“My entire life I suppose. How old am I now? God, like it even matters anymore, what’s the point of keeping track when you’re just running down the clock? I can hear them scrabbling about out there, in the mist, the damned impenetrable mist, I can always hear them. I can’t get that note out of my head. Is it even worth the risk of trying to get to the top of the Solar Cathedral? … Fuck it, maybe for once in my life I can finally know what it’s like to not be alone.”
Browsing posts from: November 2019
Just what is a Thin-Blood, anyway? According to some in the lore of Bloodlines, they’re fledgling kindred with a tenuous connection to their forebears, earlier generations of the clans aren’t just more powerful but necessarily more in tune with their origins and the primal energy that drives them. Bloodlines has it’s own in-universe equivalent stand in for the apocalypse for all kindred- the belief that the grand ancestors of yore will once again rise from their slumber only to consume their descendants as the blood runs so thin as to be impotent and dry.
Exhaustive repetition of a concept, once-unique traits with diminishing returns, the newest members inducted into invisible, involuntary social pacts with unwritten etiquette that has visible and harsh consequences for failing to correctly guess them, a paranoid fear of the end times, the belief that the most affected fledglings somehow portend such an ever-present, overshadowing threat. Petty politics, presumed loyalty to an unelected prince, anarchs running rampant, violent sabbat overthrowing all around them to establish furious fiefdoms. Is any of this sounding familiar? If not, it should- in a sense, we’re living it right now.
While there is no shortage of games inspired by playstation era horror titles like Silent Hill or Resident evil, there is a shortage of games that know how to do it well. It goes far beyond simple graphical pastiches, or emulating the quirky flaws of the technical limitations of the time, one has to dive deeply within to the production values instilled in a generation of game developers long past in our rear view mirrors. We can easily recognize as an audience that films done in 16mm require a vastly different technical implementation than contemporary digital cameras used today.
The 3rd Night takes a different approach than most of its contemporaries, instead diving more deeply into the nuanced production values that put those classic titles on the map in the first place.
How has it come to this? As far as I can see from my apartment, lofted high above the deserted streets — save a car or two — there’s nothing. Nothing but property management companies and liquor stores. A never-ending sprawl of grey, lifeless, dead nothing. Why bother? Another rejection letter from another application to another company. The bills pile high, high, higher and I drown. The rain outside trickles through the cracks in the walls. I check the fridge for a bite, decide against it. But, even after walking away from the kitchen, the hunger in my stomach bares knots that demand something be put in there. I go back, take another look: empty. Ah. Right.
Is home a physical space or a state of mind? Then again, maybe it’s the feeling of booting up a long-forgotten machine, comforting clicking churrs audible as an ancient magnetic platter spins to life. This is, in my experience, the real homeland for many of our generation, a world locked within the shifting grains of decaying binary, digits, and bits left to erode like so many distant ancestral abodes.
So many of my memories within Kingdom (developed by Thomas van den Berg) linger on the small silence of a fiefdom functioning smoothly, of escorting lost pilgrims into the shelter of my barricades and enlisting them into breathless confrontation. Luring the wilderness into the waiting embrace of my archers, and seeking out conscious points of deforestation to construct looming spires and the natural arisal of meadows brimming with rabbits for the slaughter. Of simply resting amongst the soft murmurs of wind-chimes and piano melodies. The moments of stillness that arise in between points of intrigue, as my steed stirs breathlessly and each journey is taken in careful consideration of the setting sun. The small practiced meditations of systems so deeply-internalized they feel almost second nature.
A dying world gasps, echoing into the void. Eventually, a still nothingness, but prior, a harbinger skips across the fractured remains still clinging to this realm. A pocket full of starseeds provides company, food for the fish they’re incubating beneath the orb hanging atop The Garden. The hand extending from the wall, the Numen, beckons further coloured varieties of fish with the promise of a treasure to come. Anahel stands stoic outside, desperate to meet with the Numen but a curse restraining them from passing the threshold.
Writer’s Note: This is an older piece from earlier in the year we found rummaging around in the archives, a piece from a different time with a little different style, enjoy!
Half-Life 2: Episode One is one of the most competent VR experiences I have ever played, surprisingly so for a game that was never built for it.
Something a lot of people struggle with in Virtual Reality is how there’s a sense of presence that people find hard to articulate. Using the Oculus Rift felt very underwhelming until, out of the dark rubble of City 17, Dog’s hands smashed through to pull a piece of rubble blocking my sight.
Moments later, I found myself standing under Dog. A faithful robot companion I had spent many years fighting alongside in the troubled setting of Half-Life 2. But there I was, truly standing underneath Dog, towering over me like a giant! Any person I put inside of that headset to experience that opening scene was as shocked as I found myself in that moment.
And that was just the beginning of seeing Gordon Freeman’s exploration of the ruins in a whole new perspective.
CONTENT CAUTION: This article deals with themes of trauma and other sensitive topics.
There is a current debate taking place in the discourse on the meaningful weight behind design decisions around the portrayal of trauma and melancholia, both about whether or not it’s an appropriate story to tell and how to tell it. Most of us have known someone who’s been in a struggle against their inner demons, and sometimes writers can take the exploration of these stories a little too far.
Many games have arguably tried, and at times succeeded to varying degrees in tackling this heavy topic, so without further adieu, let’s get into the thick of it.
CONTENT WARNING: Substance abuse, loss of friends, emotional subjects
While written with care to avoid spoilers when possible: the following piece examines parts of The Outer Worlds that may reveal minor plot elements and some key story points of companion characters. Proceed with caution if you’d prefer to experience the game completely on your own.
The Outer Worlds is an oddity in that while it comes from a long pedigree of Open World RPGs, it stands deeply in contrast to trends set by them in the past by inverting certain tropes that Obsidian had a hand in establishing. Prior to release, they revealed that none of the companions within The Outer Worlds would have any romantic storylines, a bold design decision in a genre notorious for developing ever-increasing ways to placate and enable audiences who wish to indulge themselves in romantic roleplaying. While we have gotten better at generating thought-provoking simulations in the medium, we struggle with justifying how the narratives that drive them revolve solely around the most player-centric design lens. After all, you’re the hero… right?