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Found 6 results

  1. 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.
  2. 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
  3. Amidst the blockbuster games of 2013 like BioShock Infinite and The Last of Us, a little game from an unknown indie studio almost single-handedly established a genre. The Fullbright Company's Gone Home was met with critical acclaim, commercial success, and spawned fairly divisive opinions in the general audience. The hosts of the show actually discussed Gone Home when it came out on their previous podcast and revisiting it proved to be an enlightening experience. Do you think Gone Home is 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: Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure 'Another Sky' by Rexy (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR03379) You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is (sometimes) available as well, so you can watch what we are talking about while we talk about it! You can also follow the show on Twitter: @BestGamesPeriod New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday View full article
  4. Amidst the blockbuster games of 2013 like BioShock Infinite and The Last of Us, a little game from an unknown indie studio almost single-handedly established a genre. The Fullbright Company's Gone Home was met with critical acclaim, commercial success, and spawned fairly divisive opinions in the general audience. The hosts of the show actually discussed Gone Home when it came out on their previous podcast and revisiting it proved to be an enlightening experience. Do you think Gone Home is 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: Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure 'Another Sky' by Rexy (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR03379) You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is (sometimes) available as well, so you can watch what we are talking about while we talk about it! You can also follow the show on Twitter: @BestGamesPeriod New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday
  5. One of 2013’s critical indie darlings, Gone Home made a huge splash when it released. Critics praised it as a huge leap forward in interactive storytelling and for its non-violent content. Several notable publications such as Polygon, GamesRadar, and Giant Bomb gave the highest recommendations they can give and awarded the title perfect scores. Statements such as, “After completing the game, I sat in spellbound, smiling silence for nearly an hour,” from Danielle Riendeau at Polygon and Giancarlo Saldana’s acclaim in his GamesRadar review that, “Gone Home attempts to explore the boundaries of a game’s communicative potential and succeeds by giving us a story that satisfies our senses and touches our innermost being,” had me excited to play the title for myself. Unfortunately, my response to Gone Home fell far short of what others seemed to have enjoyed so thoroughly. I played Gone Home for about an hour from start to finish and walked away wishing I could have that hour back to do something different with my life. Gone Home places players in the shoes of Katie Greenbriar, a college student returning from travelling abroad in 1995. Katie arrives home, only to find that the house her family recently moved into is deserted, with her parents and sister nowhere to be found. As Katie, players navigate the house to discover what became of the Greenbriar family. Gameplay consists of wandering the house, looking at things, moving small objects, and occasionally interacting with buttons. The problems I had with Gone Home became apparent within the first ten minutes of wandering the massive Greenbriar residence. After I found the key to the front door, I entered the house and began looking at various knick-knacks on shelves and opening drawers obsessively, eventually stumbling across a hand-written note from Katie’s sister, Sam, whereupon I was rewarded with a voice-over narration by the talented Sarah Grayson. That’s when I realized that this was going to be the entire game. At first, I didn’t think there would be anything wrong with the lack of interesting gameplay. I had recently finished playing through The Stanley Parable, which has even less interactivity than Gone Home, and it was so brilliant it made my top 10 games of the generation list. However, as I made my way painstakingly through room after room, I rapidly lost my enthusiasm. Gone Home tries to immerse players in the role of Katie by setting movement at a certain realistic (i.e. slow) pace and adding little touches like a button that puts objects back in the place you found them. The Stanley Parable saddles players with extremely limiting controls to make points about game design, interactivity, and storytelling in the video game medium. The Stanley Parable’s gameplay serves to complement its story and can even serve as a point of commentary in its own right. Gone Home feels just the opposite. Its gameplay fails to add anything of importance to either its own story, which is the central focus of the game, or to the enjoyment I derived from it, which was nonexistent. Boring gameplay can be fine if there is a solid story to back it up. The original Mass Effect’s gameplay wasn’t anything to be excited about, but the story was compelling enough that I wanted to see it through to the end. Most of the praise people have lauded Gone Home with seems to center on it containing a narrative not traditionally associated with video games. Deviating from the norm in the video game industry is a bold move and one I wish more developers were willing to do. The problem is that simply having a non-traditional video game narrative doesn’t automatically make it worthwhile, especially if it is something we have experienced before in other mediums. The sole hook of Gone Home is to discover what became of the members of Katie’s family. With the exception of one red herring, it is fairly easy to figure out where the plot is going within the initial twenty minutes, and the destination isn’t terribly interesting. Without spoiling anything, the story boils down to a time-worn shtick that we’ve all heard a million times before across every form of media and has been better told elsewhere without the slow, monotonous gameplay. I don’t mean to imply that Gone Home isn’t well crafted. The voice-acting is particularly well done and deserves recognition for attempting to infuse some life into the game. Its environments have an astonishing attention to detail. Almost all text written on papers or books can be read if zoomed in and there are little secrets spread throughout the house for those who care to find them. The house’s architecture is impressively laid out and great care was taken into making the secrets it conceals believable. Little touches are scattered around the home that make it apparent that the game takes place in 1995. All of these aspects are testaments to how much care The Fullbright Company took to create the Greenbriar home. However, all of that work is wasted on someone like me. To be perfectly blunt, I didn’t care if I could read most of the text if I zoom in on documents and I also didn’t really care to spend hours combing through a digital house to learn more about Katie’s family, because I didn’t find any of them particularly interesting or compelling. The experience of playing Gone Home is, to paraphrase one of my colleagues, like taking the audio diaries scattered throughout BioShock and making them the center of your game, eliminating everything else. There are precious few distractions in Gone Home, none of which break up the tedium of walking around inside a house looking for things. Eventually, even minor annoyances like the sluggish pace at which Katie walks become frustrating because you just want to finish the game and be done. I could recreate the experience of playing Gone Home almost perfectly by losing my car keys and trying to remember where I put them, with none of the satisfaction or resolution that goes along with actually finding the dang things. Does Gone Home appeal to somebody? With over 500,000 copies sold, you bet your bootstraps it does. Was I in Gone Home’s target audience? Absolutely not. Now, where are my keys… View full article
  6. One of 2013’s critical indie darlings, Gone Home made a huge splash when it released. Critics praised it as a huge leap forward in interactive storytelling and for its non-violent content. Several notable publications such as Polygon, GamesRadar, and Giant Bomb gave the highest recommendations they can give and awarded the title perfect scores. Statements such as, “After completing the game, I sat in spellbound, smiling silence for nearly an hour,” from Danielle Riendeau at Polygon and Giancarlo Saldana’s acclaim in his GamesRadar review that, “Gone Home attempts to explore the boundaries of a game’s communicative potential and succeeds by giving us a story that satisfies our senses and touches our innermost being,” had me excited to play the title for myself. Unfortunately, my response to Gone Home fell far short of what others seemed to have enjoyed so thoroughly. I played Gone Home for about an hour from start to finish and walked away wishing I could have that hour back to do something different with my life. Gone Home places players in the shoes of Katie Greenbriar, a college student returning from travelling abroad in 1995. Katie arrives home, only to find that the house her family recently moved into is deserted, with her parents and sister nowhere to be found. As Katie, players navigate the house to discover what became of the Greenbriar family. Gameplay consists of wandering the house, looking at things, moving small objects, and occasionally interacting with buttons. The problems I had with Gone Home became apparent within the first ten minutes of wandering the massive Greenbriar residence. After I found the key to the front door, I entered the house and began looking at various knick-knacks on shelves and opening drawers obsessively, eventually stumbling across a hand-written note from Katie’s sister, Sam, whereupon I was rewarded with a voice-over narration by the talented Sarah Grayson. That’s when I realized that this was going to be the entire game. At first, I didn’t think there would be anything wrong with the lack of interesting gameplay. I had recently finished playing through The Stanley Parable, which has even less interactivity than Gone Home, and it was so brilliant it made my top 10 games of the generation list. However, as I made my way painstakingly through room after room, I rapidly lost my enthusiasm. Gone Home tries to immerse players in the role of Katie by setting movement at a certain realistic (i.e. slow) pace and adding little touches like a button that puts objects back in the place you found them. The Stanley Parable saddles players with extremely limiting controls to make points about game design, interactivity, and storytelling in the video game medium. The Stanley Parable’s gameplay serves to complement its story and can even serve as a point of commentary in its own right. Gone Home feels just the opposite. Its gameplay fails to add anything of importance to either its own story, which is the central focus of the game, or to the enjoyment I derived from it, which was nonexistent. Boring gameplay can be fine if there is a solid story to back it up. The original Mass Effect’s gameplay wasn’t anything to be excited about, but the story was compelling enough that I wanted to see it through to the end. Most of the praise people have lauded Gone Home with seems to center on it containing a narrative not traditionally associated with video games. Deviating from the norm in the video game industry is a bold move and one I wish more developers were willing to do. The problem is that simply having a non-traditional video game narrative doesn’t automatically make it worthwhile, especially if it is something we have experienced before in other mediums. The sole hook of Gone Home is to discover what became of the members of Katie’s family. With the exception of one red herring, it is fairly easy to figure out where the plot is going within the initial twenty minutes, and the destination isn’t terribly interesting. Without spoiling anything, the story boils down to a time-worn shtick that we’ve all heard a million times before across every form of media and has been better told elsewhere without the slow, monotonous gameplay. I don’t mean to imply that Gone Home isn’t well crafted. The voice-acting is particularly well done and deserves recognition for attempting to infuse some life into the game. Its environments have an astonishing attention to detail. Almost all text written on papers or books can be read if zoomed in and there are little secrets spread throughout the house for those who care to find them. The house’s architecture is impressively laid out and great care was taken into making the secrets it conceals believable. Little touches are scattered around the home that make it apparent that the game takes place in 1995. All of these aspects are testaments to how much care The Fullbright Company took to create the Greenbriar home. However, all of that work is wasted on someone like me. To be perfectly blunt, I didn’t care if I could read most of the text if I zoom in on documents and I also didn’t really care to spend hours combing through a digital house to learn more about Katie’s family, because I didn’t find any of them particularly interesting or compelling. The experience of playing Gone Home is, to paraphrase one of my colleagues, like taking the audio diaries scattered throughout BioShock and making them the center of your game, eliminating everything else. There are precious few distractions in Gone Home, none of which break up the tedium of walking around inside a house looking for things. Eventually, even minor annoyances like the sluggish pace at which Katie walks become frustrating because you just want to finish the game and be done. I could recreate the experience of playing Gone Home almost perfectly by losing my car keys and trying to remember where I put them, with none of the satisfaction or resolution that goes along with actually finding the dang things. Does Gone Home appeal to somebody? With over 500,000 copies sold, you bet your bootstraps it does. Was I in Gone Home’s target audience? Absolutely not. Now, where are my keys…
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