Browsing category: Overviews

Part 1 can be found here.

Persistence is key when it comes to deconstructing the mysteries placed before us by a piece such as The Space Between. Plunging the depths of a work comes not just from consuming it, but savoring it, allowing it to overtake the palette and linger on the tongue. It needs a delicate touch to work through it, to parse the meaning between the walls. These endless constructions must be torn down for us to get to a deeper understanding of what it is that Christoph Frey wants to convey to us.

Continuing from Part 1, today we take a closer look at the themes underlying and supporting the stage on which Martin’s narrative is set. Within this Hell, hopefully we can uncover some greater truth to the game, and pick apart its architecture.

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All artists bring themselves around to the same question time and again: why do I create? For some, it’s to express a greater emotion, one that can’t be tackled head-on, nor conveyed through ordinary conversation. For others, it’s the simple production of a commodity. One way or another, the artist puts themselves through the creative process and, typically, uncovers some greater truth about themselves. Whether that inherently becomes part of the work, who can say. But, time and again, coming out on the other side brings growth.

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As the guitar solo kicks in, the landscape in front of you shifts. Barren crags of rock erupt into fluttering red ribbons, ascending to the heavens. Your trio pushes forward nonetheless, unabated by the explosion of colors. In a few moments, the track comes to an end, and you’re whisked away to another landscape. Words fade in and out overhead, or trail behind as footprints, a song of solitude pressed against a new backdrop of kaleidoscopic gems and whirring panels.

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Jumpstarting the modern understanding of survival horror, 1996’s Resident Evil set the standard for what could be achieved with the right mixture of tension, tight item management, and puzzles. A breath of fresh air amongst the unending torrent of platformers and JRPGs, Resident Evil would quickly find itself subject to the commodity machine that is the blockbuster video game market. Beyond countless sequels over the subsequent years, the true legacy of Resident Evil is in its copycats, however stripped they may be of director Shinji Mikami’s deliberate pacing, use of lavish pre-rendered backgrounds, and spot-on attention to crafting tension. Stripping away Mikami’s direction left the core of the experience: the nail-biting agony of clunky controls and piss-poor item management.

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Consider a video game, in the abstract. Knowing nothing of it, save for that it is, in fact, a video game, what inference can be made about the player’s objective? At this level, the constant is, approximately, invert some transistors somewhere. Nothing between the player and those transistors is yet implied; the imposition of artistic will or complex structure is not yet given. What we can say, however, is that a game implies play, and we do happen to be dealing with a game. To quote:

The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct acting from inner necessity. The creative mind plays with the objects it loves.

Carl Jung, Psychological Types, CW vol 6. #197

This is as good a place to mention it as any: This piece is really best read after Part 1, so feel free to click here if you need to catch up.

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Of course it has a level editor, but we’ll get to that.

DROD is, at every turn, a hard sell. Mind, this is not for lack of ingenious, deceptively simple design, of boundless character and charm, nor of literal hundreds of hours of play across its main story. No, it has all of those in spades; rather, it is as World’s Greatest Salesman Danforth Strout freely admits:

Can confirm personally, on both fronts.

Gushing about DROD to any coherent effect is worse than trying to get someone into your favourite obscure band, or, in other terms, it’s as tortuously difficult as the game itself. How, then, shall we do this legacy, spanning across 28 years at time of writing, justice? Where, oh where, dear reader, shall we start? Per the wisdom of Maria von Trapp, why, where else than the very beginning?

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Long ago, Nvidia’s new GPU brought us physics engine acceleration and with it we were promised a golden era of new exciting titles that would feature destructibility, fluid simulation, and heavy usage of particles that reacted to their environments. Few, if any, of these came to pass, but one game prominently featured in a popular tech demo was an indie title called Cryostasis: Sleep Of Reason by the small Ukranian Studio, Action Forms.

There was so much more to Cryostasis than water physics, but unfortunately, despite the positive PR brought on by the tech demo video it suffocated by the high expectations it had set. With high technical requirements that had befallen other games of note, like Crysis, combined with poor optimization, it was another release from a small publisher that became lost in the noise of the industry, falling into relative obscurity to the point that it is no longer even available on steam due to lapsed licensing agreements.

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