industry for accessible gaming equipment. The next year, Microsoft held its annual Ability Summit, an event dedicated to getting the company to consider accessibility in its devices and solutions. For a hackathon tournament, the winning entry was a device that was able to work with the Kinect to track movement and read those as button and joystick inputs on a traditional controller. Another team took that idea and refined it into a prototype device that could attach to an Xbox One controller and allow other input devices to be connected. Around the same time, Microsoft launched the Gaming for Everyone initiative with the goal of broadening the community of people who can play and enjoy games. Headed by Kris Hunter, the director of devices user research and hardware accessibility, and Bryce Johnson, a senior Xbox designer, the initiative worked quietly to make the Adaptive Controller a reality. What really solidified the idea of what the Adaptive Controller would eventually be was the launch of the Xbox One's Copilot feature in 2017. Copilot allows players to link two Xbox One controllers as if they were one device. The original idea was that it would allow players to play a single player game together without transferring a controller back and forth. However, they discovered it was also used by those with disabilities to game in creative ways Microsoft hadn't expected, such as using a head or foot to operate the second controller. That realization brought together all of the different ideas that Microsoft had been toying with since that chance 2014 Twitter encounter. Instead of using a device like that from the hackathon or the subsequent controller add-on, Copilot could be used to attach a device that allowed for more flexible gaming inputs that could cater to a wide variety of people. Making a device like that would allow for it to be sleek, elegant, even. It wouldn't be an afterthought, but a fully executed and produced device worthy of the Microsoft brand. Those pushing for the device to make it to retail apparently met with internal opposition to the idea, but advocates like Kris Hunter wouldn't let the idea die. "I had a passion for it and I didn't give up," she said. "I kept saying, 'This product is too important. [...] If we really want to be intentional and we really want to walk the walk versus just talk the talk, this is the product that will do it." Microsoft turned to the nonprofits who had helped bring this niche to light at the very beginning. Warfighter Engaged, AbleGamers, SpecialEffect, Craig Hospital, and the Cerebral Palsy Foundation, came together to consult on how to best design a controller that would fit the needs of the people they worked with every day. Ideas like spreading out the 19 input jacks across the back of the device to make them easier to differentiate, a rectangular shape to make it comfortable in a gamer's lap, or threaded inserts to secure the controller to a standard wheelchair, lapboard, or desk all came about from conversations with these nonprofits. The The design process even led to something Microsoft is considering adding to all future products - a groove above each port to provide a tactile reference for where things are supposed to be plugged in. "One message heard clearly from the accessibility community was 'don't infantilize the device' — don't make it look like a Fisher-Price toy," said Bryce Johnson. "People often don't want to use adaptive technology because it looks like a toy." That became a guiding principal behind the design of the Adaptive Controller. First and foremost, Microsoft wanted the Adaptive Controller to be something proudly carrying the brand as a symbol; something that adults wouldn't feel embarrassed to use in front of friends or family. With a price of $100, the Adaptive Controller positions itself as the most affordable option for those looking for accessibility solutions in gaming. The price is an important to keep in mind for all of the hospitals and patients out there who previously needed to find a custom build for their particular needs or forgo gaming completely. If the work we're doing to raise money for Children's Miracle Network Hospitals through Extra Life can go toward helping kids rediscover their ability to game with the help of the Xbox Adaptive Controller... well, that's an incredibly exciting thing. The Xbox Adaptive Controller will release later this year and we will likely receive more details when E3 rolls around. Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games! View full article
  2. It's hard for people to game if they don't have reliable control over two hands. That very simple premise has given rise to various organizations like dedicated to hacking traditional controllers or even fabricating entirely new and specialized controllers on an individual basis for wounded veterans, people born with disabilities, and those who have been through traumatic accidents. These groups, like AbleGamers or Warfighter Engaged, have spent years working to find solutions for people who love gaming, but find it difficult or even impossible to use a traditional controller. Yesterday, Microsoft announced something amazing: The Xbox Adaptive Controller. This device will release later this year and can be customized to a very wide variety of specialized peripherals to create set ups that anyone can play with regardless of physical ability. The back of the controller has clearly labeled plug-ins for a variety of external buttons, switches, and joysticks that can then be physically placed anywhere for the most convenient use by the player. It can be used to play Xbox One and Windows 10 PC titles and supports button remapping. It can even save three different game profiles so that it can switch seamlessly between different game types on the fly. Solomon Romney, a retail learning specialist for Microsoft, has had months to test out the final build of the Adaptive Controller. "I can customize how I interface with the Xbox Adaptive Controller to whatever I want," he said. “If I want to play a game entirely with my feet, I can. I can make the controls fit my body, my desires, and I can change them anytime I want. You plug in whatever you want and go. It takes virtually no time to set it up and use it. It could not be simpler." Romney was born without fingers on his left hand, which makes operating a traditional controller difficult. "I get to redesign my controller every day and get to choose how I want to play. For me, that's the greatest thing ever." For Microsoft and the people who worked on the Adaptive Controller, this is the culmination of years of effort to justify the creation of a niche peripheral designed for an often under-served group of gamers. The journey began back in 2014 when Twitter, through a twist of fate, connected a Microsoft engineer with Warfighter Engaged, a nonprofit that works with wounded veterans to keep them gaming. The organization's founder, Ken Jones, was a mechanical engineer and struggled to create gaming equipment to meet the specific needs of all the veterans who came to Warfighter Engaged seeking help. That connection blossomed into an awareness at Microsoft for this underlying need in the game industry for accessible gaming equipment. The next year, Microsoft held its annual Ability Summit, an event dedicated to getting the company to consider accessibility in its devices and solutions. For a hackathon tournament, the winning entry was a device that was able to work with the Kinect to track movement and read those as button and joystick inputs on a traditional controller. Another team took that idea and refined it into a prototype device that could attach to an Xbox One controller and allow other input devices to be connected. Around the same time, Microsoft launched the Gaming for Everyone initiative with the goal of broadening the community of people who can play and enjoy games. Headed by Kris Hunter, the director of devices user research and hardware accessibility, and Bryce Johnson, a senior Xbox designer, the initiative worked quietly to make the Adaptive Controller a reality. What really solidified the idea of what the Adaptive Controller would eventually be was the launch of the Xbox One's Copilot feature in 2017. Copilot allows players to link two Xbox One controllers as if they were one device. The original idea was that it would allow players to play a single player game together without transferring a controller back and forth. However, they discovered it was also used by those with disabilities to game in creative ways Microsoft hadn't expected, such as using a head or foot to operate the second controller. That realization brought together all of the different ideas that Microsoft had been toying with since that chance 2014 Twitter encounter. Instead of using a device like that from the hackathon or the subsequent controller add-on, Copilot could be used to attach a device that allowed for more flexible gaming inputs that could cater to a wide variety of people. Making a device like that would allow for it to be sleek, elegant, even. It wouldn't be an afterthought, but a fully executed and produced device worthy of the Microsoft brand. Those pushing for the device to make it to retail apparently met with internal opposition to the idea, but advocates like Kris Hunter wouldn't let the idea die. "I had a passion for it and I didn't give up," she said. "I kept saying, 'This product is too important. [...] If we really want to be intentional and we really want to walk the walk versus just talk the talk, this is the product that will do it." Microsoft turned to the nonprofits who had helped bring this niche to light at the very beginning. Warfighter Engaged, AbleGamers, SpecialEffect, Craig Hospital, and the Cerebral Palsy Foundation, came together to consult on how to best design a controller that would fit the needs of the people they worked with every day. Ideas like spreading out the 19 input jacks across the back of the device to make them easier to differentiate, a rectangular shape to make it comfortable in a gamer's lap, or threaded inserts to secure the controller to a standard wheelchair, lapboard, or desk all came about from conversations with these nonprofits. The The design process even led to something Microsoft is considering adding to all future products - a groove above each port to provide a tactile reference for where things are supposed to be plugged in. "One message heard clearly from the accessibility community was 'don't infantilize the device' — don't make it look like a Fisher-Price toy," said Bryce Johnson. "People often don't want to use adaptive technology because it looks like a toy." That became a guiding principal behind the design of the Adaptive Controller. First and foremost, Microsoft wanted the Adaptive Controller to be something proudly carrying the brand as a symbol; something that adults wouldn't feel embarrassed to use in front of friends or family. With a price of $100, the Adaptive Controller positions itself as the most affordable option for those looking for accessibility solutions in gaming. The price is an important to keep in mind for all of the hospitals and patients out there who previously needed to find a custom build for their particular needs or forgo gaming completely. If the work we're doing to raise money for Children's Miracle Network Hospitals through Extra Life can go toward helping kids rediscover their ability to game with the help of the Xbox Adaptive Controller... well, that's an incredibly exciting thing. The Xbox Adaptive Controller will release later this year and we will likely receive more details when E3 rolls around. Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!
  3. Take a journey with us all the way back to the turn of the millennium to the game that laid the groundwork for what would become the template for psychological horror in video games. Silent Hill 2 became a textbook example of how to create unnerving and uncomfortable spaces in video games both in-game and the mind of the player. With a number of strange, often confusing decisions, Silent Hill 2 reels players into a game that plays the player rather than the other way around. This week, we are joined by Mega Dads co-creators Adam Leonhardt and John Wahl! You can check out the duo's work and podcast over on MegaDads.org where they write, talk, and create comics about gaming and parenting. Should we consider Silent Hill 2 one of the best games period, disturbing subject matter and all? 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: Silent Hill 2 'There Was a Hole Here' by The Wingless (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR00711) You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is 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 Be sure to follow Mega Dads on Twitter: @megadadsblog AND listen to their podcast: Mega Dads Live New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!
  4. Take a journey with us all the way back to the turn of the millennium to the game that laid the groundwork for what would become the template for psychological horror in video games. Silent Hill 2 became a textbook example of how to create unnerving and uncomfortable spaces in video games both in-game and the mind of the player. With a number of strange, often confusing decisions, Silent Hill 2 reels players into a game that plays the player rather than the other way around. This week, we are joined by Mega Dads co-creators Adam Leonhardt and John Wahl! You can check out the duo's work and podcast over on MegaDads.org where they write, talk, and create comics about gaming and parenting. Should we consider Silent Hill 2 one of the best games period, disturbing subject matter and all? 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: Silent Hill 2 'There Was a Hole Here' by The Wingless (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR00711) You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is 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 Be sure to follow Mega Dads on Twitter: @megadadsblog AND listen to their podcast: Mega Dads Live New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games! View full article
  5. I've been seeing others have similar problems with the game on mobile devices, too. You're not alone. I can tell you that it does work on desktop, so if you get a chance, you should totally give it a whirl on a PC.
  6. This tease seemed to come out of nowhere. Russian developer Mundfish announced a very slick looking game called Atomic Heart earlier this week. Players will explore a research lab/military base (that might also double as a theme park?) during the height of the Soviet Union. Dr. Stockhausen has been conducting unholy experiments in the heart of the facility that have had an effect on both machines and the bodies of the dead that they have left in their wake. What exactly the nature of those experiments might have been remains a mystery for players to uncover as they delve into the secrets of Atomic Heart. The name seems to reference a bit of lore teased by the team back in March - a picture of two human hearts hooked to machines and a cryptic message about the love of two employees in Facility #3826. Players get drawn into this alternate history version of the Soviet Union as investigator P-3 who has been dispatched to investigate 3826. They find the facility in a state of decay and chaos as a wide variety of machines run amok alongside resurrected soldiers, some of whom have been creepily painted as clowns. As players explore, they'll find a variety of insane, mind-bending experiments still in progress, like people made of blood or strange, seemingly sentient pockets of air under water. Beware of making too much of a scene, though. Drawing the attention of the rampaging machines by running afoul of their patrol drones can lead to a quick, messy death. Atomic Heart seems to have an in-depth crafting system for weapons that will allow players to gear up as they progress and make weapons that suit their playstyle. While the trailer doesn't hint at an official release date, Mundfish expects to release Atomic Heart sometime this year for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.
  7. This tease seemed to come out of nowhere. Russian developer Mundfish announced a very slick looking game called Atomic Heart earlier this week. Players will explore a research lab/military base (that might also double as a theme park?) during the height of the Soviet Union. Dr. Stockhausen has been conducting unholy experiments in the heart of the facility that have had an effect on both machines and the bodies of the dead that they have left in their wake. What exactly the nature of those experiments might have been remains a mystery for players to uncover as they delve into the secrets of Atomic Heart. The name seems to reference a bit of lore teased by the team back in March - a picture of two human hearts hooked to machines and a cryptic message about the love of two employees in Facility #3826. Players get drawn into this alternate history version of the Soviet Union as investigator P-3 who has been dispatched to investigate 3826. They find the facility in a state of decay and chaos as a wide variety of machines run amok alongside resurrected soldiers, some of whom have been creepily painted as clowns. As players explore, they'll find a variety of insane, mind-bending experiments still in progress, like people made of blood or strange, seemingly sentient pockets of air under water. Beware of making too much of a scene, though. Drawing the attention of the rampaging machines by running afoul of their patrol drones can lead to a quick, messy death. Atomic Heart seems to have an in-depth crafting system for weapons that will allow players to gear up as they progress and make weapons that suit their playstyle. While the trailer doesn't hint at an official release date, Mundfish expects to release Atomic Heart sometime this year for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. View full article
  8. So, I received an email the other day from Crows Crows Crows, the studio founded by William Pugh, one of the devs who worked on The Stanley Parable. In it, they described an update to The Temple of No, a Twine text adventure they released back in 2016. I have to admit that The Temple of No had flown under my radar at the time, so I thought it would be a great time to hop into the thick of it and see what The Temple of No was all about. Now, I gotta level with you - I have no idea if Crows Crows Crows actually updated the game or if- Wait, no, they actually did update the game. I just went back and did some more due diligence, and there's an bit with a lightbulb and some cleverly concealed scrolling. If you can uncover that secret, you do, in fact, unlock a secret ice level. You can understand my initial confusion, though, right? Like, Crows Crows Crows really know how to mess with expectations and people's heads. They'd probably be able to make a great horror game if they weren't so good at comedy. Anyway, the update is simply called Fire! to reflect the fact that fire is now present in the updated version of The Temple of No! Exciting, right? That's probably why they put an exclamation point after fire. The update even comes with an action-packed live-action trailer - that's TWO actions which means double the action! Look, I don't feel like I have to sell you very hard on this concept. It's free, it'll take up maybe 30 minutes of your time, you'll have a solid selection of laughs and goofs. I swear, it's a good time! And it's free! A good, free time. And there's fire in it now with a new climactic moral decision that probably means something, but whatever. You can play The Temple of No on Crows Crows Crows itch.io page. View full article
  9. So, I received an email the other day from Crows Crows Crows, the studio founded by William Pugh, one of the devs who worked on The Stanley Parable. In it, they described an update to The Temple of No, a Twine text adventure they released back in 2016. I have to admit that The Temple of No had flown under my radar at the time, so I thought it would be a great time to hop into the thick of it and see what The Temple of No was all about. Now, I gotta level with you - I have no idea if Crows Crows Crows actually updated the game or if- Wait, no, they actually did update the game. I just went back and did some more due diligence, and there's an bit with a lightbulb and some cleverly concealed scrolling. If you can uncover that secret, you do, in fact, unlock a secret ice level. You can understand my initial confusion, though, right? Like, Crows Crows Crows really know how to mess with expectations and people's heads. They'd probably be able to make a great horror game if they weren't so good at comedy. Anyway, the update is simply called Fire! to reflect the fact that fire is now present in the updated version of The Temple of No! Exciting, right? That's probably why they put an exclamation point after fire. The update even comes with an action-packed live-action trailer - that's TWO actions which means double the action! Look, I don't feel like I have to sell you very hard on this concept. It's free, it'll take up maybe 30 minutes of your time, you'll have a solid selection of laughs and goofs. I swear, it's a good time! And it's free! A good, free time. And there's fire in it now with a new climactic moral decision that probably means something, but whatever. You can play The Temple of No on Crows Crows Crows itch.io page.
  10. Jack Gardner

    Gaming News:Wildbrew Looks Adorable

    If you're looking for a break from more conventional game premises, the adorable Wildbrew might belong on your gaming radar. Players take on the role of a young herbalist who embarks on an adventure to reclaim a family heirloom that was stolen by a gigantic plant with plans of its own. Armed with a smiling, walking cauldron and a bevy of herbal knowledge from grandma, players must collect herbs and combine them to create solutions for the world's problems. Wildbrew is being developed under USC Games, one of the top university game design programs in the United States. This student-made title holds a heap of charm and a very strong core premise that could certainly carry an entire game in interesting ways. I didn't know I wanted a botany-infused adventure until I heard of Wildbrew. The demo will release for Wildbrew tomorrow, and those looking to play it can find the first publicly available version of Wildbrew on the team's website. There's no official release date as of yet. View full article
  11. Jack Gardner

    Wildbrew Looks Adorable

    If you're looking for a break from more conventional game premises, the adorable Wildbrew might belong on your gaming radar. Players take on the role of a young herbalist who embarks on an adventure to reclaim a family heirloom that was stolen by a gigantic plant with plans of its own. Armed with a smiling, walking cauldron and a bevy of herbal knowledge from grandma, players must collect herbs and combine them to create solutions for the world's problems. Wildbrew is being developed under USC Games, one of the top university game design programs in the United States. This student-made title holds a heap of charm and a very strong core premise that could certainly carry an entire game in interesting ways. I didn't know I wanted a botany-infused adventure until I heard of Wildbrew. The demo will release for Wildbrew tomorrow, and those looking to play it can find the first publicly available version of Wildbrew on the team's website. There's no official release date as of yet.
  12. Minecraft officially released back in 2011 and has since been taking the world by storm. You can now find Minecraft action figures, movies, several alternate versions of the game built as educational tools, and more that have forged a media empire based on that one game alone. In 2014, only three years after Minecraft's official launch, that empire had grown into a property worth billions of dollars. Microsoft approached the owner of Mojang, Minecraft's development studio, and bought the studio and its intellectual property for $2.5 billion. Boasting a bevy of free updates, narrative-based spin-offs, and a thriving community of players and content creators who continue to delve into its intricacies, Minecraft continues to be one of the most popular games in the world. 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: Minecraft 'Squishy's Theme' by The Orichalcon (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR02327) You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is 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 Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games! View full article
  13. Jack Gardner

    The Best Games Period - Episode 97 - Minecraft

    Minecraft officially released back in 2011 and has since been taking the world by storm. You can now find Minecraft action figures, movies, several alternate versions of the game built as educational tools, and more that have forged a media empire based on that one game alone. In 2014, only three years after Minecraft's official launch, that empire had grown into a property worth billions of dollars. Microsoft approached the owner of Mojang, Minecraft's development studio, and bought the studio and its intellectual property for $2.5 billion. Boasting a bevy of free updates, narrative-based spin-offs, and a thriving community of players and content creators who continue to delve into its intricacies, Minecraft continues to be one of the most popular games in the world. 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: Minecraft 'Squishy's Theme' by The Orichalcon (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR02327) You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is 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 Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!
  14. Jack Gardner

    Feature: Review: The Forest

    Armed with nothing more than an axe, a few cans of soda, and a paltry supply of medicine, I step out into a new world filled with beauty and horror in equal measure. The island I've found myself stranded on holds glistening ponds rife with exotic fish, fields in which rabbits and squirrels frolic together alongside giant lizards. Crocodiles swim in the lakes and deer cavort in the thickets of the woods. In many ways, this island seems a paradise; that is, until the sun sets and human horrors emerge from the earth. In The Forest, Endnight Games has carefully crafted a vibrant ecosystem in which players become disruptive interlopers and slowly descend, both figuratively and literally, into madness. Players take on the role of Eric Leblanc as he flies on a plane with his son, Timmy, to an unnamed destination. The airplane seems to hit turbulence in the opening scene before crashing violently onto a remote island. As Eric struggles to maintain consciousness, a strange human painted red wades into the wreckage and takes Timmy away. When Eric finally awakens, all he has are the supplies he can scavenge from the plane and its deceased occupants and his will to survive and find Timmy. The Forest becomes a game about survival and discovery after those initial opening minutes. Finding good places to set up camp, creating defensible positions, and developing sustainable ways of harvesting food and water are the absolute priority. To do all of that, players will need to master the crafting system to create structures, upgrades to their gear, and even entirely new pieces of equipment. It might also require some trial and error, as those opening days can be quite risky for a novice player. The biggest danger in The Forest comes at night. You see, for as idyllic and peaceful as the island can seem during the day, it's actually home to several groups of cannibals. They aren't automatically hostile at first, but with time their attitude will shift. This shift happens sooner if the player begins attacking them, building large structures, obstructing their patrol paths, or journeying into their underground catacombs. Once the cannibals become hostile, The Forest slowly ramps up the frequency and strength of their attacks. Players will need to turn to devious traps and fort layouts to keep themselves safe - but always remember that safety is relative in The Forest. As attacks become more potent, players will begin encountering a wider variety of cannibals, like ones that throw Molotov cocktails that can leave a base in flames or bombs that are capable of blowing a hole through your defensive walls. However, cannibals are not the worst thing that can crawl up into the surface world. Nightmarish conglomerations of limbs and heads occasionally roam the wild and catching their attention can prove to be incredibly deadly for the unprepared player. These behemoths can plow through defenses and traps with ease, leaving your carefully constructed bases in tatters. Even worse, they represent the primary threats once players have explored enough of the overworld and begin spelunking into the dark caverns that delve deep into the earth for treasure and resources. The possible treasures that await in the depths of The Forest's caves are certainly worth the risk. Improved axes, components to build explosives, hints at the history of the island and the origins of its twisted population, and gear that enables further exploration of caves can only be found by exploring the various nooks and crannies the cannibals have filled with their trophies and victims. The Forest does something interesting with its pacing and story. It initially hits hard with the horror of cannibalism on full display. Cannibals feast on their downed comrades, their caves and settlements hang bisected bodies and limbs everywhere, and they'll even build horrific displays in the night to mark their territory. However, over time, The Forest pulls a fantastically creepy and insidious slight-of-hand trick: These scenes gradually become mundane, normal - and there's always the option to fall into similar practices. Players can also turn to cannibalism and create effigies to mark their territory, blurring the line between the player and the monsters. Arming players with the ability to participate in cannibalism poses interesting moral questions: How far are you willing to go to survive? Have you really survived if you have abandoned the things that make you human? These questions tie in nicely with The Forest's climax which asks the player how far they have fallen from where they were when the game began. What sacrifice are you willing to make for something you see as yours? The Forest can be tackled solo or in a group with up to eight people playing simultaneously. The solo or duo experience seems more suited to players who value the survival horror experience and are looking for a more focused game. Playing with more than one other person lowers the tension while diving into caves or getting into scraps with groups of cannibals. However, it also makes building large settlements a more attainable goal. I'd encourage everyone to try both modes of play to see what suits their personal tastes best. After four years in Steam's Early Access program, The Forest finally looks great in an optimized state. The lighting effects as the day slowly cycles to night are especially great. Lighting in extreme darkness becomes a major hurdle since, oddly, being in the dark makes it difficult to see. There's no way around this by being crafty with the lighting settings; players simply have to make do with whatever light sources they can find. The all too real danger posed by darkness serves to make plunging into foreboding caves that much more frightening. It also highlights Endnight's impressive use of sound to convey the feel of locations, whether that's the creaking of trees in the woods, the drip of water in damp caves, or the maddened shriek of a blood-crazed creature in the woods calling for reinforcements. Conclusion: Going into The Forest blind and discovering the scope of its world, crafting system, and secrets was a really enjoyable ride through a new entry in the survival horror genre. It manages to toe the line between enjoyable building sim and the horror of monsters lurking in the dark. The story on its own isn't terribly interesting save for an impressive twist leading up to the end that might have been better served with more integration to the wider game. However, the mechanics and presentation of the game tell a story all their own that makes the core narrative stronger by association. At a mere $20, The Forest is a huge steal. I spent over 60 hours in it until I reached the end of the story, but I plan on diving back in with some friends to see what kinds of crazy contraptions and bases we can build in the dangerous wilds. The Forest is currently available for PC and is rumored to have a PlayStation 4 port on the way). View full article
×