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Found 818 results

  1. 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? View full article
  2. 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?
  3. 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. View full article
  4. 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.
  5. 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. View full article
  6. 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.
  7. BioWare has created some of the most beloved moments in gaming history. The Mass Effect series stands as one of the greatest gaming trilogies of all time. However, many people point toward the conclusion of Mass Effect 3 as something that undid all of the goodwill the series had fostered up until that point. For all of their talent, BioWare also created one of the single most divisive and negatively received moments in gaming history. In Part One of our Mass Effect 3 discussion, we talked about the larger game leading up to the final minutes that threw the Mass Effect fan base into chaos. Part Two covers the ending and touches on some aspects of the DLC. 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: Myst III: Exile 'American Wheels of Wonder' by Mazedude (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR01749) 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 View full article
  8. BioWare has created some of the most beloved moments in gaming history. The Mass Effect series stands as one of the greatest gaming trilogies of all time. However, many people point toward the conclusion of Mass Effect 3 as something that undid all of the goodwill the series had fostered up until that point. For all of their talent, BioWare also created one of the single most divisive and negatively received moments in gaming history. In Part One of our Mass Effect 3 discussion, we talked about the larger game leading up to the final minutes that threw the Mass Effect fan base into chaos. Part Two covers the ending and touches on some aspects of the DLC. 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: Myst III: Exile 'American Wheels of Wonder' by Mazedude (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR01749) 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
  9. Tomasz Wacławek, the creator of the stylish, turn-based Ronin, has released a new game that draws heavily on Dark Souls while using an open, inviting aesthetic. Immortal Planet places players in the shoes of an ancient warrior who emerges from cryosleep with no memories only to find an entire planet full of immortal sentinels. In order to escape this tomb world, players will have to make use of spells, special items, and carefully timed attacks. Survival depends on unearthing as many mysteries and secrets as possible. Wacławek describes Immortal Planet as “a love letter to Dark Souls” in that players will live, die, and repeat, but in a manner that's enjoyable. The main hook of this action RPG is the ability to see an enemy's stamina. Timing attacks when enemies lack stamina and are vulnerable is the key to succeeding in the frozen halls of Wacławek's world. Levels are designed with shortcuts and progression in mind, much like the Souls-Borne series, so players won't have to memorize entire areas by rote in order to make it through. Oh, and each area will feature a challenging boss that go through multiple transformations to truly test every player's mettle. Immortal Planet is available now on PC. View full article
  10. Tomasz Wacławek, the creator of the stylish, turn-based Ronin, has released a new game that draws heavily on Dark Souls while using an open, inviting aesthetic. Immortal Planet places players in the shoes of an ancient warrior who emerges from cryosleep with no memories only to find an entire planet full of immortal sentinels. In order to escape this tomb world, players will have to make use of spells, special items, and carefully timed attacks. Survival depends on unearthing as many mysteries and secrets as possible. Wacławek describes Immortal Planet as “a love letter to Dark Souls” in that players will live, die, and repeat, but in a manner that's enjoyable. The main hook of this action RPG is the ability to see an enemy's stamina. Timing attacks when enemies lack stamina and are vulnerable is the key to succeeding in the frozen halls of Wacławek's world. Levels are designed with shortcuts and progression in mind, much like the Souls-Borne series, so players won't have to memorize entire areas by rote in order to make it through. Oh, and each area will feature a challenging boss that go through multiple transformations to truly test every player's mettle. Immortal Planet is available now on PC.
  11. Rime begins with stormy seas, a red scrap of cloth buffeted by the wind whipping through the air, and a young boy washed up on the shores of an island covered in the ruins of a once mighty civilization. Without a word, players assume control of this child and help him to move through this world full of spirits, magic, and ancient technology. In fact, Rime contains not one line of dialogue – Tequila Works communicate their entire narrative through breathtaking visuals and an absolutely astounding score by David Garcia Diaz. Bright colors swirl across the landscape making everything feel alive and vibrant. The use of these popping colors make it all the more potent when the adventure inevitably descends into darkness and mystery. Majestic soundscapes weave an element of vanished magic into the game, as if the music itself was always grasping to reclaim just a little more of the lost glory the island’s ruined spires. The world of Rime is one that has been afflicted by something terrible. Something so destructive that it has shattered the very fabric of the world. This loss permeates every facet of the adventure. Weeping statues and grasping, shade-filled halls lay in the world’s forgotten corners. For every bright, shining moment in the sun, there is one in which the shadows envelop the red-caped protagonist. That ever-present conflict between light and dark? That escalating tension and deepening mystery? Those are the building blocks of every great adventure. The entire presentation readily draws comparisons to the work of Studio Ghibli, a similarity noted in other reviews of Rime. While I think the observation surprisingly apt for the audio-visual elements, Ghibli tends to make their work aimed squarely at children – Rime takes aim at an older crowd. While it can certainly be enjoyed by younger gamers, the themes and payoff will affect more seasoned players on a deeper level. The seemingly overplayed narrative carries an edge that cuts to the bone with loss and love. <a data-cke-saved-href="http://music.greybox.com/album/rime-deluxe-soundtrack" href="http://music.greybox.com/album/rime-deluxe-soundtrack">RiME (Deluxe Soundtrack) by David García Díaz</a> Each step of Rime’s journey presents an obstacle to be overcome, puzzles to be solved, or enemies to defeat. However, Rime isn’t about any one of those aspects on their own. There are some platforming sections, but it isn’t a platformer. Problems beg for solutions, but Rime isn’t a puzzle game. While sometimes enemies do make an appearance, few would ever describe Rime as a game about combat. Instead, Rime places its focus squarely on maintaining a sense of adventure and subtle storytelling. That emphasis on adventure smooths the gameplay experience. Few will need to grab a strategy guide or watch a walkthrough in order to find the solution to a puzzle. The platforming demands little in the way of reflexes. Combat is about as far from hack and slash as one can get; it’s more of a larger, faster puzzle than anything else. One might wonder how Rime manages to remain compelling with its gameplay when enjoyment doesn’t come from reflexive skill. The narrative hook of learning what happened to the island and our protagonist pulls the player relentlessly forward. Lacking any dialogue to explain the situation or internal monologue to learn what kind of a person the protagonist might be, all we learn about him is from what we can see during gameplay – how he chooses to interact with the world. Perhaps most informative interaction comes from the child’s ability to shout, which causes different interactions with objects throughout the world. Sometimes that shout is a call; other times it becomes a humming sing-song of a half remembered song; and as danger mounts it becomes a whimper. That one interaction can show our protagonist cry, laugh, and grieve. But through all those emotions, he continues to move through the world on his journey, leaving much up to the player’s interpretation. Rime certainly doesn’t overstay its welcome. A relatively focused playthrough can make it from beginning to end in about four hours. Tequila Works doesn’t reuse puzzles – though occasionally similar puzzles reappear as character-building moments. The short length works in Rime’s favor and lends itself to multiple playthroughs. Players who love to scour every inch of their game worlds will find a nice challenge in discovering all the knickknacks hidden away (which all serve a narrative purpose as well). There are certain tropes that fledgling story writers are taught to avoid at all costs: Never open a scene with an alarm clock going off; do not include a gunshot followed by a cut to black; and never ever end with the dreaded phrase, “it was all a dream.” The overuse of these storytelling devices drill them into the public consciousness and rendering them clichés. However – and this is one of storytelling’s biggest secrets - a story can use a cliché, provided that it works. For example, a house full of alarm clocks fills the opening of Back to the Future and that works because the movie revolves around our human relationship with time. The film makes appropriate use of the device in a refreshing way - it’s played as a joke that reinforces the central premise of the film - turning it from a cliché back into a trope, and tropes are just tools in a storyteller’s toolbox. In a gaming landscape filled to bursting with indies, many might take a look at Rime and imagine it to be the latest in a long line of Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw dubbed Small Child, Scary World (SCSW) games. Limbo, Ico, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, Braid, these games all take similar forms and tackle themes of being alone in an unknowable world that threatens danger at every turn. The storytelling trope of SCSW has certainly proven to be effective, but its overuse threatens to plunge into cliché territory. And while Rime certainly does fit into the same category, it turns the very concept on its head in a way that works beautifully. Conclusion: Some people might have certain expectations as to what Rime will be – Set those expectations aside and to go into it blind. While Rime certainly might seem to have the trappings of indie gaming tropes that are coming closer to cliché, Tequila Works subverts those expectations in a masterful fashion. 2017 has been a fantastic year for video games – so many quality titles, both big and small, have released. It is a testament to Rime’s quality that it stands as the best thing I have played so far amid the AAA giants that have flexed their gaming muscle over the past several months. It conjures up a mythical adventure that sweeps players up in its majesty. Rime expertly plays with emotion like a master pianist would compose a captivating solo. Rime ends on a haunting final note that doesn’t deliver the empowering resolution many might desire, but it leaves the player with something much better: A powerful artistic statement about how beautiful and terrible and lovely and difficult life can be – and how we can all recover from the worst tragedies and find peace. Rime is now available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC - a Switch version is scheduled to release later this year View full article
  12. Jack Gardner

    Review: Rime

    Rime begins with stormy seas, a red scrap of cloth buffeted by the wind whipping through the air, and a young boy washed up on the shores of an island covered in the ruins of a once mighty civilization. Without a word, players assume control of this child and help him to move through this world full of spirits, magic, and ancient technology. In fact, Rime contains not one line of dialogue – Tequila Works communicate their entire narrative through breathtaking visuals and an absolutely astounding score by David Garcia Diaz. Bright colors swirl across the landscape making everything feel alive and vibrant. The use of these popping colors make it all the more potent when the adventure inevitably descends into darkness and mystery. Majestic soundscapes weave an element of vanished magic into the game, as if the music itself was always grasping to reclaim just a little more of the lost glory the island’s ruined spires. The world of Rime is one that has been afflicted by something terrible. Something so destructive that it has shattered the very fabric of the world. This loss permeates every facet of the adventure. Weeping statues and grasping, shade-filled halls lay in the world’s forgotten corners. For every bright, shining moment in the sun, there is one in which the shadows envelop the red-caped protagonist. That ever-present conflict between light and dark? That escalating tension and deepening mystery? Those are the building blocks of every great adventure. The entire presentation readily draws comparisons to the work of Studio Ghibli, a similarity noted in other reviews of Rime. While I think the observation surprisingly apt for the audio-visual elements, Ghibli tends to make their work aimed squarely at children – Rime takes aim at an older crowd. While it can certainly be enjoyed by younger gamers, the themes and payoff will affect more seasoned players on a deeper level. The seemingly overplayed narrative carries an edge that cuts to the bone with loss and love. <a data-cke-saved-href="http://music.greybox.com/album/rime-deluxe-soundtrack" href="http://music.greybox.com/album/rime-deluxe-soundtrack">RiME (Deluxe Soundtrack) by David García Díaz</a> Each step of Rime’s journey presents an obstacle to be overcome, puzzles to be solved, or enemies to defeat. However, Rime isn’t about any one of those aspects on their own. There are some platforming sections, but it isn’t a platformer. Problems beg for solutions, but Rime isn’t a puzzle game. While sometimes enemies do make an appearance, few would ever describe Rime as a game about combat. Instead, Rime places its focus squarely on maintaining a sense of adventure and subtle storytelling. That emphasis on adventure smooths the gameplay experience. Few will need to grab a strategy guide or watch a walkthrough in order to find the solution to a puzzle. The platforming demands little in the way of reflexes. Combat is about as far from hack and slash as one can get; it’s more of a larger, faster puzzle than anything else. One might wonder how Rime manages to remain compelling with its gameplay when enjoyment doesn’t come from reflexive skill. The narrative hook of learning what happened to the island and our protagonist pulls the player relentlessly forward. Lacking any dialogue to explain the situation or internal monologue to learn what kind of a person the protagonist might be, all we learn about him is from what we can see during gameplay – how he chooses to interact with the world. Perhaps most informative interaction comes from the child’s ability to shout, which causes different interactions with objects throughout the world. Sometimes that shout is a call; other times it becomes a humming sing-song of a half remembered song; and as danger mounts it becomes a whimper. That one interaction can show our protagonist cry, laugh, and grieve. But through all those emotions, he continues to move through the world on his journey, leaving much up to the player’s interpretation. Rime certainly doesn’t overstay its welcome. A relatively focused playthrough can make it from beginning to end in about four hours. Tequila Works doesn’t reuse puzzles – though occasionally similar puzzles reappear as character-building moments. The short length works in Rime’s favor and lends itself to multiple playthroughs. Players who love to scour every inch of their game worlds will find a nice challenge in discovering all the knickknacks hidden away (which all serve a narrative purpose as well). There are certain tropes that fledgling story writers are taught to avoid at all costs: Never open a scene with an alarm clock going off; do not include a gunshot followed by a cut to black; and never ever end with the dreaded phrase, “it was all a dream.” The overuse of these storytelling devices drill them into the public consciousness and rendering them clichés. However – and this is one of storytelling’s biggest secrets - a story can use a cliché, provided that it works. For example, a house full of alarm clocks fills the opening of Back to the Future and that works because the movie revolves around our human relationship with time. The film makes appropriate use of the device in a refreshing way - it’s played as a joke that reinforces the central premise of the film - turning it from a cliché back into a trope, and tropes are just tools in a storyteller’s toolbox. In a gaming landscape filled to bursting with indies, many might take a look at Rime and imagine it to be the latest in a long line of Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw dubbed Small Child, Scary World (SCSW) games. Limbo, Ico, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, Braid, these games all take similar forms and tackle themes of being alone in an unknowable world that threatens danger at every turn. The storytelling trope of SCSW has certainly proven to be effective, but its overuse threatens to plunge into cliché territory. And while Rime certainly does fit into the same category, it turns the very concept on its head in a way that works beautifully. Conclusion: Some people might have certain expectations as to what Rime will be – Set those expectations aside and to go into it blind. While Rime certainly might seem to have the trappings of indie gaming tropes that are coming closer to cliché, Tequila Works subverts those expectations in a masterful fashion. 2017 has been a fantastic year for video games – so many quality titles, both big and small, have released. It is a testament to Rime’s quality that it stands as the best thing I have played so far amid the AAA giants that have flexed their gaming muscle over the past several months. It conjures up a mythical adventure that sweeps players up in its majesty. Rime expertly plays with emotion like a master pianist would compose a captivating solo. Rime ends on a haunting final note that doesn’t deliver the empowering resolution many might desire, but it leaves the player with something much better: A powerful artistic statement about how beautiful and terrible and lovely and difficult life can be – and how we can all recover from the worst tragedies and find peace. Rime is now available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC - a Switch version is scheduled to release later this year
  13. I’ve had my Nintendo Switch for just over a month now, but it’s already my preferred way to play video games. As a father, I have very little time to relax once everyone goes to sleep, so I often have to choose between playing video games and just vegging out and watching Netflix or YouTube. With my Switch, I don’t have to choose, I can do both. I’ve also gotten some use out of the system’s built-in portable co-op, playing Mario Kart 8 Deluxe with my nephews and, more recently, playing Death Squared with my wife – in bed, nonetheless. Death Squared released earlier this year for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Windows PC, but like so many other independent games, it feels most at home on the Switch. The puzzle game tasks players with moving two or four different-colored robot cubes across grid-based levels from point A to point B. In single-player mode, each joystick on the Joy-Cons controls a different robot (two at a time). Things can get a bit tricky when you have to move both robots at the same time. However, in co-op, with the Joy-Cons detached, each player can naturally control a separate robot independently. It’s simple and intuitive to just pick up and play the game – in a way that only really works on the Switch. Death Squared never over complicates things on the gameplay front. The only input you need to know is how to move the joystick. That’s it. The rest is a matter of learning the various traps and mechanics that are layered on top of that simple premise of getting each robot to point B without dying. The game feels right at home among easy-to-learn but difficult to master Nintendo games like Mario Kart 8 and Arms. As the name implies, Death Squared uses death to teach players how the game works – which isn’t always to its benefit. Each new puzzle layers new challenges onto the formula, oftentimes without warning. For example, you only learn about the spikes that pop up from the floor and kill your robot at the very moment they kill your robot. Playing in co-op, dying repeatedly due to your partner’s impatience, incompetence, or mischievousness can be a good time. But in single-player, the trial and error gameplay can feel unfair and quickly becomes maddening as you gingerly try to navigate around each level while the game’s characters – a man named David and his A.I. overseer – mock your poor performance. It’s all much more enjoyable while playing co-op and can become pretty addictive once it sinks its hooks in you. With each level lasting no longer than a few minutes, once my wife and I got into a groove, we didn’t want to stop playing. With each new conundrum, we became better at coordinating and anticipating the game’s dastardly traps. My wife, who rarely plays games, ended up getting sucked into the clever puzzles and every time I suggested we quit, she would plead for just one more level. While a lot of credit goes to SMG Studio for designing the most enjoyable co-op puzzle game I’ve played since Portal 2, I can almost guarantee that my wife would’ve balked at the idea of playing Death Squared on PlayStation 4. The difference comes down to simplicity. Despite the controls being essentially the same across platforms, the Nintendo Switch Joy-Cons present a far less intimidating form factor than the sixteen different buttons on the Dual Shock 4. It’s not that my wife is a simpleton (in fact, she’s much smarter than I am), it’s just that she isn’t as fluent in the language of video games. Neither are most people outside of the gaming bubble that we often find ourselves in. My three-year-old daughter never showed an interest in actually playing video games until I brought home my Switch. Now she can actually finish a race in Mario Kart 8. She hasn’t beaten me yet, but I look forward to the day when she does. So, even though the game is relatively friction-less for newcomers, some frustration rears its head through odd design decisions and technical quibbles. Each of the game’s test rooms (read: levels) are designed as floating constructs in some seemingly dark, vast warehouse. None of the test rooms have walls, so you’ll often just fall off the side of the structure and die when all you were trying to do was navigate in a straight line, especially in single-player when you’re often controlling both cubes at the same time, similar to Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. So many times, I knew what I needed to do, but actually executing it was not as easy as it should’ve been. This makes simply going through the steps of completing a puzzle more frustrating than it needs to be. This is especially compounded by the fact that the game doesn’t consistently auto-save. Too often, I would load an old save only to find that I had to start a couple of levels back from where I had last stopped. And when simply moving around the environment can be treacherous, that problem isn’t as minor as it would otherwise be. Despite some of its minor issues, I’m still having a blast with Death Squared, and I think my wife is too. We haven’t made it through all of the game’s 80 plus levels (which is why you shouldn’t consider this to be a full review), but we have every intention of going back and seeing what new predicaments we can solve for those adorable little cubes. I can sincerely say, this is a game I’d much rather play on my Switch over any other system - and the list of games I can say that about is rapidly growing in number. A game as simple and accessible as Death Squared just makes more sense on Switch, but the fact that it’s also a smaller indie title that released to very little fanfare on other systems doesn’t hurt either. With less competition, now is the perfect time for games like this to find an audience. Death Squared benefits from being a kid friendly pick-up-and-play game on a kid friendly, mobile console. Though it isn’t a perfect game, it deserves to be seen and played by more people, and I’m glad it might have that chance on Nintendo’s nifty young console. View full article
  14. I’ve had my Nintendo Switch for just over a month now, but it’s already my preferred way to play video games. As a father, I have very little time to relax once everyone goes to sleep, so I often have to choose between playing video games and just vegging out and watching Netflix or YouTube. With my Switch, I don’t have to choose, I can do both. I’ve also gotten some use out of the system’s built-in portable co-op, playing Mario Kart 8 Deluxe with my nephews and, more recently, playing Death Squared with my wife – in bed, nonetheless. Death Squared released earlier this year for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Windows PC, but like so many other independent games, it feels most at home on the Switch. The puzzle game tasks players with moving two or four different-colored robot cubes across grid-based levels from point A to point B. In single-player mode, each joystick on the Joy-Cons controls a different robot (two at a time). Things can get a bit tricky when you have to move both robots at the same time. However, in co-op, with the Joy-Cons detached, each player can naturally control a separate robot independently. It’s simple and intuitive to just pick up and play the game – in a way that only really works on the Switch. Death Squared never over complicates things on the gameplay front. The only input you need to know is how to move the joystick. That’s it. The rest is a matter of learning the various traps and mechanics that are layered on top of that simple premise of getting each robot to point B without dying. The game feels right at home among easy-to-learn but difficult to master Nintendo games like Mario Kart 8 and Arms. As the name implies, Death Squared uses death to teach players how the game works – which isn’t always to its benefit. Each new puzzle layers new challenges onto the formula, oftentimes without warning. For example, you only learn about the spikes that pop up from the floor and kill your robot at the very moment they kill your robot. Playing in co-op, dying repeatedly due to your partner’s impatience, incompetence, or mischievousness can be a good time. But in single-player, the trial and error gameplay can feel unfair and quickly becomes maddening as you gingerly try to navigate around each level while the game’s characters – a man named David and his A.I. overseer – mock your poor performance. It’s all much more enjoyable while playing co-op and can become pretty addictive once it sinks its hooks in you. With each level lasting no longer than a few minutes, once my wife and I got into a groove, we didn’t want to stop playing. With each new conundrum, we became better at coordinating and anticipating the game’s dastardly traps. My wife, who rarely plays games, ended up getting sucked into the clever puzzles and every time I suggested we quit, she would plead for just one more level. While a lot of credit goes to SMG Studio for designing the most enjoyable co-op puzzle game I’ve played since Portal 2, I can almost guarantee that my wife would’ve balked at the idea of playing Death Squared on PlayStation 4. The difference comes down to simplicity. Despite the controls being essentially the same across platforms, the Nintendo Switch Joy-Cons present a far less intimidating form factor than the sixteen different buttons on the Dual Shock 4. It’s not that my wife is a simpleton (in fact, she’s much smarter than I am), it’s just that she isn’t as fluent in the language of video games. Neither are most people outside of the gaming bubble that we often find ourselves in. My three-year-old daughter never showed an interest in actually playing video games until I brought home my Switch. Now she can actually finish a race in Mario Kart 8. She hasn’t beaten me yet, but I look forward to the day when she does. So, even though the game is relatively friction-less for newcomers, some frustration rears its head through odd design decisions and technical quibbles. Each of the game’s test rooms (read: levels) are designed as floating constructs in some seemingly dark, vast warehouse. None of the test rooms have walls, so you’ll often just fall off the side of the structure and die when all you were trying to do was navigate in a straight line, especially in single-player when you’re often controlling both cubes at the same time, similar to Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. So many times, I knew what I needed to do, but actually executing it was not as easy as it should’ve been. This makes simply going through the steps of completing a puzzle more frustrating than it needs to be. This is especially compounded by the fact that the game doesn’t consistently auto-save. Too often, I would load an old save only to find that I had to start a couple of levels back from where I had last stopped. And when simply moving around the environment can be treacherous, that problem isn’t as minor as it would otherwise be. Despite some of its minor issues, I’m still having a blast with Death Squared, and I think my wife is too. We haven’t made it through all of the game’s 80 plus levels (which is why you shouldn’t consider this to be a full review), but we have every intention of going back and seeing what new predicaments we can solve for those adorable little cubes. I can sincerely say, this is a game I’d much rather play on my Switch over any other system - and the list of games I can say that about is rapidly growing in number. A game as simple and accessible as Death Squared just makes more sense on Switch, but the fact that it’s also a smaller indie title that released to very little fanfare on other systems doesn’t hurt either. With less competition, now is the perfect time for games like this to find an audience. Death Squared benefits from being a kid friendly pick-up-and-play game on a kid friendly, mobile console. Though it isn’t a perfect game, it deserves to be seen and played by more people, and I’m glad it might have that chance on Nintendo’s nifty young console.
  15. Since 2013, Path of Exile has treated fans of action role-playing with a steady stream of content at the entry price of free-ninety-free. Developer Grinding Gear Games is giving its followers even more to love with the free-to-play title’s sixth and largest expansion to date: The Fall of Oriath. In addition to beefing up the PC version, the expansion, along with the entire Path of Exile experience, debuts on Xbox One later this year. After having an opportunity to take a look at the new content, here are some of the things fans can expect. I spent some time with a slice of the Xbox One version of the game, giving me the chance to test drive the remapped gamepad controls. I had previously only dabbled with the PC version of Path of Exile, and my inexperience with mouse and keyboard controls hindered my enjoyment. The reworked console controls were a welcome change for players like myself. Combat, item usage, and navigating the tweaked UI felt like I was coming home to a comfortable bed with that gamepad in hand. The Fall of Oriath’s story centers around the return of the gods of Wraeclast, who seek to reclaim their hold on the world. These gods serve as the adversaries players will face off against. One arduous bout I tackled was against a seemingly human foe who revealed himself to be a towering, radiant deity midway through our battle. Boasting a rapidly regenerating shield, scores of minions, and bullet hell-style projectile wave attacks, it was an overwhelming and challenging encounter. I witnessed another battle against the sea god, the Brine King, who drained the surrounding ocean to unleash pirate ghosts and water elementals against his targets. You read that right: Pirate. Ghosts. The Fall of Oriath features 24 bosses of this caliber with which players must contend. While Path of Exile’s original campaign runs roughly 20 hours, Grinding Gear promises The Fall of Oriath to run 40-50 hours across six new acts. The designer I spoke with stated, “Basically, the idea there is that for a retail game this would probably be a sequel, but for free-to-play you don't really do sequels. So we're just adding a lot of content to the base game.” That content includes a bevy of new skill gems and unique items, the specifics of which Grinding Gears plans to reveal in the near future. Additionally, The Fall of Oriath introduces Pantheon, a system that lets players harness the abilities of the gods they battle. A new league event is also slated to begin roughly around the launch of the new content. Leagues are special events that occur every three months and shake up the game rules, such as increasing the attack speed of all enemies. The Fall of Oriath closed beta features all existing content plus Acts 5 through 7. The expansion arrives in full on PC this month. Xbox One players get their chance to lose countless hours surviving Path of Exile’s dark and compelling world when it hits Microsoft’s console this fall. View full article
  16. Since 2013, Path of Exile has treated fans of action role-playing with a steady stream of content at the entry price of free-ninety-free. Developer Grinding Gear Games is giving its followers even more to love with the free-to-play title’s sixth and largest expansion to date: The Fall of Oriath. In addition to beefing up the PC version, the expansion, along with the entire Path of Exile experience, debuts on Xbox One later this year. After having an opportunity to take a look at the new content, here are some of the things fans can expect. I spent some time with a slice of the Xbox One version of the game, giving me the chance to test drive the remapped gamepad controls. I had previously only dabbled with the PC version of Path of Exile, and my inexperience with mouse and keyboard controls hindered my enjoyment. The reworked console controls were a welcome change for players like myself. Combat, item usage, and navigating the tweaked UI felt like I was coming home to a comfortable bed with that gamepad in hand. The Fall of Oriath’s story centers around the return of the gods of Wraeclast, who seek to reclaim their hold on the world. These gods serve as the adversaries players will face off against. One arduous bout I tackled was against a seemingly human foe who revealed himself to be a towering, radiant deity midway through our battle. Boasting a rapidly regenerating shield, scores of minions, and bullet hell-style projectile wave attacks, it was an overwhelming and challenging encounter. I witnessed another battle against the sea god, the Brine King, who drained the surrounding ocean to unleash pirate ghosts and water elementals against his targets. You read that right: Pirate. Ghosts. The Fall of Oriath features 24 bosses of this caliber with which players must contend. While Path of Exile’s original campaign runs roughly 20 hours, Grinding Gear promises The Fall of Oriath to run 40-50 hours across six new acts. The designer I spoke with stated, “Basically, the idea there is that for a retail game this would probably be a sequel, but for free-to-play you don't really do sequels. So we're just adding a lot of content to the base game.” That content includes a bevy of new skill gems and unique items, the specifics of which Grinding Gears plans to reveal in the near future. Additionally, The Fall of Oriath introduces Pantheon, a system that lets players harness the abilities of the gods they battle. A new league event is also slated to begin roughly around the launch of the new content. Leagues are special events that occur every three months and shake up the game rules, such as increasing the attack speed of all enemies. The Fall of Oriath closed beta features all existing content plus Acts 5 through 7. The expansion arrives in full on PC this month. Xbox One players get their chance to lose countless hours surviving Path of Exile’s dark and compelling world when it hits Microsoft’s console this fall.
  17. I've been spending a fair bit of time fighting on the massive, free-for-all battlefield of PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds. The Steam early access game has taken the indie world by storm since its release, garnering a playerbase of over 4 million in the handful of months since its March 2017 release onto early access. For those who haven't yet set foot into the battlegrounds, the concept is deceptively simple: Roughly 100 players are dropped from a cargo plane onto a sprawling island with cities, towns, and various types of terrain and then battle to be the last one standing. The game can be tackled solo, co-op, or in a three to four person squad. Players drop onto the island without any items or equipment aside from the clothing (or in some cases underwear) on their backs and must frantically scavenge for supplies while keeping an eye out for fellow scavengers. The island is, as mentioned before, massive. Even with 100 players, players find themselves facing long periods of silence, the occasional gunshot ringing out in the distance. In order to bring players together, the map will periodically flood everything outside of a white ring with blue energy, slowly killing everyone who doesn't make it to the safe zone. This white ring continues to collapse as the game progresses, forcing everyone into smaller and smaller spaces until the last player, or the last team, is standing. And winners? They get to feast upon delicious, delicious chicken. The message "WINNER WINNER CHICKEN DINNER!" appears on screen to congratulate players on their victory - before booting everyone out of the match. I won my first chicken dinner alongside some trusty teammates just a few days ago. As the feeling of accomplishment swelled within me, I became curious about the lore of Battlegrounds. Why were all these people parachuting onto an island to battle to the death, day after day? How are the same player-created characters able to die, rise, and then die again? What is really going on? The various materials available online about PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds seem to have precisely nothing to do with the surrounding context of the events happening within the game. This lack of clarification could be explained with the old "it's just a game, don't think about it, too much" answer, but where's the fun in that? While pondering over the dreamlike quality of Battlegrounds' setting and internal game logic, I think I hit upon an explanation for the entire game: Valhalla. In Norse mythology, Valhalla was the golden hall where Odin and his Valkyries brought chosen warriors for their afterlife. Once there, those warriors would fight all day and then retire at night to drink, eat, and heal their wounds. They fought each day to hone their abilities and combat prowess to prepare for the coming end of the world when they would march forth from their otherworldly training ground to fight in the final battle alongside Odin. Why do I think that PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds is Valhalla? Let's look at the facts. Fact: There are no 100% night conditions in PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds. Fighting in the moonlight is not something that happens in Battlegrounds. Sure, there are maps with varied lighting conditions and even a rare version of the map that is played at sunset, but no outright nighttime versions of the island are playable. Why is this important? Because the night is when those who have gone to Valhalla feast and heal from the day's fighting! And who gets the finest portion of the feast? The day's winner in combat, of course! They eat to the tune of, "WINNER WINNER CHICKEN DINNER!" Fact: The vast majority of player-characters rise from their mortal wounds to fight again. Now, true, this happens in a lot of multiplayer games. However, it is an important data point that each player character is the same character. This seems to fit with the first fact - we're not faceless killers, but people with names, styles, and personalities. Fact: The last authoritative text describing Valhalla was written in the 1200s. The authoritative sources on exactly what Valhalla is like come from ancient Norse poems and histories. The most useful of those sources comes in the form of Icelandic historian Snorri Sturluson who lived from 1179-1241. Valhalla was described as a golden hall thatched with the shields of heroes, spear shafts holding them aloft, and benches adorned with chainmail. You might notice that this bears no resemblance to anything seen in Battlegrounds. However, Valhalla being a heavenly realm - who is to say that over 800 years of advancement might not make the Valhalla of 1200 much different than the Valhalla of 2017? It seems to me warriors of today would keep pace with modern technology, so it stands to reason that they'd be magically transported to a cargo plane to drop onto a Soviet-esque island to do battle for the day before being whisked away for feasting and healing in the golden hall. Fact: Friendships and rivalries extended into the Valhallan afterlife. There are stories in the Norse Eddas of great heroes making their way to Valhalla only to encounter old allies and possibly forgotten enemies. In PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, I've gone into battle alongside numerous friends, but also encountered rivals who had killed me in the past. These smaller stories, the stories of minute to minute gameplay would constitute the conversation, laughter, and jokes told at night within Odin's hall. Many outlets have written about how Battlegrounds is a veritable factory of emergent stories friends share together. Fact: No one knows exactly why they are fighting on the island, they just know that they must fight or die. if you ask several people why people are fighting in PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds and you'll likely get several different answers. The only thing everything can agree on is that they are magically transported onto a small island, then into a cargo plane, and then trapped on a larger island until a magical blue energy field starts closing in - and if they don't survive to be the last person/group alive, they'll succumb to either the deadly blue energy or to the bullets of enemies. From all the hard, irrefutable evidence present in the game and the lack of information from the developers, PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds is definitely the mythological Norse hall of the slain, Valhalla. I rest my case. Do you have a theory that explains what's going on in PUBG? Share it in the comments and maybe we can all come up with an even better theory! View full article
  18. I've been spending a fair bit of time fighting on the massive, free-for-all battlefield of PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds. The Steam early access game has taken the indie world by storm since its release, garnering a playerbase of over 4 million in the handful of months since its March 2017 release onto early access. For those who haven't yet set foot into the battlegrounds, the concept is deceptively simple: Roughly 100 players are dropped from a cargo plane onto a sprawling island with cities, towns, and various types of terrain and then battle to be the last one standing. The game can be tackled solo, co-op, or in a three to four person squad. Players drop onto the island without any items or equipment aside from the clothing (or in some cases underwear) on their backs and must frantically scavenge for supplies while keeping an eye out for fellow scavengers. The island is, as mentioned before, massive. Even with 100 players, players find themselves facing long periods of silence, the occasional gunshot ringing out in the distance. In order to bring players together, the map will periodically flood everything outside of a white ring with blue energy, slowly killing everyone who doesn't make it to the safe zone. This white ring continues to collapse as the game progresses, forcing everyone into smaller and smaller spaces until the last player, or the last team, is standing. And winners? They get to feast upon delicious, delicious chicken. The message "WINNER WINNER CHICKEN DINNER!" appears on screen to congratulate players on their victory - before booting everyone out of the match. I won my first chicken dinner alongside some trusty teammates just a few days ago. As the feeling of accomplishment swelled within me, I became curious about the lore of Battlegrounds. Why were all these people parachuting onto an island to battle to the death, day after day? How are the same player-created characters able to die, rise, and then die again? What is really going on? The various materials available online about PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds seem to have precisely nothing to do with the surrounding context of the events happening within the game. This lack of clarification could be explained with the old "it's just a game, don't think about it, too much" answer, but where's the fun in that? While pondering over the dreamlike quality of Battlegrounds' setting and internal game logic, I think I hit upon an explanation for the entire game: Valhalla. In Norse mythology, Valhalla was the golden hall where Odin and his Valkyries brought chosen warriors for their afterlife. Once there, those warriors would fight all day and then retire at night to drink, eat, and heal their wounds. They fought each day to hone their abilities and combat prowess to prepare for the coming end of the world when they would march forth from their otherworldly training ground to fight in the final battle alongside Odin. Why do I think that PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds is Valhalla? Let's look at the facts. Fact: There are no 100% night conditions in PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds. Fighting in the moonlight is not something that happens in Battlegrounds. Sure, there are maps with varied lighting conditions and even a rare version of the map that is played at sunset, but no outright nighttime versions of the island are playable. Why is this important? Because the night is when those who have gone to Valhalla feast and heal from the day's fighting! And who gets the finest portion of the feast? The day's winner in combat, of course! They eat to the tune of, "WINNER WINNER CHICKEN DINNER!" Fact: The vast majority of player-characters rise from their mortal wounds to fight again. Now, true, this happens in a lot of multiplayer games. However, it is an important data point that each player character is the same character. This seems to fit with the first fact - we're not faceless killers, but people with names, styles, and personalities. Fact: The last authoritative text describing Valhalla was written in the 1200s. The authoritative sources on exactly what Valhalla is like come from ancient Norse poems and histories. The most useful of those sources comes in the form of Icelandic historian Snorri Sturluson who lived from 1179-1241. Valhalla was described as a golden hall thatched with the shields of heroes, spear shafts holding them aloft, and benches adorned with chainmail. You might notice that this bears no resemblance to anything seen in Battlegrounds. However, Valhalla being a heavenly realm - who is to say that over 800 years of advancement might not make the Valhalla of 1200 much different than the Valhalla of 2017? It seems to me warriors of today would keep pace with modern technology, so it stands to reason that they'd be magically transported to a cargo plane to drop onto a Soviet-esque island to do battle for the day before being whisked away for feasting and healing in the golden hall. Fact: Friendships and rivalries extended into the Valhallan afterlife. There are stories in the Norse Eddas of great heroes making their way to Valhalla only to encounter old allies and possibly forgotten enemies. In PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, I've gone into battle alongside numerous friends, but also encountered rivals who had killed me in the past. These smaller stories, the stories of minute to minute gameplay would constitute the conversation, laughter, and jokes told at night within Odin's hall. Many outlets have written about how Battlegrounds is a veritable factory of emergent stories friends share together. Fact: No one knows exactly why they are fighting on the island, they just know that they must fight or die. if you ask several people why people are fighting in PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds and you'll likely get several different answers. The only thing everything can agree on is that they are magically transported onto a small island, then into a cargo plane, and then trapped on a larger island until a magical blue energy field starts closing in - and if they don't survive to be the last person/group alive, they'll succumb to either the deadly blue energy or to the bullets of enemies. From all the hard, irrefutable evidence present in the game and the lack of information from the developers, PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds is definitely the mythological Norse hall of the slain, Valhalla. I rest my case. Do you have a theory that explains what's going on in PUBG? Share it in the comments and maybe we can all come up with an even better theory!
  19. Oblivion released in 2006 bringing a massive open-world geared toward a mainstream audience to PC and console gamers alike. Players were able to explore Cyrodiil, a fantasy land full of kings and gods while experiencing a myriad of stories ranging from becoming the greatest thief in the land to stopping a full-blown demonic invasion. Does Oblivion stand on its own as one of the best games period or is it overshadowed by the likes of Morrowind and Skyrim? 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 Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion 'Beyond the Imperial Prison' by HyperDuck SoundWorks (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR03522) 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 View full article
  20. Oblivion released in 2006 bringing a massive open-world geared toward a mainstream audience to PC and console gamers alike. Players were able to explore Cyrodiil, a fantasy land full of kings and gods while experiencing a myriad of stories ranging from becoming the greatest thief in the land to stopping a full-blown demonic invasion. Does Oblivion stand on its own as one of the best games period or is it overshadowed by the likes of Morrowind and Skyrim? 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 Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion 'Beyond the Imperial Prison' by HyperDuck SoundWorks (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR03522) 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
  21. Multiplayer shooter fans curious about Lawbreakers have a chance to give the physics-defying shooter a whirl before it releases later this summer. An open beta went live today on Steam and will run until July 5. The beta features a new map, the mountainous Vertigo, as well as a new mode called Uplink. Teams are tasked with capturing an uplink from the center of the map and delivering it to their base where it must be protected it to earn points. Players can also test out customizable weapon stickers, including a special sticker earned by finishing five matches. This sticker will transfer into the full release. You can hop in on the open beta by visiting the Lawbreakers site. Lawbreakers releases August 8 for $29.99 on PC and PS4. For more on the title, check out its trailer from the PC Gaming Show View full article
  22. Multiplayer shooter fans curious about Lawbreakers have a chance to give the physics-defying shooter a whirl before it releases later this summer. An open beta went live today on Steam and will run until July 5. The beta features a new map, the mountainous Vertigo, as well as a new mode called Uplink. Teams are tasked with capturing an uplink from the center of the map and delivering it to their base where it must be protected it to earn points. Players can also test out customizable weapon stickers, including a special sticker earned by finishing five matches. This sticker will transfer into the full release. You can hop in on the open beta by visiting the Lawbreakers site. Lawbreakers releases August 8 for $29.99 on PC and PS4. For more on the title, check out its trailer from the PC Gaming Show
  23. Outreach takes the narrative-focused space exploration of titles like Adr1ft and injects a hefty does of historical accuracy and an unshakable eeriness. Pixel Spill’s four-man team has been cranking away at the project for about two years, and during E3 last week I got to play the game's unnerving first 20 minutes. “I love sci-fi. I watch Star Trek on my lunch breaks,” James Booth, producer and writer, said. “But something I wanted to do differently with Outreach, I wanted it to be steeped in the history of space travel rather than being alternate history or future.” Outreach draws inspiration from the space race between the then-Soviet Union and the United States and how the Soviets beat the Americans by sending the first human, Yuri Gagarin, into space. Chiefly, Outreach explores the “lost cosmonaut” conspiracy theory that alleges that prior to Gagarin, the Soviets secretly launched cosmonauts into space. However, all of them perished and the government covered up the mission. Additionally, espionage films such as The Hunt for Red October provided further influence. Set in 1986, players control a lone Soviet cosmonaut (voiced by The Wolf Among Us’ Adam Harrington) sent in orbit to investigate a space station and determine the fate of its crew. Booth says that while Outreach plays off events from the 1960's, the game takes place a few decades later to allow for the existence of a full space station. Pixel Spill values historical accuracy above all else. Archival footage and historical designs were referenced during development. The composition was made using actual Soviet-era synthesizers, creating a soundtrack that captures the authentic sound of the period. There are no jetpacks – Soviet cosmonauts didn’t have them at the time – so players must push themselves off objects to move around. “It’s literally set in 1986. All of the technology is era-specific.,” Booth explained. “The space station is based on pictures of the real thing. You can look at the two side by side and you probably couldn’t tell the difference apart from the fact that one’s a game.” While Outreach can be classified as walking simulator sub-genre, Booth refers to it as a “floating simulator” due to the zero gravity exploration. The unique control scheme took a fair bit of trial and error for me to adapt to. One shoulder trigger pushes forward while the other halts movement. Moving the left analog stick spins your view. I bounced against the station like a pinball before I got comfortable enough to navigate the station somewhat competently. Although movement felt strange and mildly nauseating, it did a decent job of selling the sensation of being suspended in zero gravity. You might think Outreach would be a perfect fit for VR. However, Booth cites the occasionally stomach-turning traversal as the primary reason Outreach won’t be coming to headsets. “It works [in VR], but don’t do it. We’d have to ship it with a branded sick bag.” After receiving my orders from my commander, I set out on the search for the crew. I soar from room to room, inspecting floating objects including letters and audio tapes, which can be played on a recorder. Booth promises that although the game is story-focused, Outreach will feature more gameplay than the average walking simulator thanks to richer mechanics, puzzles, and mini-games. At one point, I interacted with a terminal that featured a working game of Pong. After exploring the pods and finding no trace of the crew, only one area remains for inspection. Unfortunately, I break the latch off the door trying to open it, leaving me locked out. The only way around is to exit the station and reach the area from the outside. This is where Outreach’s intensity took really off. Since jetpacks aren’t a thing, the only way to make my way across the outside of the station was by a series of rungs on the station’s hull. The process involved kicking myself off a platform and carefully steering myself close enough to a rung to grab. It was an extremely nerve-racking segment thanks to how little control you have in maneuverability and the intimidating ambiance of space. Unlike many walking simulators, players can die in Outreach. In order to allow this, Pixel Spill needed to tweak the facts a bit. “Historically, you would have a tether that would connect you to the station,” Booth said. But we took that out. It’s kind of one of the only things we don’t do realistically because we wanted that fear of death.” Missing a rung and veering into orbit led to a very intense scene of the character quickly panicking as he realized he’d be helplessly hovering for the rest of his life. That emotional performance completely sold the terror of being stranded in space and only raised my anxiety about screwing up. I held my breath with every leap to a new handhold. After a few more trips to the scary death scene, I finally reached my destination, where the demo concluded. I welcomed the chance to calm my nerves, but I felt I’d just gotten the hang of the controls enough to inspire me to play more. On top of being an effective thriller, Outreach feels like it could be a great period piece of 1980's space travel thanks to its painstaking attention to detail. Most importantly, I left my play session wanting answers to the game's primary questions. What exactly happened on this ship? Are any members of the crew alive, and if so, where are they? These answers will have to wait until later this fall when Outreach launches for PC and Mac.
  24. Outreach takes the narrative-focused space exploration of titles like Adr1ft and injects a hefty does of historical accuracy and an unshakable eeriness. Pixel Spill’s four-man team has been cranking away at the project for about two years, and during E3 last week I got to play the game's unnerving first 20 minutes. “I love sci-fi. I watch Star Trek on my lunch breaks,” James Booth, producer and writer, said. “But something I wanted to do differently with Outreach, I wanted it to be steeped in the history of space travel rather than being alternate history or future.” Outreach draws inspiration from the space race between the then-Soviet Union and the United States and how the Soviets beat the Americans by sending the first human, Yuri Gagarin, into space. Chiefly, Outreach explores the “lost cosmonaut” conspiracy theory that alleges that prior to Gagarin, the Soviets secretly launched cosmonauts into space. However, all of them perished and the government covered up the mission. Additionally, espionage films such as The Hunt for Red October provided further influence. Set in 1986, players control a lone Soviet cosmonaut (voiced by The Wolf Among Us’ Adam Harrington) sent in orbit to investigate a space station and determine the fate of its crew. Booth says that while Outreach plays off events from the 1960's, the game takes place a few decades later to allow for the existence of a full space station. Pixel Spill values historical accuracy above all else. Archival footage and historical designs were referenced during development. The composition was made using actual Soviet-era synthesizers, creating a soundtrack that captures the authentic sound of the period. There are no jetpacks – Soviet cosmonauts didn’t have them at the time – so players must push themselves off objects to move around. “It’s literally set in 1986. All of the technology is era-specific.,” Booth explained. “The space station is based on pictures of the real thing. You can look at the two side by side and you probably couldn’t tell the difference apart from the fact that one’s a game.” While Outreach can be classified as walking simulator sub-genre, Booth refers to it as a “floating simulator” due to the zero gravity exploration. The unique control scheme took a fair bit of trial and error for me to adapt to. One shoulder trigger pushes forward while the other halts movement. Moving the left analog stick spins your view. I bounced against the station like a pinball before I got comfortable enough to navigate the station somewhat competently. Although movement felt strange and mildly nauseating, it did a decent job of selling the sensation of being suspended in zero gravity. You might think Outreach would be a perfect fit for VR. However, Booth cites the occasionally stomach-turning traversal as the primary reason Outreach won’t be coming to headsets. “It works [in VR], but don’t do it. We’d have to ship it with a branded sick bag.” After receiving my orders from my commander, I set out on the search for the crew. I soar from room to room, inspecting floating objects including letters and audio tapes, which can be played on a recorder. Booth promises that although the game is story-focused, Outreach will feature more gameplay than the average walking simulator thanks to richer mechanics, puzzles, and mini-games. At one point, I interacted with a terminal that featured a working game of Pong. After exploring the pods and finding no trace of the crew, only one area remains for inspection. Unfortunately, I break the latch off the door trying to open it, leaving me locked out. The only way around is to exit the station and reach the area from the outside. This is where Outreach’s intensity took really off. Since jetpacks aren’t a thing, the only way to make my way across the outside of the station was by a series of rungs on the station’s hull. The process involved kicking myself off a platform and carefully steering myself close enough to a rung to grab. It was an extremely nerve-racking segment thanks to how little control you have in maneuverability and the intimidating ambiance of space. Unlike many walking simulators, players can die in Outreach. In order to allow this, Pixel Spill needed to tweak the facts a bit. “Historically, you would have a tether that would connect you to the station,” Booth said. But we took that out. It’s kind of one of the only things we don’t do realistically because we wanted that fear of death.” Missing a rung and veering into orbit led to a very intense scene of the character quickly panicking as he realized he’d be helplessly hovering for the rest of his life. That emotional performance completely sold the terror of being stranded in space and only raised my anxiety about screwing up. I held my breath with every leap to a new handhold. After a few more trips to the scary death scene, I finally reached my destination, where the demo concluded. I welcomed the chance to calm my nerves, but I felt I’d just gotten the hang of the controls enough to inspire me to play more. On top of being an effective thriller, Outreach feels like it could be a great period piece of 1980's space travel thanks to its painstaking attention to detail. Most importantly, I left my play session wanting answers to the game's primary questions. What exactly happened on this ship? Are any members of the crew alive, and if so, where are they? These answers will have to wait until later this fall when Outreach launches for PC and Mac. View full article
  25. Telltale followed up their first entry into the world of The Walking Dead with a second season that did a number of risky things in the world of video games. Players took on the role of Clementine, a young girl who has been burdened with the onerous task of growing up during the apocalypse. The brutality, the cruelty of life under those desperate circumstances permeate Season 2. Tough decisions allow players to shape what kind of a person our hero may become and the haunting prompts from the previous season, "Clementine will remember that," are now left unsaid, but hang heavy in every facial expression. As a sequel to an episodic game that some claimed was the greatest adventure game of all time, does The Walking Dead: Season Two stand up on its own merits as 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 Walking Dead: Season Two 'In the Pines - Credits Theme' by Jared Emerson-Johnson & Janel Drewis (https://telltalegames.bandcamp.com/) 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
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