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HappyCreatedInc
Mar 24, 2021


I don’t know if it would be in my top 10 but it would be an honorary mention at least considering how much I think about it and that’s Vampyr. God, so many good things in one game. The soundtrack is amazing, the story is great and the overall balance of “well you gotta kill people to level up but if you kill too many the whole district will collapse PLUS you’ll be rewarded with more exp the more you learn about your target and sometimes they’re really nice people so you’ll feel extra guilty for killing them BUT you’ll be too weak to not kill ANYONE”

I’d throughly recommend the game.

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Fatty
Sep 13, 2004
Not really fat

Did they ever fix the thing where trying to skip a line of dialog would skip everything until a different character had a line? Because that made it pretty much unplayable for me.

Ciaphas
Nov 20, 2005

> BEWARE, COWARD




(ed) removed by request. Outer Wilds is good I guess

Ciaphas fucked around with this message at 23:30 on Mar 24, 2021

field balm
Feb 5, 2012



Just got a non-laptop pc for the first time in 13 years so gonna enjoy playing through a load of this stuff! Is there anyway to get alpha protocol legally?

Most of my favourites have already been discussed, but I'd like to add the original Nier, Armored Core 4 Answer, Ridge Racer, Twinsen's Odyssey and Wonderboy 3: the Dragon's Trap. I have written at length about the later both here on and other forums, I'll try and dig it up before rewriting it all lol.

Dominoes
Sep 20, 2007



Please remove chunks of that Outer Wilds post for spoilers. The game is about discovery, and discovering a lot of the things you've alluded to is part of the fun. I agree with your conclusion.

edit: Appreciate it homie! And I'm 100% with Ciaphas - Outer Wilds a remarkable experience. It dares to be original, and thoroughly creative. It's a game that reminds me of the potential games still have to surprise and thrill.

Dominoes fucked around with this message at 02:30 on Mar 25, 2021

Jossar
Apr 2, 2018

Current status: Angry about subs




https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YLLvD-sFNfk

Is Runescape a good game? Was it ever? I've struggled with the question for the better part of a decade.

Runescape is an MMORPG, where you create a player avatar and have them explore the world of Gielinor, leveling skills, going on quests, and performing numerous other activities.



The skills are among the primary draw. In Runescape you don't have a preset list of things that your character is good at - you start out with very basic knowledge of many things and can eventually become omnicompetent. Indeed, you will need to master all of the skills if you want to see everything the game has to offer, and only about 1/3 of them or so are directly combat related.



Combat... is a bit of a touchy subject for Runescape. One of the biggest splits in the game's history emerged over whether or not to keep the combat as a relatively simple "click to attack with maybe some specials" system versus a more complicated approach. This and other debates on changes in the game lead to a split into Runescape 3 and Old School Runescape (exact details are a bit more complicated than this). To try and cover both cases: you can switch between being a mage/fighter/ranger practically at will, only depending on a gear switch. Which is good, because certain monsters are built around being weak to some combat styles and strong against others. Prayers can modify your own power or defense, as can consumables or triggerable items. In both variants of Runescape, you often alternate between slaying monsters as part of regular grinding and fighting bosses. I was never the best bosser, but there's certainly a load of them for all levels of player skill.



The quests vary in nature from simple little tasks to helping you get familiar with the world and skills of the game to epic multi-quest spanning narrative arcs. The quests are generally good for the genre, although some have aged very poorly.



I'm at kind of an impasse at this point. Do I just keep going on and listing each of the individual elements of a game that's been in development for over 20 years and branched in twain? The thing about Runescape is that there's a certain sense in which it does and doesn't know what it wants to be, and both of those have their own individual pros and cons. The good side of it not quite knowing what it wants to be is that there's always something else to try, some fun adventure that lurks beyond the horizon to give you a welcome break from your skilling. But it also means that there's a lot of content, both old and new, that sucks royally or is shockingly offensive and you will hate having to go through, especially if you're a completionist. When Runescape trods down familiar paths, there's nothing else that quite scratches that same grinding itch - though some would argue modern idle games roughly do. But that can also lead a midlevel player to run screaming from their computer in terror as they realize they're going to be stuck caging lobsters in Karamja for hours and hours yet.



I guess i'll end this with an anecdote about what I consider to be the most memorable Runescape moment for me (and also confirms i'm an on-again/off-again RS3 player). Several years ago, I was on the verge of getting my first level 99, one of the softcaps in the game's leveling system, in Hunter. The best place for getting that xp was on Uncharted Islands, an area of the game which procedurally generates small islands with random resource patches. And so, as I continued to set traps for gold-shelled tortoises at 3 AM, I was struck by a sense of complete and utter tranquility. My bleariness dispelled by the thought that even if this was just a kind of advanced skinner box, the accomplishment of mastery still felt as worthy and meaningful in my eyes as anything else in the whole wide world.

(The level up happening shortly thereafter, and being cheered on by my friends and guildmates didn't hurt either.)

Hyrax Attack!
Jan 13, 2009

We demand to be taken seriously



Fly Ricky posted:

These spoilers have me so stoked to play the reboots.

For content, one my top games ever is King of Dragon Pass.

I don’t know how to describe the genre, but maybe text-based roguelike with beautiful art? You begin with a bunch of choices as to the history of your clan, and then attempt to build a Game of Thrones-ish empire across the land.

Turns are consecutive seasons of the years, and you are faced with not only managing the the funding of agriculture/exploration/military/etc., but also a unique event. These range from visitors to your land. paranormal phenomenon, making nice with neighbors, to fending off another clan attempting to overthrow yours.

While the amount of art is limited for practical reasons, there are an enormous amount of unique events so every play through seems fresh even after dozens of hours.

I have an almost an active dislike for the fantasy genre, but this game, and it’s recent (and even better) sequel Six Ages are so good I find myself jumping into them for a bit every week.

Heck yeah, the source of my avatar. The sequel Six Ages: Ride Like The Wind is also good.

I laughed like a loon when the game taught me about consequences of poor diplomacy in my first game. My neighbors were duck people and after being discovered they offered to trade. I chose to instead raid them and continued doing so as I figured they were a tutorial enemy and free resources. I began to get increasingly hostile diplomatic visits from the Beastmen, who made the totally reasonable demand I stop unprovoked raids. The raids did not stop, as eh what's the danger of having that diplomacy marker in the red.

Anyhoo:


I must have laughed for a minute, I'd never seen that kind of consequence before. Wasn't even mad, the game gave plenty of warnings. I was just a bad leader.

exquisite tea
Apr 21, 2007

Carly shook her glass, willing the ice to melt. "You still haven't told me what the mission is."

She leaned forward. "We are going to assassinate the bad men of Hollywood."




Warning: Hella spoilers ahead.



Last week's announcement of Life is Strange: True Colors rekindled some old feelings around the original game that I'd been hoping to someday gather into a more coherent thesis for the purposes of this thread. So I'm going to spend an embarrassing amount of words today explaining why I think Life is Strange is the greatest video game ever made, and the lasting impact it has had upon my own life for the last six years. I'll also spend some time talking about its prequel Before the Storm and how it worked to amplify those feelings. There's so much I could write about Life is Strange, from the dialogue to the characters to the soundtracks, but I will just attempt to explain the moments and themes I find to be most affecting to me personally. I think most people have already had the chance to make up their minds one way or another by now, so I won't attempt to convince anyone to like these games. But whether people love or hate the series, I think Life is Strange is rarely well-understood in either direction.

I think the main reason why Life is Strange is so captivating is its unique ability to develop a kind of affected intimacy with its characters and setting. More than any other video game, Life is Strange lingers in the quietest moments of lying awake in bed at sunrise, of walking hand in hand down train tracks with your best friend, of opening dresser drawers and seeing the entire story of someone's life hastily thrown inside. It immediately and efficiently establishes a sense of place that in turn imbues even the plainest environments with a sort of mythic significance, while the presence of supernatural powers trends oppositely toward everyday convenience. Sure, Max might use her newfound abilities to alter timelines and forestall a weather apocalypse, but she might just as well turn back the clock to order a second helping of pancakes, or make herself look smarter in class. Even the narrative itself rapidly oscillates between the everyday and the epic, asking the player to make a decision whether or not to medically euthanize their friend five minutes after chatting about Blade Runner. Life is Strange has become sort of infamous for these moments of tonal whiplash, but I think they serve an intentional thematic purpose. Little distinction is made between the monumental and the trivial because, in adolescence, everything feels like it's of cosmic importance. What (mostly) keeps these scenes from descending into utter schlock is an unrepentant willingness to just kind of "go there" and let the emotional reality of the situation sink in, no matter how uncomfortable it gets. These games evoke a certain resonance from a time where every waking moment felt intense, urgent, and new.

I think here is where a lot of people start to misread the text of Life is Strange a little. These games thrive in their most intimate moments, but they are not themselves striving for domestic realism. Rather, they inflect a kind of New American Gothic aesthetic where the simple and mundane are elevated to the operatic. A girl's bathroom becomes the sword in the stone. A junkyard becomes a sanctuary. A lighthouse becomes the world's ruin. Chloe finding her iconic pickup truck and beanie in Before the Storm is treated like some kind of white trash superhero origin story. Each setting is so instantly evocative that I can remember every scene transition from every game by memory. It's of course not reality, but an illusive, imagined reality. This is succinctly captured in the lyrics to Life is Strange's opening number "To All of You" which, if you're paying attention, tell you exactly what these games are going to be about.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8FqNYEy48xQ

quote:

To all of you American girls, it's sad to
Imagine a world without you
American girls, I'd like to
Be part of the world around you
Driving a car by the seaside
Watching the world from the bright side

To all of you American girls in the movies
No one can tell where your heart is
American girls like dollies
With shiny smiles and plastic bodies
I wish I had an American girlfriend.

What we're told to expect, then, isn't a documentarian view of young women, but these lives as envisioned through the eyes of a curious outsider. Here would probably be a good place to mention that Dontnod Entertainment, the creators of Life is Strange, are a French-based studio, and despite the female-centric cast of Season One its principal writers were all men in their thirties. I had just turned 30 myself when I played Life is Strange for the first time, young enough to still remember what it was like to be a teenager but old enough to have some kind of misplaced nostalgia for that period in my life. I say "misplaced" because my own adolescent years were completely lacking in the sort of intense friendships that characterize Life is Strange, often desiring that same level of intimacy but never having it for myself. I wouldn't experience those close, sometimes confusing, often sexually ambiguous relationships until much later in life. I think Life is Strange is so haunting to me personally because, like those idealized American girls in the movies, it makes me yearn for a thing that never really existed.

Okay, so here would probably be a good place to talk about genre and structure. What is the genre of Life is Strange? Maxine Caulfield is a talented but indecisive photography student who has returned to her old hometown of Arcadia Bay after five years to attend the prestigious Blackwell Academy, a finishing school for fifth-year high school seniors. A chance encounter in the girl's bathroom leads Max to discover that she has the ability to rewind time, which unknowingly saves the life of her former best friend turned blue-haired punk rebel Chloe. The two reunite to find Chloe's missing friend Rachel Amber and avert a weather apocalypse that, according to Max's visions, is destined to happen in five days. At first glance, the early episodes of Life is Strange would appear to structure themselves as a conventional coming-of-age story. The bildungsroman has a long history in literary fiction with many subcategories, but chiefly these are narratives about finding one's place in the world. As such, the themes of Life is Strange's first half concern themselves with questions about Max's future. Will her emergence as a photographic artist be realized? Will she use her newfound time travel powers to help others, or become just another one of the mean girls? To what lengths will she go to save either the town or the life of her best friend? And being primarily about adolescence, this genre naturally lends itself to certain character archetypes: The caring and supportive mentor. The intimidating, yet equally-skilled rival. The stable yet boring suitor. The rebel love interest. They're all here, and while there's also a murder mystery plot playing out in the background, that seems tangential to the central question of Max's self-actualization. Given this characterization, you'd easily predict from the outset that Max's journey will involve having to take some kind of final, decisive action to determine her fate.

For the first two and a half episodes, you might be forgiven for thinking Life is Strange is a traditional coming-of-age tale with a little twist of the supernatural. But over time, a much darker story starts to intrude upon the main narrative, one in which the principal actors and their roles are completely recast. In THIS reality, the caring and supportive mentor is now the crazed psychopathic killer. Our heroine becomes the missing girl, wearing her clothes and reenacting her haunts around town while literally subsuming her romantic connection to Chloe. The damsel in distress of the first act, Chloe herself becomes the loyal protector, carrying Max up to the summit of Mt. Doom and ultimately offering her own life as sacrifice. The conventional narrative of finding one's place in the world is totally upended by themes of shared trauma, loss of innocence, and obsession. The meaningless triumphs and heroic deeds of the first act are all but forgotten. Over and over, the game shows Max the dire limitations of her power and dares her to try using it again. It's deeply psychological in a way that feels so completely brilliant that at least some of it must be accidental. Max leaping into the polaroid at the end of Episode 3 is a kind of Lynchian sinkhole moment, but unlike the second half of Mulholland Drive, the twin narratives of Life is Strange continue along their uneasy coexistence. There are still moments of quiet beauty and reflection within the spreading psychosexual melodrama, the beached whales and double moons portending the aptly named End of the World Party in the final act. Like a double-exposed polaroid, the two stories become superimposed on top of one another, their reality-fracturing differences eventually reaching a breaking point at the lighthouse in Episode 5 where the game effectively throws up its hands and says "I don't know, you figure it out." Whether Max saves Chloe or Arcadia Bay, your final decision is ultimately about determining what kind of story Life is Strange meant to you. This choice, while rightfully called out for being kind of bullshit, is also so epic that it feels nearly biblical. It takes the arcs of these two characters we've come to know so closely and, at the last possible moment, casts them in direct opposition to one another. To get the weepy, cathartic bildungsroman ending for Max, Chloe's arc must be realized by her sacrificial death. To favor the psychosexual melodrama that's been unfolding before us over the last two and a half episodes, Max must deny Chloe her martyrdom and fulfill her own destiny. Whether intentional or purely by coincidence, the confluence of theme, genre, character, and structure at the climax of Life is Strange is unlike anything else I've ever experienced. It's absolutely wild to me how a game that begins with dialogue like "now you're really stuck in the retro-zone" can end up here. I don't know man, it's art or something.



At first, I chose the Bay ending almost by mistake. I was convinced that if I went back through the photo there would be some hidden third option where Max could sacrifice herself to save Chloe's life. I don't know why I assumed this, maybe because I was still thinking in video gamey secret ending terms, but I was kind of annoyed to learn it wasn't possible. In retrospect, I think that would have ultimately been an unsatisfying conclusion to Max's story. Giving up her own life would free Max from the consequence of having to live with her decisions, thereby undermining her own character growth and the warning that appears after every major flashpoint in the game. I now think the only acceptable choice is to save Chloe. I cannot get over knowing the Chloe who is shot and killed in the bathroom of the Bay ending dies alone, having lost her father, her best friend, her romantic interest, and never learning she was truly loved. I think Max already makes up her mind during Episode 5's midpoint where she S-Ranks her Any % run of the opening classroom scene. Jefferson's in jail, Kate's suicide is prevented, Victoria is finally put in her place, Max wins the photo contest, her art is being displayed in San Francisco, she's literally the most popular girl in school -- it's teenage fantasy bordering on parody. But she decides, almost without hesitation, that none of this is worth it if she can't have Chloe. At that point, the remainder of Life is Strange's runtime is Max destroying her body, mind, and reality itself to get her best friend back. It feels cruel at the climax of her harrowing descent into the underworld to request a refund.

Life is Strange is known for being pretty gay and most superfans come away from Season One seeing Max and Chloe as a romantic couple. Despite favoring the Bae ending myself, I've only ever seen them as very close friends whose relationship was intensified by all the circumstances surrounding their reunion. I thought the real romantic connection was between Chloe and Rachel, which made her murder profoundly tragic to me, since that's the only character death that can never be reversed. And while there's a very vocal contingent of fans who only ever want another Max and Chloe game, I thought their story was over following Season One and was ready to move on. So when Square-Enix announced a Life is Strange prequel featuring Rachel Amber without Dontnod's involvement or even the original voice actors due to the SAG-AFTRA strike going on at the time, I was absolutely prepared to hate it. I had every reason to believe it was going to be some cheap fanservicey asset flip attempting to cash in on the setting Dontnod had so painstakingly created. Yet by the time I finished the first episode of Before the Storm, I found myself totally wrapped up in the Arcadia Bay saga once more. Miraculously, I think the writers at Deck Nine might be the only people on earth who are bigger Life is Strange fans than I am. It was a welcome reminder of just how wrong I can be sometimes.

If the tone of Life is Strange was about evoking a kind of nostalgic melancholia, then Before the Storm captures that feeling of falling in love for the first time. It's that rush of nerves when you're in the presence of someone truly beautiful, that sudden acute awareness of how you look, sound, and smell, the tingling sensation when someone you love touches your shoulder or the small of your back. It takes Rachel Amber, mystery girl of the first game, and invites you to fall for her with the same speed and intensity that Chloe must have felt at the lowest point in her life.



There's a section in Episode 2 of Before the Storm that's so genius I almost can't believe it's wasted on a video game. Chloe has to fill in for a scene as Ariel in Blackwell's production of The Tempest, with Rachel Amber playing the role of Prospero. Chloe is struggling to remember her lines when Rachel suddenly goes wildly off-script, asking Ariel to "continue in thy service to my schemes," effectively transforming the relationship between these two characters in the play from one of indentured servitude to romantic enchantment. Chloe and Rachel remain entirely in character, but they're speaking as themselves, voicing their own doubts and desires about their budding relationship while still existing in the reality of Shakepeare's play. And the inciting incident of The Tempest is a storm conjured by Prospero and Ariel whose characterization roughly maps onto Rachel and Chloe and and Life is Strange culminates in a storm indirectly conjured by them ahhh it's just so freaking good. Of course this scene is sweet and touching even on a superficial level, but it's also tempered by the tragedy we already know will befall these girls. That Rachel will never make "the corners of the world our mere prologue," and Chloe will never know if Rachel cared for her plainest self. These games strike a balance of beauty and sadness that's kind of overwhelming at times.

One of the most recurrent conversations among the Life is Strange fandom concerns the nature of Chloe and Rachel's relationship -- whether it was ever truly mutual, or if Rachel was simply using Chloe to get out of Arcadia Bay. At some point in the three years between Before the Storm and Life is Strange, we know that Rachel started to date around and had secret relationships with both Frank and Jefferson. Before the Storm allows the player to retroactively determine the extent of their intimacy, although it admittedly seems to place its thumb hard on the scale of "yes, Rachel and Chloe were definitely more than friends." In the first game their relationship was left more ambiguous because, frankly, Rachel Amber was less of a person and more of a plot device ripped straight out of Twin Peaks to keep the murder mystery element going. Having to make Rachel an actual character intrinsically humanizes her actions, but I think the Tempest scene also reveals a deeper truth: Love is performance. Rachel might be putting on a show with Chloe, unrealistically building up her expectations and promising a future that we know will not happen, but everyone in a romantic relationship is in some way performing. We provide them with a sense of security that we know to be illusory. We fall in love with the idea of a person first, and the real work starts later.

As in the original, there's a second storyline in Before the Storm that gradually impinges upon the central relationship between Chloe and Rachel. We learn that Rachel's real mother Sera was a drug addict and that her father James Amber mercilessly kept her out of Rachel's life even after she got clean. When she still demanded to see her daughter, he used his power as a district attorney to blackmail a drug dealer into getting her addicted again. Lacking any supernatural element, however, there's no metatextual confluence of narratives here -- the story is played out as a straight sins-of-the-father crime drama. It's by far the weakest thread in Before the Storm and not worth a whole lot of time discussing, however, where it leads is I think important towards understanding where Life is Strange and Before the Storm connect thematically. There's an attempt to present a unified current running through the Arcadia Bay saga of female bonding through trauma, and seeing Rachel's reality crumble around her for the first time is the harbinger of the same desperate and destructive qualities that would lead to her own downfall years later. We understand why a popular and widely beloved student like Rachel would hang out with a delinquent who wouldn't have those expectations of perfection, and therefore wouldn't judge her. We understand why Chloe would have such an overprotective connection to Rachel, knowing her pain on a more intimate level than anybody else in her life. There's a greater irony that James Amber, in his monstrous attempts to preserve Rachel's perceived innocence, would ultimately push her into the arms of a psychopath obsessed with corrupting young women.

Intimacy without permission is voyeurism, control without consent is dominance. I think about how Jefferson would read the lyrics to "To All of You" and it suddenly takes on a far more sinister meaning. It's telling that the two main villains of the first two games are both men, presumably in their late 30s, who attempt to exert control over the lives of women on the cusp of adulthood. Something about all male/female relationships in these games being controlling or voyeuristic. Are we the audience not also complicit in their misery? No, that's stupid. Okay many incomplete thoughts here, this thing is already going on far too long, better wrap it up.

Despite reading other people's writing for a living, it's rare that I ever become truly invested in a work of fiction. I can certainly understand and appreciate what an author is going for on an intellectual level, but when people say that one scene from a movie or a book always makes them cry, well, most of the time I cannot relate. I enjoy literary analysis, but for me it more generally resembles dissection than meditation. The more you read, the more you quickly pick up on themes and where a narrative is going, and over time you become less emotionally attached to any one text since your mind is constantly working in the metacognitive space. Six years and several thousand words later, I still feel like I'm no closer to understanding why a video game with stilted animations and clunky dialogue, whose storyline is basically just a mashup of Twin Peaks and Donnie Darko has had such a deep emotional impact on me. It's not even a weepy sort of feeling, but a vast and empty sadness. When I finished the last episode of Season One in 2015 I went into a deep depression for several weeks where I couldn't play, read, or think much about anything else. There are so many stories that I can acknowledge are more well-constructed or better written than Life is Strange by any rational literary metric, but it's the only game I've played that I would genuinely consider to be life-changing. I wish I had friends in high school who were half as cool as Max, Chloe, and Rachel. I wish I had an American girlfriend.

All right folks, there's so much more I could write about but I think I'll just leave it here. I want you to know these stupid games have collectively occupied more headspace than my thesis on James Joyce I spent a year writing in college. I don't think I'll ever get over Rachel Amber being dead, and she's not even real! Why am I like this? In conclusion I AM being cereal, Life is Strange is hella awesomesauce amazeballs, are you loving insane I was eating those beans.

exquisite tea fucked around with this message at 18:29 on Mar 27, 2021

morallyobjected
Nov 3, 2012


exquisite tea posted:

Words about Life is Strange

some great thoughts here and I enjoyed reading them!

I think Life is Strange is very much about being more than the sum of its parts. people here like to rag on some of the slang that was used as outdated or something but idk I grew up in Oregon and people said "hella", for example, all the time (plus we learn later in Before the Storm that Chloe got it from Rachel, who picked it up in California).

rather than seeing it in any kind of binary terms, I think one of the great parts of Max and Chloe's relationship is that it exists in the void; it doesn't have to be *either* romantic or platonic--it can be both, and it is. whether you kiss Chloe or not, you really get the sense that Chloe is Max's extraordinary relationship and while they certainly took detours along the way, Max is Chloe's as well.

btw if you haven't (I'm always kind of surprised that more fans *don't* know about it), you should check out the graphic novel series, which follows both of them after the events of the first game.

Jeza
Feb 13, 2011

The cries of the dead are terrible indeed; you should try not to hear them.


Woof, that's a tough effortpost to follow.





Continuing my unintentional run of weird early 2000s commercial failures, Psychonauts was the brainchild (har har) of Tim Schafer and former LucasArts employees who had formed a new studio, Double Fine games. Tim Schafer is probably in the running for being PC gaming's ultimate golden boy for the 90s and was at the helm or a lead contributor for many of the most beloved adventure games of that time - Grim Fandango, Monkey Islands, Day of the Tentacle et al.

As such, expectations for Psychonauts were pegged relatively high, and Double Fine were poised in the eyes of many as the potential saviours of the adventure genre which LucasArts had more or less given up on due to waning public interest. Over 4 years in development and costing $10+ million, both of which were not insignificant at the time, the game launched across PC and consoles in 2005 to great critical acclaim and truly did live up to the hype. However, the game was dogged by distribution issues that are difficult to appreciate today. In my personal experience in the UK, I was the only person I know who was able to pick up a physical copy from a store which dealt in US imports. Most major gaming retailers in the UK never even stocked the game. As it panned out, cross platform sales of the game worldwide only hit around 100,000 in the months following release and further distribution was immediately shitcanned. The sales were so poor in fact that it effectively crippled the publisher, Majesco, putting them on a death spiral that they never truly recovered from. (Wikipedia regales me with the fun anecdote that Majesco had to completely invert their financial projections for the year from $18 mill net profit to 18$ mill net loss, with the CEO immediately tendering their resignation.)

The game, and to some extent Double Fine itself, was saved from almost legendary obscurity by a little-known piece of software known as Steam, released by a plucky little indie dev called Valve. 2005/6 saw the real beginnings of mainstream digital distribution, and Double Fine republished digitally with the rights they had taken back, and was among the first companies to do so. It would be wrong to say that there was a barnstorming success, but the game had built up a cult following and received a lot of press in gaming circles, and eventually digital sales far overtook physical sales and it ended up in the game libraries of well over a million. The popular appeal of the game was such that, a decade after release, the kickstarter (well, fig.co) campaign to release a sequel raised millions of dollars and is slated for release this year (which makes it an apropos time to have a retrospective, probably.)

So with the rambling pre-amble over, what even was the game like? Why is it one of the best games of all time, or is it one at all? Psychonauts at its core is a narratively driven 3D platformer with exploration, minor RPG elements, puzzles and rough and ready combat. If you wanted to draw comparisons, the game probably shares the most DNA with that peculiarly European strain of console platformers (especially those by Rare) like Banjo Kazooie, Conker's Bad Fur Day and 3D Raymans. This is true not just in the gameplay elements, but the visual and aesthetic stylings of the game - bright and colourful palette, monstrously caricatured character design, off-kilter humour et al. For those who watched it when they were younger, the stylings may also be somewhat reminiscent of Invader Zim, and in fact both Zim and the protagonist are voiced by Richard Horvitz.

You control Raz, a kid who attends a summer camp for nascent psychics, who dreams of becoming a fully-fledged Psychonaut which is some kind of trans-national psychic secret agent...or something. From the off, the game is doing its own thing, and at no point does it veer back into conventional channels. The setting and conceit of the game is a complete one-off and a tour-de-force of what you get when when the imagination of the writers is let off the leash and never reined back in. The game is comprised of a hub area (said summer camp) and a series of levels that take place in the heads of various characters. In true Schafer fashion, he picks out a rich and under-utilised central theme that allows for wild variation. The fears, neuroses, childhood traumas, life experiences of each character allows for every 'level' to be entirely distinct from the next, which probably reaches its pinnacle in what is often bandied around in discussions of "best levels in gaming" - The Milkman Conspiracy, which takes place in the mind of a deeply paranoid conspiracy theorist, where everyone and everything is spying on you.



There are many truly great levels (the one where you take the place of a 300ft Godzilla stand-in for a city populated by lungfish people comes to mind), but they are all interesting and twisted in their own ways. One thing that truly does stand out about the game to this day is that that worlds feel vivid and brimming with life. The environments are always moving and reacting to your presence in a way that makes a lot of games feel extremely static today. By gathering the collectibles scattered around levels, you unlock further psychic powers/items which can be used in combat or for reaching otherwise inaccessible areas etcetc., nothing too surprising.

The game has a 'feel' about it that is reminiscent, to me, of Roald Dahl-esque children's stories, in that it is comic and light-hearted, but with darker underlying themes and unsettling moments of body horror (let's just say some people have their brains sucked out). It is always pitched in an age-appropriate way for young children, but deals with topics from mental illness, loss, abandonment, abuse and more, and like a Pixar movie, only older teens/adults will 'get' half of the references.

Depending on how completionist and competent at platforming you are, the game is pretty short and sweet and clocks in at maybe ~10-12 hours long, but going for all the secrets/collectibles and so on probably makes it around 20. Gameplay-wise it isn't dated in the same way something like Sacrifice is dated, but you'll know you're playing a game from 2005. The game can be at points a little frustratingly difficult, and at release the final level (Meat Circus, mmm) was notorious for being an incredible step-up in terms of difficulty. I have some memory that this was tweaked for the digital release, but I can't find any online corroboration of this so YMMV.

Is it still worth playing? If you haven't, almost certainly yes, especially on the off-chance that Psychonauts 2 actually delivers. Like most of what Schafer touches, it's a unique experience in gaming with great writing and set-pieces that truly stands alone and isn't really like anything you've ever played, and definitely isn't anything like the typical crop of games released today. Games like Psychonauts are truly rare things and ought to be celebrated and experienced. It is a testament to its lasting power that despite piss-poor sales, it was loved enough that even ten years post-release it blasted through its fundraising goals for a sequel.

Dominoes
Sep 20, 2007



Psychonauts and LIS are both awesome!

Sway Grunt
May 15, 2004

Tenochtitlan, looking east.


Two great posts in a row about two of my all-time favorites.

Psychonauts is one of those games where you can genuinely feel the amount of love and care that the devs put into it (this is true for a lot of Schafer's work, but here especially). It's hard to put a finger on it, but you just sense it, and it's everywhere - the art, the dialogue, the music, the atmosphere in general, and in the way they all combine together. The brain levels usually get most of the praise, and rightly so (Lungfishopolis -> The Milkman Conspiracy -> Gloria's Theater -> Black Velvetopia -> Waterloo World is an astounding sequence of levels), but Whispering Rock itself is also an absolutely wonderful area to explore, and conveys the summer camp feel beautifully.

People sometimes rag on the platforming, and yeah it may not win any awards, but I found it perfectly fun to be honest.

One of the lines that's for some reason always stuck with me from the game is in Gloria's Theater (a massively underrated level, by the way), when Raz compliments the stage director. "Doing a great job, Becky!" And she just goes "Aww". It's so wholesome. What a great game.

haveblue
Aug 15, 2005




Toilet Rascal

Gloria's theater has what may be my favorite visual joke in all of gaming

One small facet of Raz's backstory is that his entire family was once cursed to die in water, the practical result being that every time Raz touches a body of water a ghostly demon hand materializes out of it and pulls him in (this doesn't actually kill him, it mostly serves the gameplay purpose of making water impassable). It happens with all significant amounts of water everywhere in the game, both inside and outside minds, using the same gooey water demon hand animation each time.

Until you get to Gloria's theater. One of the possible set designs has a seashore as part of the scenery, and since the concept of the level is that this production is being put on by grade schoolers, all that scenery is made of clumsily cut and painted cardboard, so the "water" is just a few rows of blue cardboard wave shapes. But sure enough, if Raz touches it, a clumsily cut and painted blue cardboard demon hand grabs him and pulls him in. And the audience laughs.

Gynovore
Jun 17, 2009

Forget your RoboCoX or your StickyCoX or your EvilCoX, MY CoX has Blinking Bewbs!

WHY IS THIS GAME DEAD?!

I played Psychonauts for an hour or two back in the day. The concept, story, visuals and dialog were all pee-your-pants funny, but the combat was dogshit.

exquisite tea
Apr 21, 2007

Carly shook her glass, willing the ice to melt. "You still haven't told me what the mission is."

She leaned forward. "We are going to assassinate the bad men of Hollywood."




morallyobjected posted:

some great thoughts here and I enjoyed reading them!

I think Life is Strange is very much about being more than the sum of its parts. people here like to rag on some of the slang that was used as outdated or something but idk I grew up in Oregon and people said "hella", for example, all the time (plus we learn later in Before the Storm that Chloe got it from Rachel, who picked it up in California).

rather than seeing it in any kind of binary terms, I think one of the great parts of Max and Chloe's relationship is that it exists in the void; it doesn't have to be *either* romantic or platonic--it can be both, and it is. whether you kiss Chloe or not, you really get the sense that Chloe is Max's extraordinary relationship and while they certainly took detours along the way, Max is Chloe's as well.

btw if you haven't (I'm always kind of surprised that more fans *don't* know about it), you should check out the graphic novel series, which follows both of them after the events of the first game.

Thanks for reminding me to order the first anthology. I got the first couple issues when they came out and liked the storyline well enough, but there's no comic book store near me that carries LiS and it was getting hard to keep up with.

morallyobjected
Nov 3, 2012


exquisite tea posted:

Thanks for reminding me to order the first anthology. I got the first couple issues when they came out and liked the storyline well enough, but there's no comic book store near me that carries LiS and it was getting hard to keep up with.

yeah, I've been waiting until the 4-issue collections come out on paperback and getting those, either from a local book store if they have it or online.

Lechtansi
Mar 23, 2004

Item Get


Psychonauts is one of those games where some of the funniest, most creative people ever to make games decided to try a new genre. The platforming and combat are in service of the setting, plot and characters not the other way around.

Konstantin
Jun 20, 2005
And the Lord said, "Look, they are one people, and they have all one language; and this is only the beginning of what they will do; nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them.

Tales of Mal'Eyal (TOME4) is a classic turn based roguelike that is still being actively developed. Like most games in the genre, it is brutally difficult, unforgiving, and has a learning curve. It is also, by far, the deepest game I have ever played. There are 35 different classes, each of which plays in a distinct way, and each of which has a huge variety of builds. Your abilities are powered by one of 12 different resources, each of which is managed in different ways, and most classes will use 2 or 3 of those. A fully powered character can have upwards of 30 different useful abilities, from a variety of sources. During the journey you will encounter thousands of pieces of loot, each of which can grant several dozen stats, as well as some unique abilities. You will have to use every tool you have to survive.

The story is minimal, and is told through short letters scattered throughout the world. While it doesn't exactly break new ground, it does add some flavor to the world, and adds context to the in game mechanics. As an example, centuries ago the mages tapped into a portal left behind by long dead Lovecraftian Gods, hoping to use it as a weapon in a war against the orcs. This backfired horribly, setting off an apocalyptic event called the Spellblaze that the world is only now recovering from. There is a long simmering conflict between Angolwen, a secret city of mages hoping to use the arcane to do good, and Zigur, a city full of Antimagic zealots who think all magic is a perversion against nature and all mages should be killed. If you're a non magic using character, you can choose to join the Zigurath and get access to Antimagic abilities that help kill mages, at the cost of not being able to use arcane items.

The game does have some flaws. The difficulty is erratic and a lot of the monsters you face are randomly generated, meaning you have to pay attention to tell the difference between a normal rat and a murder rat that can kill you in two hits if you're not careful. Some of the zones are poorly designed, and the last third of the game is seen as unnecessarily long. It's not beginner friendly, and is hard to get into without a guide. Still, there isn't anything I've seen that even approaches the sheer depth this game has. You can download the main game for free at te4.org and the DLC is well worth it if you enjoy the main game. (The "We need more chairs in the break room." lore sequence is a particular highlight.) There's an ingame chat function, a semi active Discord community, a relatively active official web forum, and a wiki which hasn't been updated in a while but still contains useful information. I encourage you to check it out if you're interested in this type of game.

Jerusalem
May 20, 2004

Would you be my new best friends?



Glare Seethe posted:

It's so wholesome. What a great game.

Agreed. I absolutely adore Psychonauts, somebody gifted it to me during a Christmas sale years ago (thank you, Goon whose name I've unfairly forgotten) and I've made sure to pay it forward several times because the more people who get to experience this wonderful game the better. They absolutely nail the easy to gently caress up "a bunch of dumb kids gently caress about and end up on an adventure" feel, and the gimmick of the mental landscapes for Raz to explore and solve just add such beautiful variety to the game.

I am praying they nail the sequel.

Vandar
Sep 13, 2007

Isn't That Right, Chairman?





I really hope Psychonauts 2 turns out good.

Kinda miffed that the cliffhanger of the first game ended up leading into a VR game and was resolved there, though.

Jerusalem
May 20, 2004

Would you be my new best friends?



Vandar posted:

I really hope Psychonauts 2 turns out good.

Kinda miffed that the cliffhanger of the first game ended up leading into a VR game and was resolved there, though.

Wait... what? It was?

Sway Grunt
May 15, 2004

Tenochtitlan, looking east.


Jerusalem posted:

Wait... what? It was?

Psychonauts in the Rhombus of Ruin. I'll be watching an LP of this before the sequel comes out cause it's sadly not playable without a VR set.

Jerusalem
May 20, 2004

Would you be my new best friends?



Wow, I'd literally never heard of it before. I have access to a VR set I could borrow and I'm vaguely curious but not at that price point, will probably go the watch a playthrough route as well before Psychonauts 2 comes out.

Sab Sabbington
Sep 18, 2016

In my restless dreams I see that town...

Flagstaff, Arizona


Jeza posted:

Psychonauts!

So I've been trying to put together a post for Psychonauts for weeks now, pretty much from the day the thread started, but have been having a hard time putting exactly what I wanted to say about it into words--which ends up being great because now I can talk about something very specific instead as a follow up to this excellent post. Spoilers for one level/mind in particular follow, but I don't think it'll take much away from it. First, though, a quote from the first 10 minutes or so:

quote:

Raz: They may come for me, Dogen, but they'll be looking for Raz, the boy. What they're going to find, what they don't expect, is Raz, the Psychonaut.
Dogen: And, and, and then you'll make their heads explode?
Raz: No! Do you do that?
Dogen: No! Well... Once, kind of.

Raz's story is a pretty clear-cut coming of age narrative, but it doesn't shy away from some pretty dark poo poo. Luckily, it understands that sometimes--and as can especially be the case for the people who are going through that dark poo poo themselves--it can be funny too.

Pretty much everyone, rightfully, heaps praise and recommendations on The Milkman Conspiracy, but it's not actually my favorite level in the game. One level in particular continues to stand out to me every time I play the game, which I make a point to yearly, and was actually one I kind of hated back when I played it as a kid. It can be a little obtuse, frustrating, and--from the perspective of a child (I was a wimp)--even a bit scary, but it inadvertently helped me contextualize, come to terms with, and start building a relationship with my own bipolar disorder.



A brief content warning, I'll be talking about elements of bipolar disorder like mania and depression, as well as trauma, childhood abuse, and suicide. It's all in the actual text of the game, but it's broadly expressed there via slideshow images and subtext.

The mind of Gloria Von Gouton, Gloria's Theater, consists of a huge stage, a small audience, a small hallway leading to a single dressing room, and an extensive series of catwalks obscured by dark shadows that allow a mysterious intruder and saboteur, The Phantom, the freedom to move around unseen and unhindered. The majority of the gameplay takes place on the stage itself where the exhausted and overworked Becky is managing a stage production put on by a troupe of often uncooperative kids. A harsh and unrelenting critic, Jasper Rolls, sits up in the gallery and takes every opportunity to insult, demean, and verbally abuse the production at large despite it being nearly entirely produced and acted by literal (well, figurative) children. The production is having some trouble though, as the lead actress we come to understand to be Gloria's muse, the intentionally masc-voiced Bonita Soleil with her deep bass and the recording of feminine crying she plays on a loop so people leave her alone, has become exhausted after years of being the only light on the theater's stage and refuses to participate.

Unlike most of the other Minds in the game, Gloria herself doesn't show up within it at all. Instead she manifests more acutely in each of the characters: Bonita is the inspiration and creative spirit she draws on in her acting, Jasper is her internal critic who constantly derails and breaks everyone else down, and Becky acts as a kind of internal mediator and manager who's really just trying to Bonita and Jasper to cooperate (and shut the gently caress up, both) long enough to get these god drat kids into their costumes and hopefully hit the stage cues on time. They're all aware of Gloria but are presented as discreetly other to her despite literally being aspects of her subconscious. This is unique to Gloria's Theater, and really serves to represent how fractured and out of control Gloria feels internally--how despite being her they're simultaneously someone else, a feeling fairly common with bipolar people.

Gloria is bipolar, specifically Bipolar Type 1 based on how elements of her mania and manic psychosis manifest, and after years of mistreatment, neglect, and an inability to reconcile with her disorder in a psychologically healthy way, she became more and more viscious and irritable as her acting career declined after years of travel, awards, and accolades. 'Decline' might be misleading, as the trauma of her mother's suicide while she was acting across Europe along with the feeling that she was herself to blame for her mother's death made her unable to act as she had before and precipitated a spiraling that eventually saw her unfairly imprisoned in the game's Asylum where you meet her.

Gloria's bipolar disorder is predominantly represented throughout the level via the stage's Lighting that Raz is able to get up and running again after its sabotage by The Phantom. The tone, contents of the set, costumes, and even demeanor of the children actors on stage changes based on whether the lighting is bright and happy--mania--or dark and sad--her depression. This poo poo scared me so much as a kid because everything is so bright and fun and cute when the stage is bright and well lit but suddenly becomes straight-up hostile when the masks that provide the lighting below are flipped. Raz is acting as an agent for psychological healing, exploration, and self actualization inside Gloria's mind, and when the depression hits the performers, props, and even the stage itself begins to violently impede his progress. I wanna point out real quick that this is separate and distinct from characters like Jasper and The Phantom who are similar negative actors within her mind, but aren't limited to when she's having a depressed episode--though it certainly can help them. Instead the raw elements of her psyche work to reject Raz and his help even though they're completely fine with and fairly appreciative of his actions when he provides scripts and set changes for them to perform.

One thing I didn't realize as a kid, though, was just how insidious the other form of the stage really was. Which was telling, honestly, as I personally spent years shrugging my shoulders and asking what the big deal was when I was manic or when I considered my own mania. The stage is vibrant, the acting is grandiose, and everyone perfectly and uncaringly dances about and sings and just has a great loving time. When the lighting is like this, it's safe--until it isn't. It's happy! But it's not. It's everything the other half isn't and more despite being literally the same set with the same actors and most of the same decorations repurposed to look a little different under the brighter light. Jasper still talks poo poo. The Phantom still breaks things. Bonita still won't act. Mania can manifest in many ways, differs from person to person, and regularly differs from one manic episode to another, but delusion is a fairly common aspect in most cases. Not seeing things as they really are, or convincing yourself that they're different now, somehow, is often more of a rule than just an element of it.

I mentioned before that, even with the depression mood lighting, the actors are happy to actually perform the scripts that Raz brings them to advance the plot. It's not that they're hostile towards him specifically or intentionally, they're just hostile, and that takes a back seat to actually acting out what they're there to act out. They even thank him! And just because the set isn't literally trying to violently eject Raz from Gloria's psyche when the stage is manic doesn't mean it's helping any more. He still has to work it all out, he's just not being chased or impeded by these fuckers while they spin around and use their flower petals like buzzsaws:




After finally convincing Bonita to return to the stage only for The Phantom to drop a stage light on one of the (child) actors, ruining the play, Raz decides that to help Gloria he needs to get up to the rafters somehow and give the Phantom a mental rear end kicking--though he'll need to find a way up there first. Luckily, every play needs its own set--



--and every script calls for different things, so with Becky's help he's able to find various scripts, switch the sets around to fit those scripts, and change the mood lighting to further manipulate the way the stage and actors are laid out in order to progress. The whole effect is very charming, as the stage itself never actually changes in size. Instead, the set changes consist of the various elements getting swept away and replaced with new (usually just repurposed) things to fit the scripts Raz finds. One set comes complete with a dragon that proves impossible for Raz to pass until he gets everything together for Becky so the kids can perform a scene that involves a Knight showing up to slay it. The dragon isn't dangerous itself, but it's function as guarding against continued passage is very real despite it being a shittily made cardboard dragon head. Similarly, when the Knight shows up to slay it, it disappears and lets Raz progress.

Meanwhile as you explore and collect things you can find optional vaults that hop around and avoid Raz until he busts them open. Inside they show snippets of Gloria's real-life story: how her father left her life shortly after she was born, how she was sent away to an abusive and repressive boarding school after her mother's manager convinced her to focus on her career instead of her kid, how her mother's own moderately successful acting career was eventually dwarfed by Gloria's own success, how eventually her mother turned jealous, vindictive, and cruel herself in response, and finally how--after years of effort and hard work all done in an attempt to win her mother's love and attention--her mom threw herself off the catwalk in Gloria's theater to her death.

The elements of Gloria's psychic landscape, and the characters in it, had always been there, but the things she lived through changed their dynamic. Her internal critic, Jasper, was drowned out when Bonita was regularly taking the stage, but grew bolder after her mother's death caused Bonita to pull away and lock herself off in her dressing room. Above all, Bonita was tired after years of bearing the stress of the spotlight in Gloria's path to stardom. Her burnout was real, and her rest was deserved. But with her gone the real Gloria started facing new and crippling anxiety--she couldn't say her lines, couldn't look at the audience, and eventually couldn't step on stage without facing a panic attack. Like Bonita she decided to lock herself away in her dressing room--only in the real world it ended up with her institutionalized.

One major thing I want to point out is that a lot of this is locked away within her mind in the form of Vaults and Emotional Baggage--gamified collectibles that Raz may or may not find. Even with them there's a lot of inference required--you'll need to put together the whole story from the more reality-focused (or, how the physical Gloria viewed the events in the real world, at least) content of the collectibles along with the subtext of the plays, the things various characters say, and even elements of the level design. Outside of the props and background the stage is fairly spartan and functional while the set, background, and actors swirl with colors and shapes that are only barely recognizable as the things they're meant to be. There's a real delineation between what is chaotic and what is orderly, but they all serve a purpose, and none of it is inherently out of place or bad when it exists with intention and handled with care. The psychic landscape, events, and how they reflect reality only get distorted by unprocessed trauma and unchecked repression. There's a reason why The Phantom is able to move around unhindered and unchecked in the sprawling and ominous catwalks above the audience and stage.

Which brings me to the antagonist: To literally no one's surprise once they've gotten to the reveal in the level, Jasper is revealed to be the Phantom after Raz manages to chase him down and weaponize the critic's pride into a confession. Even though Jasper was previously just a dickhead heckler, when he was left unchecked for long enough he eventually started taking actions to prove his criticism right. He was Gloria's own insecurity and self-sabotage made manifest, and she didn't have the tools or resources to really get the situation under control. Luckily, Raz is a Good Kid(TM) who likes helping people and hates bullies (just ask the camp bully, Bobby Zilch), so Jasper gets the rear end-kicking he desperately needs via a boss fight.

I really don't know that it's possible to heap praise on this fight enough, thematically it's one of the most coherent and perfect boss fights I can think of. Jasper's attacks come in the form of insults, the same heckling poo poo he was doing to Bonita and the plays at large, and they do not gently caress around. The insults hurt, physically (psychically), and if Raz's health drops to zero he gets violently ejected from Gloria's mind back into his own body. But if he doesn't, he doesn't win the fight by just beating the poo poo out of Jasper with giant psychic fists, psychic laser blasts, or pyrokinesis--though there's much of that--he wins by redirecting the stage's spotlights onto the critic instead. It causes Jasper to shrink in size until he's a tiny, high pitched remnant of his former self that physically and verbally took up so much space in the theater that he didn't deserve. It doesn't get rid of him completely, and it doesn't fix the reasons why Bonita was hiding away in the first place, but now that the heckling is quieter and Jasper isn't dropping poo poo on people from the catwalks the inhabitants of Gloria's mind have the space, flexibility, and time to get back in their groove at their own pace.

You might've noticed that outside of the mood lighting effecting the way the theater is presented and acts as an entity, I didn't talk much more about Gloria's bipolar disorder. That's intentional. I think the reason this level resonates with me so much is because her bipolar symptoms aren't actually the problem--they're just an element of how her mind operates that certainly influences what goes on and can help or hinder what takes place, but otherwise it just is. Unprocessed trauma, unhealthy coping mechanisms, and harmful internalized beliefs are the villains of Gloria's mind, not her bipolar disorder, and it's never even painted as being the villain in the first place. If anything it's presented as what can sometimes be a useful tool--which is an idea that I personally subscribe to, though that absolutely is not the case for everyone who's bipolar. When it comes down to it there aren't any dangers the mood lighting brings out that are even remotely as threatening as what Jasper can produce when he's left unchecked and unhindered.

That's a lot of words to say that Psychonauts is a masterpiece of a game and you should play the poo poo out of it if you haven't. It's absurdly funny and the writing is excellent--though YMMV regarding the platforming and combat. I could do a whole other post on how genius and layered the exploration of the Camp's overworld is, but I'll hold off. Instead, I'll finish with a clip of Bobby Zilch being a giant--though hilarious--rear end in a top hat:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Y7Afgk9Wos

Jerusalem
May 20, 2004

Would you be my new best friends?



That was a loving great post, Sab, and a really interesting read

Sway Grunt
May 15, 2004

Tenochtitlan, looking east.


Sab Sabbington posted:

Gloria's Theater

loving yes. This is a fantastic post. As I wrote above I always felt Gloria's Theater was a hugely underrated level and you've put into words exactly why in a way I'd never be able to because I am absolutely terrible at any kind of literary analysis. It's not as flashy as some of the others but conceptually it's probably one of the most successful ones (which is saying a lot considering how excellent the others are).

quote:

But if he doesn't, he doesn't win the fight by just beating the poo poo out of Jasper with giant psychic fists, psychic laser blasts, or pyrokinesis--though there's much of that--he wins by redirecting the stage's spotlights onto the critic instead. It causes Jasper to shrink in size until he's a tiny, high pitched remnant of his former self that physically and verbally took up so much space in the theater that he didn't deserve. It doesn't get rid of him completely, and it doesn't fix the reasons why Bonita was hiding away in the first place, but now that the heckling is quieter and Jasper isn't dropping poo poo on people from the catwalks the inhabitants of Gloria's mind have the space, flexibility, and time to get back in their groove at their own pace.

The image of Jasper shrinking - but not disappearing, as you say - when under the spotlights is one that's always stayed with me. I have OCD (the actual thing, not the quaint colloquial version) and only after many years of struggle was I eventually able to see a similar thing happen with my intrusive thoughts - i.e., the more I shied away the more monstrous they became, but when I turned to look directly at them suddenly it became apparent just how small they were. Not insignificant, and still threatening to grow out of control at times, but much easier to deal with.

quote:

I could do a whole other post on how genius and layered the exploration of the Camp's overworld is, but I'll hold off.

Do it!!

Electromax
May 6, 2007


Seems like a good time to share some old Psychonauts level images I had.





The training level in the coach's mind is especially cool.

theshim
May 1, 2012

You think you can defeat ME, Ephraimcopter?!?

You couldn't even beat Assassincopter!!!


Konstantin posted:

Tales of Mal'Eyal (TOME4)
I love ToME to death and it still pisses me off that my (fairly new and powerful) computer has issues running it. I especially love doing insane Adventurer builds - Adventurer is a special class unlocked by beating the game that can unlock and use any skill trees from any class. I've done ones where my goal was to get my armor as high as it could go (broke 400, in a game where you'll seldom see over 50), one where I took a ton of damage reducing sustains and passives and could tank basically anything but the post game superbosses, and one where my goal was to get my spellpower as high as it could go and ended up with it at utterly ludicrous levels.

ToME has a ton of really cool classes and builds. One of my all-time favorites is the Paradox Mage, a spellcaster who fucks with spacetime to produce powerful effects, debilitating enemies, defending themselves, and generally making a mess of things. Your main resource is Paradox, which increases as you use your powers, and is it goes up, the chance of temporal anomalies producing crazy random effects increases, which can often murder you quickly if you're not careful. To unlock the class, of course, you need to be killed by your future self, because that's just a thing that can happen. The game also has an achievement called Are You Out of Your Mind?! and it just doesn't take itself all that seriously a lot of the time and it's just a delightful blend of insanely deep mechanics, tons of unique enemies, cool environments and a real, strong feeling of becoming powerful as you progress. If you like classic roguelikes it's really one of the best out there.

Oldstench
Jun 29, 2007

Let's talk about where you're going.


Sab Sabbington posted:

A very good post
Well congrats. You've made me want to play Psychonauts. Next sale I'll deffo check it out.

Sab Sabbington
Sep 18, 2016

In my restless dreams I see that town...

Flagstaff, Arizona


Oldstench posted:

Well congrats. You've made me want to play Psychonauts. Next sale I'll deffo check it out.

Hell yeah, I'm gonna be riding this dopamine hit for at least a few weeks, appreciate it.

I hope you enjoy it--the platforming is pretty dated but gets easier once you get a feel for the broader way the movement works and unlock some of the upgrades. I still think the most frustrating part of the game for me--post the nerf to the last level in rereleases--is a tightrope section in the first mental landscape you go through.

If I can give any advice: try and find the various vaults in each level, and if you don't naturally look them up at the end. They give little backstory vignettes by way of stylized slideshow that adds, imo, a whole lot of interesting context for each person you encounter. You can also talk extensively to the various characters around the camp for some very funny dialogue, but none of it is mandatory or all that important, so if that's not your thing don't worry about it.

Most importantly, please update with your opinion on whether you're Team Firestarters or Team Levitators, there is only one right answer and picking the wrong one might get you singed.

Sardonik
Jul 1, 2005

if you like my dumb posts, you'll love my dumb youtube channel

So I uh, made a thing:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=poHX5edGkVM

I promise you it's a better watch than a read, but here's the script to those who prefer:

A Nuclear Take about DEFCON

NUCLEAR WAR
Nuclear War. An unimaginably horrific scenario that is so devastating that one could be forgiven for wishing games featuring it had never been made so as not to even hint at normalizing it or psychically willing it into being somehow. Such thinking is deeply unmaterial of course, even with dangerous lunatics gaining control of nuclear armed nations, such a war would be deeply unprofitable to those who currently monopolize political power. Though the chance for a nuclear exchange to be triggered accidentally remains terrifyingly real, as it has nearly happened multiple times before.

Nuclear War occupies a strange place in our culture. For prior generations who lived through the cold war memories of Duck and Cover still linger. David Lynch made the nuke the ultimate originator of evil in the Twin Peaks mythos for good reason, painting it as a stain on the very soul of humanity. For games and movies, the aftermath of nuclear war is a common, almost trite setting at this point, yet the act is almost always offscreen, too horrible to be seen directly, unless going for some kind of shock value.

Rarely is the idea of conducting the nuclear war itself explored. The reason for this is fairly straightforward of course as the consensus of mutually assured destruction rings every bit as true now as it did during the cold war. Nuclear exchanges between superpowers are definitionally not winnable. The more likely situation of a rogue nation launching a single nuke or a much more limited exchange are much better narrative fodder in most cases. Yet it is precisely this ultimate, civilization-ending clash of superpowers that DEFCON deals in.

DEFCON does not ignore this contradiction. The tagline for the game, ‘everybody dies’ is not an exaggeration. It does however flatten the world in interesting ways to achieve balance and introduces a variety of scoring methods to determine a victor, but more on that later.

The presentation of Nuclear War in DEFCON similarly does not beat around the bush. With each population center hit, the death toll immediately appears. In truth, the gap between the gamified joy of racking up a ton of points for hitting Sao Paulo or Cairo before anyone else does and the raw horror implied by the act, might be the widest gulf of its kind in terrestrial gaming. It is a perverse satisfaction, to be sure.

And when the nukes land, you feel it. Even without the death tolls, the excellent sound design lets you hear the impact, the terrible low rumble of the explosion. The expanding green glow of the radiation. If you’re the one being nuked, your interface darkens as the greys that make up the continents fade to black as the unrelenting torrents of nukes rain down. If my ears don’t deceive me, the music even changes pitch as you lose population, layering yet another element to the nuclear devastation.

And the music itself, well, as you’ve no doubt been hearing, the music is a dirge for humanity. Slow, ambient, yet positively skin crawling in its potency. It is, in a word, perfect for setting the tone of the game. Occasionally you will hear a woman’s cough mixed in, briefly tying the sound of inflicted human misery to the otherwise somber soundscape.

All that said, the discourse I’ve seen about DEFCON usually starts and ends with WHAT it is. I feel this does the game a tremendous disservice. There is so, so much more to be said in the ‘how’ of how the game works. It is a game that if played optimally, will make you a complete bastard even among your fellow world-ending players. I would almost go so far as to call DEFCON the Among Us of its day. This is a direct result of the gameplay mechanics as intended too, not in spite of them. To properly appreciate these emergent properties please allow me to explain how the game actually works first.

CORE MECHANICS

Core to the gameplay of DEFCON is managing the Nuclear Triad. To best explain the triad, let’s listen to an expert on it: <clip of trump making an rear end of himself https://www.cnn.com/videos/politics/2015/12/17/what-is-nuclear-triad-debate-sot.cnn >

In all seriousness though, the ‘Triad’ refers to the delivery mechanisms of nuclear weapons: Intercontinental ballistic missiles or ICBMs, Submarines capable of launching nuclear missiles, and nuclear armed bombers. In DEFCON you utilize the nuclear triad of a given territory. The playable territories are: Russia, Europe, Africa, Asia, North America, South America. All given equal footing. This bears hilariously little resemblance to the real world of course, in terms of both the internal geopolitical unity of the territories and nuclear arsenal levels, but hey, can’t have a game without it.

There are only 5 commendable unit types in the game, three navy vessels and two kinds of aircraft. In most game modes, everyone gets the same amount of each. One would think this would render the combat rather predictable and limit the amount of tactical possibilities but this could actually not be further from the truth. Most of the units, and the nuclear silos themselves have alternate operating modes that take a nontrivial amount of time to enter and exit, allowing them to perform other roles.

For example, while the bombers are a platform for launching short range nuclear strikes, carrying one nuke each, they also have a naval combat mode that makes them extremely effective at picking off navy vessels from a distance.

Fighters meanwhile only have one mode of operation, that of direct combat, but even they have multiple uses. Their primary role is interception of enemy bombers, but their speed makes them very adept at scouting enemy territory, critical in finding enemy buildings to destroy with nuclear ordnance. Tragically, fighters have a very limited fuel supply, so many, perhaps most even, never make it back to the ‘relative’ safety of their airbases and carriers. Fighters also have the distinction of being the only unit that regenerates over the course of the game, adding to their expendability.

Now moving on to the naval units, Carriers come with both fighters and bombers, but can only launch one type at a time. They also carry four nukes which bombers who have spent their ordinance can reload with. Carriers also have a dedicated anti-submarine mode which allows them to destroy submerged enemy submarines, though they cannot launch any aircraft while it is active.

Submarines are the most challenging unit to effectively manage, but also the most rewarding. In their passive sonar mode, they can only be detected by enemy submarines in active sonar mode, or the aforementioned carriers in anti-sub mode. They can be useful in direct combat if you can keep them safe enough, but they really shine in their role as a firehose of medium range nukes, a whopping 5 per sub. Launching these safely can be tricky, as the sub surfaces in the launch mode, rendering it vulnerable to anything that shoots. All it takes is even so much as a single lucky bomber in naval attack mode to clear a whole squad of them in short order. Again though, if used properly, they are decisive, particularly against unsuspecting opponents.

Finally, battleships. A bit apocryphal to think about them in the context of modern conflicts, but here they are what you would expect them to be, they shred any ship or aircraft who dares to stray too close, but are absolutely clowned on at range by bombers in naval combat mode Or submerged submarines for that matter.

Now aside from all these commendable units, there are buildings that you can place pretty much anywhere you want within your territory. Again, a set amount of each on the standard modes. These installations are hidden unless seen by the enemy.

Radar installations, as one might expect, provide a sizable vision range. Revealing units and buildings within range. They are fragile however, needing only a single nuke to destroy.

Airfields hold a sizable contingent of bombers, as well as a sizable contingent of fighters, which slowly regenerate. It can only launch one kind of aircraft at a time, and takes two nukes to destroy, though being nuked once is enough to destroy a considerable amount of what it contains.

Now silos, silos are inarguably the most critical building in the game by a wide margin because in their air defense mode, they are literally the only thing that can destroy nukes in flight. Although if you played long enough ago you may have seen some bugged out fighters trying desperately. This makes silo placement critical to defending your population centers. Of course, in addition to this powerful defense, silos contain nukes, 10 of them each. Which can be fired anywhere on the globe, arcing beautifully against the interface. Firing these nukes is a risky maneuver as they reveal the location of the silo, and silos in firing mode cannot shoot down enemy nukes. It is perhaps the most important mode trade off to consider in the game, and it takes considerable time to re-enter air defense mode so launching is not a decision to be taken lightly. It takes a whole three nukes to silence a silo, though each hit halves the remaining nukes it contains.

Now aside from all this player deployed stuff there are cities, where all the people live. Players do not get to pick where cities are spawned. In most games the cities are in standardized places, but there are modes where the population distribution is randomized, though all territories always have the same population. Each nuke that hits a city halves its population. Interestingly, if a nuke is shot down near a city, it counts as a glancing blow, knocking a percentage off. In all modes, cities are where games are won or lost.

Annnd that’s the full catalogue of in game objects. Let’s talk about the actual flow of the game. I’d be remiss if I didn’t start with the titular DEFCON mechanic. For those unfamiliar, DEFCON is a portmanteau of defence condition, with levels ranging from 1 to 5. Somewhat counterintuitively, the lower the number is, the higher the threat level is. As a result, in rare cases you may have heard somebody say something like ‘Things are wild over here, It’s DEFCON 5’, not knowing that defcon 5 is actually the least dangerous level. Not a mistake anyone who ever played DEFCON would make to be sure. I’d like to real quickly call out that the exercise term for DEFCON 1 is ‘Cocked Pistol’ which might be simultaneously the most American, and Horrifying term for imminent nuclear war possible.

Anyway, you start the game in DEFCON 5. The focus here is placing your ships and buildings. Nothing can shoot yet, and you can’t even deploy fighters. There is no radar vision yet either.

After some time passes, you enter DEFCON 4, your radar system engage and you can start to see enemy units and buildings within radar range. You also have to place any remaining buildings or ships here or they will be lost.

DEFCON 3 is where the fun begins. Your units can begin attacking enemies within range. You can deploy aircraft. A lot of naval battles occur at this stage.

DEFCON 2, surprisingly doesn’t actually have any gameplay consequences other than being a reminder to get your stuff in position for DEFCON 1.

And finally, you hit DEFCON 1. Nuclear ordinance begins to fly. The game begins in earnest.

In strategy game terms DEFCON is purely a game about micro. Which is to say the management of units, rather than macro, managing an economy and resource collection. There is no production to manage here, only execution. With the big focus here being keeping your units alive and in the correct modes and timing and concentrating your nuclear strikes so as to waste as few nukes as possible against the air defenses of enemy silos.

Critically, there are no ways to mass-command groups of units at once, other than ships that were already placed in formation, which you can change their mode all at once by holding shift. This isn’t actually a mechanic that the game tells you about that I can recall either, I played a great many games before I learned about it.

Needless to say, this makes the game a touch click intensive. Not that I’m not complaining though because nearly every click matters. A player that maintains a high actions per minute, or APM, can be devastating. Though there is more to the game than merely clicking quickly, of course.

A side effect of this is that some players will force the game’s speed to its lowest setting, real time, to do all their micro. By comparison, the game is normally played at 5x speed, with higher available speeds being 10x and 20x. Under default settings the game will always be the lowest speed requested, though other settings let you put in a speed floor or just fix the speed to a constant rate.
This period of realtime micro can be a pretty huge tell, as you can see who is requesting what speed up top. You can generally expect a wave of bombers or sub launches coming from that player in short order. Or it would be short order if it wasn’t so painfully slow in realtime. Even if this gives you significant time to react, it can be frustrating if you hadn’t planned on spending the entire afternoon in a single game.

Amusingly I recall the community actually came up with a solution for this, where certain dedicated servers would allow a budget of realtime that each player would be able to use, letting them use it for a limited time without slowing down the game agonizingly.

Now, even with all this said, there’s yet another twist to the gameplay I haven’t mentioned yet that elevates DEFCON at a very basic level. Every shot has only a % based chance to work. For example, a shot from a silo in air defense mode only has a 25% chance to stop the nuke. Different % chances for each unit firing and receiving the shot too. No units have hit points other than battleships and carriers which require 3 successful shots each to down.

How does this elevate the gameplay you ask? Well, unlike, say, Company of Heroes 2 where a single missed anti tank round can have you shouting at your screen. The effect of this aggregated randomness heightens the importance of positioning units to maximize the chances for a kill, while also benefiting the player who can keep large numbers of units well positioned and attacking the correct targets.

As I mentioned earlier, timing is also critical. Particularly the timing of one’s usage of nukes. In most game modes, you want to quickly move to nuke undefended cities before anybody else does to secure the score. For example, say you are Europe or Russia, you want to be the first to snipe Cairo to give you a sizable chunk of free points off the bat. Any Africa worth their salt knows to place their silos in interior africa far away from where they might be seen by radar installations. So it’s essentially free, not likely to be defensed by silos, only requiring a few nukes at most to secure the points. If you live in LA or San Francisco you’re likely dead in the game for similar reasons too. Nuking a city that has been thoroughly depopulated gets you next to nothing in terms of points, so you don’t want to be late. It is in literal terms, a nuclear race in most modes.

That said, patience is an important virtue too. The ultimate period of vulnerability to look out for is when a player begins launching from their silos. This definitionally means their silos are not in air defense mode anymore, and any shots you make will be guaranteed to land, if you can get close enough with bombers and subs. Most pressingly this means that you can destroy the silos themselves and both prevent nukes being launched at you and leave the target defenseless. One can destroy silos in air defense mode mind you, especially if they are scattered badly, but to do so generally requires a lot of ordnance.

Eventually after all but a fraction of nukes have been detonated or destroyed, the victory timer will start, giving players a final chance to make some moves before the final scores are tabulated.

After the victory timer completes, a winner is chosen. Not a team, not first second or third place finishes, only ever the one victor, based on their score. This, needless to say, incentivized a lot of interesting behavior, but more on that in a minute.

Now there are a few different scoring modes a game can use. The default mode has you get 2 points for every 1 million killed, and -1 point for every 1 million lost. Which generally leads to a nice balance of offensive and defense play. Genocide mode, as the charming name might imply, removes the penalty for losing population, granting you a point for every million killed. On the other end, there is survivor mode, which scores you purely by how much of your population you save. As one might expect the scoring modes can have a rather extreme effect on the gameplay.

Beyond the score modes there are also a handful of game modes other than the default and custom settings, though most are not particularly noteworthy. There is however, one mode that stands out, head and shoulders above the rest. Diplomacy. It is this mode where the emergent properties of DEFCON I alluded to shine through the strongest. It is by a wide margin the most interesting game mode if you’re playing it with active enough people who ‘get’ it. It is a mode where the entire world starts as one team, with the survivor scoring mode active. Needless to say, this harmony does not last, and what happens next may or may not surprise you. <we’ll be right back + music>

BETRAYAL or you can’t spell DEFECTION without DEFCON

Around the turn of the millennium there was an interesting phenomenon in the online multiplayer of the popular strategy game Starcraft. Because of how the game displayed your win/loss counts whenever you joined a game’s lobby there was significant social pressure to keep that win counter up, even if one mostly just played the plethora of ‘Use Map Settings’ custom games which didn’t count. It was still literally a black mark on your record that everyone saw when you joined to have more losses than wins. Fortunately, the community had a solution.

Now for a game to count as a win, it had to be of the ‘melee’ type, which just meant starting out with the basics the same as everyone else. This however did not mean that it had to be a ‘fair’ or ‘even’ fight. Thus, the 7 vs 1 comp stomp was born.

The objective was simple. The 7 players would work together to destroy the single computer opponent in short order, and everyone would receive a nice shiny win for their statistics. That is, unless somebody had deliberately unchecked the ‘allied victory’ tick in the diplomacy menu.

At which point, an entirely different game began.

The players were all but locked into the game, not wanting to tarnish their records with another disconnect or loss, but they had no way short of hacks to know who had unchecked their ‘allied victory’ box. It became, for all intents and purposes, a game of werewolf. Paranoia ran rampant, players built up armies to defend themselves while hurling accusations at each other. Coalitions formed and broke as player after player was eliminated, the remaining players trying desperately to eliminate the player or even players who had allied victory turned off, so the game could end with a win.

It was a great way to kill an afternoon back in the day, especially with a friend. But what does this have to do with DEFCON you might ask? Well, put simply, the kind of emergent betrayal based gameplay that Starcraft had accidentally created, DEFCON fully embraced as a core gameplay mechanic, especially in the diplomacy game mode.

DEFCON expresses this mechanic in a number of different ways. For example, In other multiplayer strategy games, if you can even change your team mid-game, the game makes it very clear to everyone immediately, and your options for doing free damage are limited to forcing your units to attack allied units manually while you’re still allied.

DEFCON, on the other hand, allows you to ostensibly remain allied and go weapons free on an ally, with a single uncheck of the ‘ceasefire’ checkbox. All units will begin to auto-attack that player. If that’s too loud, and you’d prefer to, say attack a few select units you can do that too with a little micro. If your opponent fails the perception check and doesn't notice your units attacking them, you can devastate their navy units.

If that’s not enough, you can also nuke allied buildings with no penalty whatsoever. So long as those buildings do not lie on cities. The only penalty is incurred if you nuke an allied city. A fun little twist of this is that it encourages players in Diplomacy to put structures on cities to discourage such behavior, whereas in the default mode you would definitely want to keep the buildings away from cities, so as not to be hit by nukes seeking the population centers.

In practice, this kind of building destruction betrayal can take a lot of forms, but often comes from bombers passing through an allies territory - ‘Just passing through, I swear!’ - then in a split second launching from very close range. Three nukes a silo. If they still have you set to ceasefire, the air defenses won’t even trigger, as the nukes find their purchase unopposed.

Now, let me just play a scenario out for you to examine how this works, for, say, a game of diplomacy.

Say everybody loads into the game and stays on the same team through defcon 3. This isn’t always the case mind you, some people like to leave the main alliance and form a new one with their neighbors right off the bat, so nobody but their new allies see where they placed their buildings, but for the sake of argument, let’s say that didn’t happen here.

Let’s say that Africa begins using bombers to snipe at nearby ships from South America. People notice, what oh what is the international community to do?

Well that’s a question which is gonna have a lot of different answers. Right off the bat, you can go ahead and assume South America started a vote to kick Africa from the alliance. This vote may not be as bulletproof as you’d think. After all, Africa is very much within striking distance of Russia, Europe, and a big chunk of Asia. Those territories may not want to run the risk of fighting Africa, which would put their populations in danger. Quite the contrary, it’s fairly explicitly in their best interests to see South America removed instead. Particularly with an Africa bold enough and familiar enough with the game to strike while allied. So they may hop on to a vote that kicks South America instead, even if they were the victim of Africa’s aggression.

Sidenote here on voting: if there’s a vote going to kick you from the alliance, you don’t get a notification. Your notification comes after the vote ends in success and consists of your units changing color and the delightful text blurb at the bottom of the screen.

Anyway, South America gets kicked. North America leaves and joins South America. Russia, perhaps a little new, targets North America with their silos, finally seeing a target. Asia seizes on this moment and bombs Russia’s buildings while still allied. Europe flips out because they were counting on having Russia’s silos covering them from behind. Russia isn’t sure what happened. Europe is trying desperately to convince Africa and Russia to vote to kick Asia, which Africa doesn’t want to do because it would mean a huge naval battle near the horn, and they are busy with South America. In frustration, Europe leaves the alliance and uses the subs they had been saving to betray Russia with in the endgame immediately. And so on and so forth.

All this is to say Diplomacy mode in DEFCON is a game of tricking people into fighting each other while protecting yourself at all costs. For a game where there’s really only one ‘map’ there are a truly surprising number of ways each game can go down, as players clamor to both protect themselves and knock out the person with the most survivors.

Betrayal is a large part of standard mode games too I should say. Even more of an incentive to attack a vulnerable territory if you get points for it after all, dropping your alliance before the first nuke hits a city. You really have to go out of your way and specifically change the game settings to force people to not be able to change teams. Betrayal is baked into the game to a truly beautiful degree. DEFCON breaks free of the modern dichotomy of crewmates and imposters, and lets people play both roles within the same game, defending their allies as their allies defend them, then turning on them to secure a victory at the last moment, or even just taking them down with them to spitefully stop them from winning.

The mechanical brilliance of the underlying systems gave rise to these amazingly emotional moments between players. These moments were just so raw and real, conniving and cunning. You would not expect such pathos in a game as ostensibly sterile as DEFCON, but I saw it many a time.

Unfortunately, there may have been a cost to all the treachery. For while it’s brilliant, cool, and good, some may say it wasn’t what they were expecting of DEFCON. They came expecting a devastating nuclear war, yes, but being betrayed right before their assumed moment of victory may have proved a line too far. The simulated nuclear extinction of humanity, no match for a wounded ego. Perhaps the game would have had more longevity with fixed teams as a default, or even just team victories. It’s hard to say, 17 years after the fact. No game multiplayer community lasts forever, but I do fear I myself may have soured many people on the game. Because I played a lot, and I played to win.

WINNING THE UNWINNABLE GAME

Now in literal terms I’m not exactly sure how much I’ve played, as the bulk of my time playing the game was prior to March 2009, when Steam began tracking people’s time spent in games. I’ll note It also wasn’t until much, much later that DEFCON added steam community features tracking your stats, which I always thought was pretty nifty.

What I am sure of is that I made a lot of memories playing DEFCON. Pulling victory from the jaws of defeat with well placed final strikes, unloading a full stack of subs on unsuspecting targets, and of course, betrayal after betrayal.

One time I made a guy so mad when I beat him he changed his name to mine and then rudely pretended to be me, trying to make everyone still playing the game hate me. Hats off to you, man.

It was as simple as typing slash name then your desired name to escape any meaningful notoriety. Many of the more well-known players did this. Towards the end of the community’s activity, there was a pretty good chance that the people rocking the default ‘newplayer’ name were veterans not wanting to scare anybody away, rather than an actual new player.

It really was deception all the down in DEFCON.

And for a game of it’s relative mechanical simplicity there were a wealth of secrets that could give you that needed edge over your opponents.

There was the basic stuff like correctly grouping your silos and placing them to maximize their coverage of your population, while also keeping them hidden. Or properly cycling your bombers back to carriers and airbases so they could load up on more nukes, rather than letting them go to waste.

But there were also some pretty arcane strategies, like using your nuclear ordinance on enemy (or allied) ships. Ships in motion could prove a challenge, but if properly employed at a close enough range you could get guaranteed kills without having to deal with the randomness of projectile combat.

Also on the subject of ships, I think a lot of people never realized how fleets moved. The larger the fleet, the easier it is to manage en mass, sure, but the harder it is for it to maneuver close to land. Smaller fleets had much more options in where they traveled. A skillful player could sneak groups of three subs around Indonesia. Whereas players who assigned the maximum number of ships to each fleet couldn’t even navigate there. Making it an ideal launch location. Moreover, grouping carriers in fleets of two, one in bomber launch mode, and one in sub defense mode was basically the best defense against submarines you could do, if you could tolerate the micro.

There was also the proper treatment of AI allies. Oftentimes for whatever reason people left a game early (though they had the option of reconnecting), leaving an AI player managing their territory. AI is a very interesting feature in DEFCON (as one might expect). The AI is fairly adept at concentrating their nuclear strikes, though absolutely garbage at fleet management and building placement. Launched from silos at a consistent time, and most importantly, AI would never betray you. Leaving them very much so a solved, predictable element of the game to be exploited, either for the easy kills, a useful ally in airspace defense, or most commonly both. AI would never even vote. Leaving the optimal path in some diplomacy games to try to force others to leave the green donut to use the AI for a shield as long as possible.

CONCLUSION

All in all, DEFCON was an amazing, if misunderstood game. Perhaps I shouldn’t use the past tense as it’s still around, its servers still beeping down in the bunker. Interestingly enough Introversion even cut a modern ad for it somewhat recently:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tDVhWoNuR5I

I think it’s pretty clear though that the game’s best years are behind it, barring any sort of meme zoomer invasion.

It’s a bittersweet feeling, remembering how it was to play a multiplayer game in its prime, knowing that it will never be that same way again, the experiences, the moments, gone for all but memories like nukes in the rain. And here, still, I feel the tinge of regret that I myself may have hastened the game’s demise in my teenage years.

Perhaps the winning move really would have been to not play at all.

Maximum Planck
Feb 16, 2012






The part about mechanics allowing for social deduction games was fascinating. I had no idea that was a thing in Defcon or Starcraft.

GoutPatrol
Oct 17, 2009

Coal Jobs for the Coal God



I do want to go back and read through this thread but I also just want to make my post now. This may not be my favorite game, but it is in my top 10. A game that, before I started playing it, I never knew what the hell I was getting into. And that is Wario Ware: Mega Microgame$ for the Game Boy Advance.

I remember hanging out at the local EBGames, like the nerd I was, when one of the guys who worked there, whose names I've long forgotten now, comes in to work, and immediately starts talking about how he spent all last night staying up playing Wario Ware, and it was the most addictive game he ever played. "What?" I thought. There was no way this game could be that good. It looked dumb. I remember reading about it in Game Informer or Nintendo Power or wherever and thinking it looked dumb. I wasn't even a big Wario fan. "No, trust me, this game rules." The guy kept saying. He was so convincing that the next day I sold a couple games so help pay for it when they started selling it. And for the next week, I was hooked. When I look back on my first experiences with the game, and how long it took me to get to the final levels and see everything, I guess I would be embarrassed? This was unlike any other game I had ever played before. It still totally unique, in what is fundamentally a videogame version of Bop It. All while wrapped into a little Nintendo nostalgia package.

And something I forgot about this situation until I went to look up my 18 year old review of this game on GameFAQS is that the game wasn't even out officially yet, the guy took it home the weekend before it was released. I wonder what I actually should have been doing or writing for school, so instead I was pumping out 1000 words on this like the day it came out. Or the street date was broken. I certainly can't remember.

And so, I will post my full GameFAQS review here, in all its glory. I don't know why I only gave it a 9 out of 10. What the hell was I thinking. You would think that I would love the game and my happy memories slowly die, but if anything, I love it even more now, after not playing it for years. Maybe because each subsequent game just felt a little worse. Even when the Gamecube game was basically just a re-release of the GBA game.

quote:

Toothbrushes. Flyswatters. Frog counters. Skateboarding. Fat Wario in a 1920’s bathing suit. It is all here, in Wario Ware, Inc.: Mega Microgame$, one of the most inventive game of the year. Not only is this THE reason to get a Gameboy Advance now, it gives you a reason why you play videogames. Though the idea of a game about mini-games seems stupid at first (believe me, I was very skeptical of this title) it turns out to be sickeningly blissful as you don’t think about the game, you just play it, like you use pure reflex to beat these games. However, many of them are far from it, and need you to come up in a few seconds how to solve a puzzle. Nothing on the Gameboy Advance, or really, nothing ever created, can stand up to the fast and furious paced Wario Ware.

Wario, the bad guy everyone loves because he is evil and kicks Mario’s rear end, has come up with a new scam…I mean ingenious plan that will make him rich! After Wario sees how popular games are in his town of Diamond City, Wario decides to make a bunch of short games on his own, with the help of his friends. You, the player must beat the mini-games for each of Wario’s game makers until you try and beat Wario, king of microgame$!

Graphics: 7
Sometimes, the graphics can be a real treat, like the movies that bring the plot along. However, some of the mini-games…well, they look like crud. Can move to something beautiful like F-Zero, then go move like Game and Watch people. However, since everything goes by blazingly fast, so you mostly focus on one part of the screen at a time. If you try and figure out your surroundings, you may run out of time to finish the mini-game! On average, I would say that the colors could be done by the NES, but the animations in the sprites are top notch. You may just be looking at a bunch of NES games, quickly switch over to black and white stills, and then see real pictures put into the game (like a man being used as a pong paddle, or a golden retriever.) Everything is vibrant and colorful around Diamond City, and the little shots before you move onto mini-games look all right. Not too shabby, but they could have been better.

Gameplay: 9
The concept of Wario Ware is simple: try and complete the mini-game within the time limit. In each character scenario, you have 4 lives. If you fail to complete the game, or mess up, you lose a life. Depending on each character, after a few games, the time you are allotted to beat a game is shortened, and generally, everything moves faster. After the mini-games speed up twice, you get to a boss fight, which has unlimited time. Once you beat the boss fight, you “beat” the level. There are 11 levels in the game, and they can be replayed over and over again. Each level has a theme suited for each character. Jimmy has mostly sports mini-games, 9-Volt mostly has versions of old Nintendo games, Kat and Ana have nature games, etc. Each of those people has their own problems, which somehow leads into playing mini-games. After a few seconds, text appears, which explains the game. For example, if it says, “swim” then you need to moves up and down on the D-Pad, swimming butterfly. Mostly of the time, you just need to press the A button multiple times, which are the easiest. Others, you must move around and shoot down missiles or ships. Others you need to time pressing the A button just right. The faster the speed, the more you must press, find, or everything moves faster, making it hard for you to time it. With over 200 of these little games, and the possibly once you play them once, to play them over as many times as possible, you can practice anytime you want, or just waiting for the bus and Pokémon is getting old.

Sound: 8
Remixed classic Nintendo tunes? What could be better? Every 6 seconds, you will be treated to different Nintendo tunes, like Mario land, Wario land, Mute City, the main Zelda theme, and all new things made for the game. Large amounts of digitized speech are also in the game, mostly from Wario and his uproarious laughter, and unless you know what to hear for, it is almost unintelligible. However, everything else sounds great, and some of the best that the GBA can make.

Fun Factor: 9
This game is simple to learn, heard to master, like many great games. It may take you a while to understand some of the mini-games, but once you understand what they mean and what you need to do (CLEAN THE TEETH DARN YOU!) It makes this game easily an enjoyable experience that anyone, of any gender, any age, will enjoy. Because you only get small samples of the game, you always end up wanting to play more and more of it, and with unlockable 2 player games that use 1 GBA (it is a little hard to do at first if you and your friend has big hands, because it is really the only time to use the L and R buttons.) You can play remakes of old classics, like Dr. Mario (now renamed Dr. Wario.) Or figure out how to eat the banana for five hours.

Buy or Rent?
This game is buy worthy. If you need something new, you should buy Wario Ware: Mega Mircogame$. With so many different things to try and do in this game, it will have you playing for a long time.

Graphics: 7
Gameplay: 9
Sound: 8
Fun Factor: 9

Reviewer’s Score: 9/10

morallyobjected
Nov 3, 2012


honestly Warioware games were more fun than they had any right to be. I want to say I had the Wii game but I honestly don't remember.

Arms_Akimbo
Sep 29, 2006

It's so damn...literal.

If the games were like two seconds longer, warioware probably wouldn't have been as fun or successful, that's how tight that formula was

Shine
Feb 26, 2007

No Muscles For The Majority


WarioWare is dope, and my favorite is WW: Twisted for GBA. It had a chunky cartridge with some mercury ball thingy so that you could rotate the GBA like a steering wheel to interact with the games. It's my favorite WW by far and I will be very sad when my cartridge eventually craps out, though I assume there's a phone-based emulator that can make the game work via gyroscope or something.

Vandar
Sep 13, 2007

Isn't That Right, Chairman?





Shine posted:

WarioWare is dope, and my favorite is WW: Twisted for GBA. It had a chunky cartridge with some mercury ball thingy so that you could rotate the GBA like a steering wheel to interact with the games. It's my favorite WW by far and I will be very sad when my cartridge eventually craps out, though I assume there's a phone-based emulator that can make the game work via gyroscope or something.

A friend of mine tried to play WW: Twisted using the Gamecube GBA adaptor.

That went about as well as you can imagine it going.

Shine
Feb 26, 2007

No Muscles For The Majority


Vandar posted:

A friend of mine tried to play WW: Twisted using the Gamecube GBA adaptor.

That went about as well as you can imagine it going.

Ahahahahahahaha that's amazing

Phenotype
Jul 24, 2007

You must defeat Sheng Long to stand a chance.



Sab Sabbington posted:

I hope you enjoy it--the platforming is pretty dated but gets easier once you get a feel for the broader way the movement works and unlock some of the upgrades. I still think the most frustrating part of the game for me--post the nerf to the last level in rereleases--is a tightrope section in the first mental landscape you go through.

What was the nerf to the last level? I played this ages ago with my roommate and I remember giving up in frustration at what was probably the final jump or two of the last level -- you were climbing a circular fence and it felt like you had to jump off and somehow swing around in a U shape to catch the next section of fencing and we just. couldn't. do it. We might have just missed the ACTUAL spot you were supposed to jump to, but after an hour trying and failing I think we ended up just watching the ending on Youtube.

e: Yeah! It was this jump here -- we just COULD NOT get it done. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AioJ3kWTZPw#t=1043s Mad cuz bad I guess.

Phenotype fucked around with this message at 13:18 on Apr 13, 2021

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overeager overeater
Oct 16, 2011

"The cosmonauts were transfixed with wonderment as the sun set - over the Earth - there lucklessly, untethered Comrade Todd on fire."





Phenotype posted:

Mad cuz bad I guess.

That was the exact jump they fixed IIRC

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