Category Archives: Game Discussion

The Wonder of the Witness and the Hazard of Hype

For years, Braid was my favorite game. When I first bent time with little Tim, I was enthralled with the beautiful and distinctly different world Jonathan Blow had created. It made me feel smart and special – the kind of specialsmart you feel when you discover the solution to a really hard problem without any outside help. Some time later, when I played through Braid for the second time, something huge had changed. For sure, it was the same game. But somehow it had transformed in my mind from this cool, exciting, interesting thing to a profoundly life-changing and explosively revelatory experience. No longer merely a game that made me feel specialsmart, its story and puzzles transfixed me as I had only before been transfixed by certain music, books, and movies. Braid branded my mind with a message – something that I had somehow completely missed the first time. There was a lofty idea that was being danced around, prodded at, but never quite directly pointed to in Braid. There was a secret buried deep that would help me find purpose and meaning in my life.

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But like most such intense moments of awe and inspiration, my Braid-fueled motivation was unsustainable. I had swallowed a pill and its effects inevitably wore off. I was left with residual determination and excitement, but I fell back into routine and comfort. The game had disturbed my lifeflow, but for the sake of certainty (and laziness, and fear, and ease of living) I did not make any permanent changes. Of course, that didn’t terminate my love for the game or my interest in Jonathan Blow’s future endeavors. I eagerly anticipated any nugget of information on The Witness throughout its entire development. I read every blog post, listened to every talk, watched every gameplay video. I wanted another injection of inspiration, another pill to swallow. And while my eagerness for the game has left me with one hell of a come-down, I can happily say that The Witness is not just another pill.

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First of all, I should never have followed the production of this game so closely. Doing so made artificial and predictable what would have been a surprising, authentic, and fresh experience. And while the game totally exceeded my expectations, my problem was having so many expectations to begin with. Secondly, there is none of the violent revelation in The Witness that I believed to find so much of in Braid. The Witness is a significantly more mature game in content, design, and tone, and while at some point in the future it may induce that huge moment of insight for me (as it was with Braid,) so far its impact on my mental state has been much gentler. In fact, it seems that Blow very purposefully left out those sort of singular, overwhelming revelations – akin to the exploding princess in Braid – because that type of Big Answer is just not what The Witness is about. Those huge, bright instants are instead replaced with calmer, more hushed moments that offer slow and steady insight into the game’s themes. And while there certainly are moments of epiphany along the way, The Witness focuses on the gradual movement towards a better understanding, rather than some fantastic crescendo ending in an instant of complete clarity.

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Now this lack of a BANG does not mean that The Witness has had no radical impact on my thoughts and emotions. I have been dwelling on this game constantly, even after finishing everything there is to finish (I think). With Braid, I felt like there was some profound secret I was beginning to uncover, something that the poets and discoverers and beauty-seekers know that I needed to understand if I had any true desire to make something beautiful in my life. Braid cracked open my skull and installed an angry desire to dive in and find that which is truly awesome about this toddler of an artform called videogames. But as I’ve said, this dramatic urge was not a sustainable sources of inspiration. Braid burned me out. Comparatively, The Witness is teaching me something new. It’s teaching me something about patience, about accepting the unknown, about stepping away from a problem and coming back with a clear mind. I am learning to focus on the journey, on the moment as it is in the moment, rather than what it may become. I’m discovering that it’s counterproductive to spend so much time and effort trying to yank out some discernible and concrete answer like a fortune from a cookie. I must avoid the phoney certainty of such Big Answers if I value Truth. This is what The Witness is teaching me.

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And one of the most impressive aspects of the game is that this lesson comes through MORE clearly in the gameplay than it does in the audio logs. As you navigate this silent sanctuary of an island, learning its rules and philosophies, you start to notice that what you initially accept as plain and simple fact is actually far more complicated. That ‘fact’ you think you know becomes the one roadblock keeping you from solving the next puzzle. The game teaches the player that we create our own red herrings. The flow of The Witness works in such a way that as you quickly solve a string of easy puzzles, you inevitably pick up on the mechanics. And since you probably solved all those easy puzzles without making any mistakes, you become self-certain that a specific mechanic MUST work the way it did during those easy panels. Now by the time you get stuck on a larger, more complicated puzzle, the rules appear inconsistent. But instead of slowing down and trying to figure out what fundamental flaw in reasoning you’ve made, you repeatedly slam your head against the same puzzle until you give up and ask the Internet, “WHY ISN’T THIS SOLUTION WORKING?” Typically, the answer is simple. You’ve been taking the truth for granted.

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Big picture: The Witness’ mechanics revolve around perspective. In the example above, the head-basher will never be able to move past that harder puzzle until they are able to adjust the way they are looking at the problem. Players who are able to quickly change their points of view, both literally and metaphorically, will undoubtedly find solutions quicker. And beautifully, the same sort of thing can be said for the game’s unconventional ‘narrative’ content. If you’re like a lot of people, you may quickly shrug off the island’s many audio logs as overly-mystical, or overly secular, or just plain pretentious. But if you accept the message of The Witness, let down your guard, and step a little to the left, you may realize you’ve been shrugging off an intimate and personally relevant conversation. After bashing your head against a particularly tricky puzzle for hours, only to come back after a night of sleep and solve it in one try, it’s impossible to ignore the emotional gravity of an audio log that urges you to “stop looking for what you want.”

But all of this about altering your perspective and taking the truth for granted does not merely solve the game for you. Even for those with the most open of minds, The Witness is hard. It calls to its players on a mental and personal level that far exceeds video games as we know them. Thoughts of the panels will invade your waking life as the quotes of famous scientists and philosophers echo in your mind. These two intellectual components work in unison to challenge your logical reasoning and the understanding you have of yourself as a human capable of self-reflection. Rather than assuming the player is dimwitted, as many more popular games have adopted as common practice, The Witness carries on as if the player is actually intelligent. Even the most seasoned sleuther is destined to be stuck at some point or another, overtaken by a fit of head-scratching and self-doubt.

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And while the game’s line-based puzzles reject a more mainstream hand-holding approach, its sophisticated philosophical themes are not dumbed down in handing over chunks of simple narrative as some sort of reward for solving panels. Now I don’t mean that The Witness has no story, but rather the bits and pieces of story you may discover will not be easily formed into a line for your quick consumption. I imagine at some point in the future, people will come up with a theory, much as they did with Braid, that provides some definitive information about the narrative elements spread around the island. But I also imagine that the real Meaning of The Witness, as it was with Braid, will never translate perfectly to written word. And while this is a point of contention for some people (asitwaswithbraid,) I believe that any more classical story elements would feel like an injection of something that doesn’t really belong. A story set out in words would run the real risk of severely detracting from the game’s focus. And though I can’t precisely say what the Witness is about, I can say with a biiiiig smile that it’s not some convoluted mystery about a time travelling island or an allegory for the development of the atomic bomb. The Witness is subtler than that, and even if a distinct “story” of the island is revealed as players investigate with more vigor, I have hope that it will never overtake what The Witness is at heart.

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Among other, less speakable things, The Witness is a statement against the easy path. It urges us to put our preconceptions to the test, to doubt our beliefs and methods, and to sit with a silent mind for a few minutes before engaging the challenges of the day. And though there is a solution to every puzzle on this peaceful, encapsulated area of contemplation, The Witness reminds us that the real questions in life have no quick, digestible, happy answers. Unnerving as this may seem, we are reassured that to settle on an answer as a certainty is to abandon what it means to be an intelligent, lively, inquisitive agent in this world. It’s to settle for mysticism, dull one-liners, and those flashy Braid-like ‘revelations’ that don’t actually lead us anywhere interesting. There are no answers to life’s deep, philosophical questions here. There is just observation, interaction, and consideration.

I climbed into The Witness hoping for that quick, hot injection of life-changing serum that I had gotten when I replayed Braid all those years ago. And due to this expectation, my initial experience with Blow’s new game was unfortunately hollow. But I have learned from my mistakes, and from the lessons housed within The Witness. I will never again fall victim to this type of hype. But despite all the woes of my over-eagerness, The Witness has shown me a new way of looking at the world. I don’t fully understand it yet, and it will be a long time before I actually implement it into my day-to-day thinking, but where Braid shook my world, The Witness is offering me something that I believe to be quite permanent. And I do recognize that I have only just played through this beautiful game for the first time. I have my second experience ahead of me, and like all the best solutions in The Witness, I will let that one come naturally.

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N8 D-B8: Emily is Away and “Volitional Fiction”

So last week I said I was going to play more Ludum Dare 34 jam games… But I’m suuuper burnt out on those liddle diddies, so I’ll come back to them at some distant point in the far post-The Witness future.  Instead, this week marks the first meeting of this little discussion group I’m trying to start. The idea is to come together in classic book club format to chat about ‘games that matter.’  Check out the subreddit here if you’re interested in having some meaningful conversation about some meaningful games!  For our first discussion, we talked about Emily is Away – a short narrative-based game by @KyleSeeley23.

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But rather than talking solely about the game as I normally do, I wanted to turn my focus to an article by Casey Muratori I recently happened upon. In his article, aptly titled Volitional Fiction, he focuses on two terms that are necessary to “…make a game feel like you’re actually playing it, not watching it.” Intention, to Muratori, is exactly what you’re familiar with. In the frame of video games, it is the ability for the player to make a plan or construct a goal, and then take actions in concordance with the known rules of the game universe to attempt to see it through. Perceived consequence, is the reaction the game has to the player’s action. In a very basic sense, I intend to do something in a game knowing the rules it’s presented to me so far (the goomba killed me last time, this time I’ll jump on it) then, after I take action, the game reacts and creates a feeling of push-and-pull (the goomba gets squished.) This push-pull is essentially what Muratori means by ‘play.’ The game throws some shit at me and I react to that shit. Then, if it’s a good game by his standards, I get some feedback, which then informs my future intentions. He says, “The cycle leads to a satisfying feeling of real interaction where the player chooses both what to do and how to do it, and the reaction of the game to their actions doesn’t feel arbitrary.”

This should all seem pretty straight-forward and agreeable. A game feels good and legitimate if the game’s reactions to my input make sense in the simulated world that has presented to me. Quite easily, you can see why this understanding of what makes a ‘good game’ will lead to the conclusion that there is something ‘wrong with current interactive fiction games.’ Going by the standards of intention and perceived consequence, there’s something wrong with games like Dear Esther, The Beginner’s Guide, or Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture by default. In this type of game, there’s no ‘intention’ and no ‘consequence.’ You just walk around and experience things. How can a Good Game™ possibly ignore these fundamental design paradigms??

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So let me wrap this back around to Emily is Away. You take on the role of a teenager at the end of his last year of high school. The entire game is constructed in a simulated AIM window in which you have instant message conversations with your long-time friend Emily. One of the first choices you make is to either go to a party or stay at home. So putting it in our earlier terms, let’s say my intention is to get Emily to fall in love with me. (The game rings loudly with the tone of dating sims, so this is not an unrealistic goal.) So I think, “well if I don’t go to the party, maybe she’ll wish I was there and we’ll have more of a chance later on.” So I choose not go to the party and she winds up dating this other guy and life goes on until later Emily tells me that if I had gone to the party, she would have taken off with me on a romantic escapade. So my action resulted in a consequence that I did not expect, which is fine. That happens. The game world is teaching me its consequences. I simply restart the game and choose to go to the party with her, that way I’ll get my intended result! But that’s not what happens. She just winds up with a different guy. This throws dirt in the face of the ‘perceived consequences’ the game had previously established. Mr. Muratori would hate Emily is Away.

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And it’s not just because the game’s internal logic appears inconsistent that this game would rub him so wrongly. It’s because there’s something inherently non-volitional about narrative-driven games as we currently know them. He says, “These choices are merely single, scripted instances in time, presented to the player without their initiation — the player never makes a plan or decides what to do. They have a situation thrust upon them and are asked to decide which to do.” You can either go to the party or not. You can either invite Emily over to your dorm or not. You can decide between fork A and fork B, but the result is rarely what you intended. Indeed, I am unable to disagree with Muratori here. Fiction by default is NOT push-and-pull in the gamey sense that he’s so invested in. And interactive fiction merely gives the illusion of that push-and-pull. It presents a range of options from which the player can choose (but never bypass) and then sends them down a scripted, static road based on that choice. There is no emergence, no dynamism, no give-and-take. A narrative-based game like Emily is Away can’t be a good game without those integral elements of complex interaction.

What a load of bullll shit.

Again, imagine my intention is to get Emily to fall in love with me.  I therefore interact with the few choices I have based on the world the game has presented me. But I still find that nothing seems to work in respect to achieving my desired outcome. I could go on a tirade and start complaining about true choice and volition in interactive fiction. I could criticize these narrative-driven games because they don’t allow the player to truly assume the role of the main character and don’t actually allow me to make real decisions about what and how I want to do things. But why? Why does the player deserve that much power? Since when has that been how stories (or even most video games) work? Are we supposed to feel so in control when we play through a work of narrative? Is the goal of fiction to give us the impression that it is truly us in the role of the main character? Or is it to communicate something important, to give us a slice out of someone else’s biography, to remind us that it is not just us here with these memories and emotions and experiences? Interactive fiction gives us the ability to assume the role of another, from the intimate first person.  That does not mean all narrative fiction ought to be about ME and MY volition. I don’t want the future of interactive narrative to be more like Façade.

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Emily is Away succeeds as a narrative-driven game because it allows us to explore a relationship in a way that a classical piece of fiction AND a classical volition-heavy game would not be able. It doesn’t use groundbreaking technology to give us the ability to interact at any moment or in any way in order to achieve our intended outcome. It gives us a severely limited range of choices followed by a highly constrained set of responses. But how is that so different from real life? When you were talking to your crush on AIM way back when, did you really have the option to say anything you wanted? Were you really able to bypass the boundaries of social conventions, ignore all historical and personal context, and just tell that person you loved them? And if you were able to do all that, were you ever really able to choose otherwise? All this determinism junk aside, Emily is Away presents a look at how a real relationship works. You don’t actually plan out your every action based on what your goal is. Most of the time the ‘perceived consequence’ is vastly different from the actual consequence. The world is messy and relationships are messy and Emily is Away doesn’t need to give the player more volition just to appease control freaks. The game is short, sweet, and a solid slice of life.

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N8B8: Fallout 4 is bad.

I haven’t made a post on this blog in a little over a month – back right before Fallout 4 came out. The idea I had in my head was to make some sort of silly series on the game, detailing my experience in short blog-snippets. I would do a goofy run through with a melee-only character and update N8R8 every time something particularly funny or otherwise noteworthy would happen, or maybe I’d just give the game my time, consideration, and care and write a thorough review. But now that I’m sitting at thirty hours of gameplay and zero blog entries, I’ve decided to give up on both.  I will not make a happy-go-lucky series in which a nudist with iron fists scours the wasteland in search of his adult son and I will not write a review for this game. Instead, I’m just going to ramble and sputter vague complaints and give Fallout 4 a N8R8 of N/A because I don’t think it’s wise to try to rank a monstrous AAA game like this in the same way I rank the games I actually care about.

I hopped into Fallout 4 riding on everyone else’s enthusiasm even though I had none of my own. I stupidly thought I needed to be in the same boat as everyone else. I wanted to have some content ready on a bi-weekly basis so I could get people to read N8R8, right in the midst of the F4 explosion. I ignored my gut reaction after watching the trailer, reading the details, and watching the gameplay. I told myself, “hey it’s a huge Bethesda game. It’s going to be a good time no matter what.”

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But I was wrong. I spent thirty hours playing this game, and while i can’t say I wasn’t entertained, the quality of entertainment was pitiable. I felt stupid as I played this game, somehow detached and shut-off from the world of video games I care so much about. I trudged through the trope-infused story, played a few dozen repetitive side quests, crafted, modded, and built up a clunky settlement or two… all with this easy, vapid smirk across my face.

Fallout 4 offered nothing challenging in terms of gameplay or narration. It confronted none of my expectations about what a ‘typical’ Bethesda game consists of. If anything, it reinforced how I’ve felt about their games since my time spent with Skyrim. This is not a good RPG. This is not a good adventure game. This is not a good FPS. This is not a good exploration game. Fallout 4 is a purely mediocre mish-mash of game mechanics that belong to all of those ‘genres.’ It aims to please the everygamer, and so fails to accurately please the fans of any one camp, or even those who would say they’re a fan of every camp. The game’s scope is too wide. A fundamental layer of depth that existed in previous Bethesda titles has been getting slowly sliced away since the last generation of consoles.

Or maybe that’s the wrong analogy. Maybe a more accurate picture of what’s going on here is that of Frankenstein’s monster.  Bethesda thinks that by conjoining all the best parts of all the most popular types of games, a good game is guaranteed. The fact is that we’re presented with a chunky, clunky, buggy mess of nothing in particular. It’s not an adventure game. Or an RPG. Or a crafting game, exploring game, or a shooter (OK well maybe it’s that, at least). It’s a Bethesda game. And it’s got all the birthmarks, blemishes, scars, and handicaps that Bethesda games are so known for. In their movement toward creating games for the ‘modern gamer’ (AKA the everygamer and everyone in his immediate family) we wind up missing something genuine and serious. In place of a a feeling of uniqueness, the games have grown more accessible, more homogeneous, and more entertaining.

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And that’s a weird thing to say. How could a ‘more entertaining’ game possibly be anything but positive? And I guess the answer lies in the true question, which is, ‘entertaining to which audience?’

Compare what I’m talking about to TV. It’s all entertainment. But the quality of entertainment is intrinsically dependent on who is doing the watching and critiquing. To many, Family Guy is quality entertainment. To others, The Big Bang Theory is quality entertainment. I don’t mean to say anything about the people who like Family Guy, or The Big Bang Theory, or Fallout 4. But I can’t help but consume those sources of entertainment and feel worse because of them.

So that’s why I haven’t posted, I think.  The whole time I played Fallout 4, I was trying to figure out how I could turn that mediocre experience into something that people would want to read. Rather than looking critically at the shitty time I was having, I just kept on playing, clearing dungeon after dungeon and skipping every shitty dialogue scene I could. I was being entertained, but in that mind-numbing, life-sucking way. That same way your uncle is entertained by Fox’s 24-hour news cycle and reruns of 7th heaven.

So the next time I encounter a piece of entertainment that gives me that rotten feeling in my stomach, that feeling of wasted life, I’m going to make sure I don’t sink thirty hours of my real-life time mucking around with my stupid companions in my trash-hole of a settlement. There are better games, made by more genuine groups of people. Those are the games that deserved to be played and praised.

 

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N8B8: 8 Nuggets of Undertale Beauty

N8 R8S 8: Charmingest Scenes from the charmingest game of the year 2015 Undertale.


1/8. This riverboat that’s also a cat dog

We should all travel by cat dog.  Greenhouse gasses wouldn’t know what hit ’em

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2/8. CAMERAS EVERYWHERE

What is Alphys even doing with all that footage?

Cameras hidden in objects all over Snowdin

3/8. Sexually Repressed Guards

You can avoid fighting these guys by rubbing one guard’s armor until he gets too hot and has to take it off, revealing his sweaty, beefy torso. This triggers his partner to confess his true feelings, so they stop fighting and go on a date.  UNDERTALE: pushing the LBGT agenda since 2015.Two guards. One shirtless. Bobbing in Unison

4/8. Burgerpants, the insightful spazzy cat

Having the same insight as me in my college years

I'm 19 years old and I've already wasted my entire life.

5/8. Nightcrawlers – solo style

You can bedbug around like it ain’t no thang.  I wish .gifs could have sound :[

Bed bug

6/8. Hotland Outsourcing its cooling jobs to Snowdin

Knowing this ice cube has traversed miles of river, just to cool off the core fills you with DETERMINATION.

Ice wolf chucks ice cube into waterice cube cools the core

7/8. This self-defeating janitor

Looks busy…

Slime janitor cleans his own goop

8/8. The most comforting ghost

Right in the middle of the least comforting area of the game, no less.

Ghost tucks in lil Frisk


THIS GARBAGE UNDERTALE CRAPBAIT ARTICLE IS BROUGHT TO YOU BY N8

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ON N8S PL8

I picked up the Humble Indie Bundle (Number 15) for two particular side-dishes:

The first: Q.U.B.E.

QUBE is what I’d imagine 2001: a Space Odyssey would look like if Kubrick made video games and if those games were for stupid people. The puzzles in this game are SERIOUSLY easy and the narrative is so stale I can still feel the rock-hard bits of story in my teeth. Over an intercom, a lady-representative from mission control talks to you about literally nothing useful or important or even vaguely interesting. Occasionally, her orbit takes her conveniently out of signal range (Save a little cash on voice acting fees!) leaving you to solve clunky puzzles that are only difficult when the broken physics get in the way of the one possible solution. Each time she comes back around, she blathers on about amnesia and your former life and saving the planet and a whole bunch of junk you are quite incapable of caring about due to the convoluted logic and well-worn trajectory the story takes. But the environments are pretty cool looking with those very basic soft white cubes and primary colors, not that it takes much effort to get a nice looking environment using the most rudimentary shapes and colors, but hey. I have to find something positive about this trip.

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The second: Sir You Are Being Hunted

Sir You Are Being Hunted is like kinda like a first person Don’t Starve with a lot less detail and polish. What I can say about this game is that the tracks have been laid for an authentic, thrilling, and engrossing survival experience. Considering multiplayer has just come out and the fact that this experience is actually pretty solid despite being an indie title, this game’s future chock-full of promise. What you’ve got right now, though, is a pretty boring world in which you collect rocks and food and get nice and spooked by all those creepy robots. I found my heart racing more than once as I was tracked down, but I didn’t feel compelled to survive just so I could say “I win!”, so the experience had a bit of a dull edge. The best aspect of this game is the feeling that you have to move around, even though it makes you extremely vulnerable. Your instincts tell you to stay put, but you know you need to move around for food, weapons, and to feed that overpowering hunger for exploration. I really hope this game grows beyond this point, especially visually, because I have not been so scared of robots since those stupid animatronic bears and rabbits.

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Some others:

Undertale

I spent several hours of my gaming time the last few weeks finishing this game. You can read my review for it heeere.


The Beginner’s Guide

I finished The Beginner’s Guide just the other day and I have not been able to stop thinking about it. In my mind, this is a perfect example of “games as art.” Davey Wreden does a wonderful job of providing his personal commentary on the enigmatic games of “Coda,” and when I say that I mean it exactly as that. This game is highly personal. Wreden does a wonderful job of framing these little abstract games inside his narration, which is deeply intertwined with the experience as a whole. There are some serious flaws with his opinions and his reliability as a narrator is highly suspect, but to suggest Wreden was not aware of these problems ignores some of the brightest parts of the game. I will be writing more about this game.

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N8B8: Rocket League Rage

OK so obviously, everyone with a PC, PS4, or Xbox One loves Rocket League.  Twitter, Reddit, Twitch and YouTube are all buzzing about the amazing game of Car Soccer.  Psyonix has produced a fantastic sports/action/racing/battle game and it is not going anywhere – at least not for a while. But all this hype is a starry-eyed front for the aneurysm-inducing reality that is ranked play. This game is designed to make its players hate – pure and simple. If you haven’t gotten your fix of that fast-paced, knuckle-whitening, adrenaline-pumping, ball-thumping in the last hour or so, you might not be salty enough for this article… So before reading on, go get stomped on a few times to get your rage spiking. Then come on back.

N8’s here to break his controller for you.

Here’s 8 Rocket League reasons to put a hole in your drywall, TV screen, or loved one.


1/8. Botched kickoffs

That ball you hit dead on?

Apparently you just brushed it lightly and you’re now spinning out of control in the wrong direction.
Also, your opponent is just fine and walking it into your goal.

botch kickoff

2/8. Sucking at Aerials

There it is… That floater in the sky, hanging there, big as the moon. “You can do it,” you mumble to yourself through Cheetos-stained lips, “It isn’t even that high.” Yeah. This is the one. You’ve got it all lined up. Aaaaand…
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Whiffff

3/8. Completely fucking yourself

Nice hit! The ball is heading toward the goal and no one is there to stop it!

Except you, of course. You panic and try to hit it harder and completely botch what was a guaranteed goal.
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4/8. Paint job trolls

There’s always that one asshole. The one with the red secondary color on blue and vice versa for red.  And of course he’s sporting that ridiculous camo flag to go along with it. Suddenly, everyone is on the same team!

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5/8. Tilting

It’s always the same. First, you lose a few. You’re a little agitated but you’ve got it in your mind that the next game will go in your favor.  Next, you are cursing at yourself. You try foolishly, desperately to figure out what you’re doing wrong and how to fix it.  Finally, drunk on self-loathing and hatred for all life, you’re left to wallow in your own filth. That horrible, ugly color… 

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6/8. Replays in 1v1

It’s overtime and $wagChamp69 scores on you from the kick-off. The game mockingly tells you “PRESS A TO SKIP” like you didn’t fuckin’ know that.  But of course, good ol’ $wagChamp wants it to sting.  Those 5 seconds of your life are his. Now watch your failure again.

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7/8. Matching up against the Three Amigos

When you’re just queuing into some 3v3 for funsies and you see those stylishly matching names, like “Power,” “Wisdom,” and “Courage.”  Or “Trotsky,” “Lenin,” and “Stalin.” Or “Rosemary” and “Thyme.” In any case, chances are high you and your inbred teammate are getting stomped.

Capture

8/8. Kickoff Etiquette Don’t Real

When your entire team just rushes the ball like feral dogs at a babushka’s dropped bag of groceries.

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Bashing his head against his TV, N8 is with you in that familiar, comfortable, toddler-like tantrum spirit.  Don’t break anything you’ll miss!

‘Til next time!

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N8B8: Items on the Chopping Block for the FF7 Remake

Like a crazed cosmetic surgeon with a thirst for the blood of your childhood memories, Square Enix will be tearing off the face of your beloved Final Fantasy 7, stomping it into the dirt, and slapping on a new one – all shiny and plastic. Seriously. Unlike Square Enix, the game company that first brought you our much-loved ‘spiky-headed jerk’, Square Enix will completely botch this remake, stripping away every instance of light-heartedness, passion, and charm to leave us with a pile of indiscernible, modern gaming goop. Aaaand exhale…

Let me actually begin by saying that I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiments of Matt Peckham in his article on Wired. It is challenging to look so far into the past and consider the affection we have for our nostalgic relics as anything but good, wholesome memories. It’s counter-intuitive, in a way, to criticize the things we love and hold dear. If fond memories bring us happiness, how could they be anything but beneficial? But instead of looking at this upcoming remake as a pure reincarnation, we should accept that maybe there is some value in putting certain items under the knife. Considering it’s pretty much a guarantee that the remake will not just be a graphical overhaul (as explained in a translation of Nomura’s comments in this Kotaku article,) we had better become comfortable with some pretty big modifications to gameplay and story. But rather than freaking out and poisoning the well so that we won’t be able to enjoy whatever this remake does wind up being, let’s take the trailer’s final words to heart. “The reunion at hand may bring joy, it may bring fear, but let us embrace whatever it brings.”

And so… I am excited for this remake. I am ready to embrace whatever this reunion may bring. But I’ll be GODDAMNED if you put your hands on my chocobos.

Here’s 8 things I’d actually have a paragraph 1-style hissy fit over if removed from the FF7 remake.


1/8. Wall MarketWall_market_south

Now – Nomura has already told us to look forward to cloud in a dress and the Honey Bee Inn and Square Enix will obviously not be deleting the first 5 hours of gameplay from their remake, so maybe I should clarify. In all it’s neon glory – Wall Market is an intricate and living space in my mind. It’s a wonderful, sad, and somehow realistic place in a funny, cartoonish sense. The people are down-trodden, alcoholic, mentally unstable, gruff, and perverse. Don Corneo and his mansion form the perfect finale for the materialism and depravity on display all throughout the town. While a certain amount of nuance and sensitivity would be a much-welcomed change to this segment, N8 would H8 to see it heavily altered due to the opinions of focus groups or the forces of political correctness.

2/8. Eco-terrorism

The idea that the first two hours of FF7 could somehow be rebranded as something other-than eco-terrorism makes me very uncomfortable. There is no confusion in the original as to what the player is engaging in early in the game. The members of AVALANCHE are dedicated to performing acts of destruction in order to stop Shinra’s consumption of Mako energy – and they know their actions are killing others. Jesse addresses this with, “Because of our actions many people died. This is probably our punishment…” The parallels to the energy industry and eco-terrorists in the real world are indisputable. In a world where ‘terrorism’ is a manufactured synonym for evil, it’s not hard to imagine the FF7 remake losing this term in fear of backlash. The prospect of glorifying ‘terrorists’ is potentially too risky for a huge company like Square Enix. But to lose this framing would be to lose one of the most vibrant and direct political messages housed in any Final Fantasy game.

Explosion

3/8. A truly open world map.

One of the things FF7 does better than any other 3D FF game is its world map. The progressive expansion of freedom in relation to your party’s transportation options is such a great way of building a feeling of growth. As soon as you leave Midgar, you’re on foot. You upgrade to a crummy little chocobo, then a buggy, then the Tiny Bronco, until you finally get the Highwind; each with a little boost in maneuverability or speed or usefulness. There is a wonderful feeling of undiscovered potential as you continue to learn the little secrets the overworld houses. New chocobos allow you to explore islands and mountains and the submarine brings you to all that’s hidden underwater. It’s a wonderful thing to imagine a humongous overworld with great swathes of plain, mountain, and sea in all the glory of modern HD. It’d be a shame to revert to the open-ish world map style of of FF12 or 13.

world map

4/8. Minigames

So, here’s the thing… At least half of the minigames from FF7 were complete garbage. The excavation minigame in Bone Village was heavily based on guesstimation, the CPR minigame in Junon you literally couldn’t lose, and the Great Glacier cliff minigame had you button mashing to climb a mountain and stave off hypothermia. Not to mention a serious majority of the Gold Saucer minigames were just terrible (arm wrestling, basketball, rock-paper-scissors…) But in remembrance – even the atrocious minigames added so much charm. The idea of playing through this remake without the optional Fort Condor tower defense game, the snowboarding, the chocobo racing and breeding, the motorcycling, and the roller coaster shooting just feels so empty. I’d love to see these (or other) minigames return, all polished and smoothed-out with our modern day graphics and design.

Speed

5/8. Date night!

I want to be able to go on a date with Barrett. That is all.

His name is Barrett Wallace

6/8. Weird enemies

Not that Final Fantasy has ever really ‘dulled-down’ their enemy roster, so to speak, but it certainly would be a shame to miss out on some of the classic weirdos like… Icicle! And Hell House! And Swingy-guillotine guy called Ghirofelgo… And that orange ball that gave you a stupid amount of AP for killing it… And a warning sign…?

enemies

Goofy stuff like this is desperately needed in the mainstream world of cut-and-paste RPGs and blockbusters.

7/8. General campyness

If, as Tetsuya Nomura has said in his interview with Engadget, “jumping forward to attack an enemy, then jumping back to wait for their next turn” will be too “bizarre” for the remake, then it is truly hard to imagine the whole ‘Jumping with Mr. Dolphin’ scene. I can very easily see this type of gimmicky, janky-looking extraneous stuff being tossed out the window without a second question. And this is a shame, considering the campy feeling of these segments always felt like a big reason FF7 has such a huge cult following. I’m sure we’ll miss Hojo on the beach, Palmer mooning us and getting hit by a truck, and the slap-fight between Tifa and Scarlet.

tifa

8/8. Bizarre and creepy scenes

It would be impossible to bring the weird sound effects, low-poly graphical manipulations, and cheesey text boxes that FF7 is known for into the remake.  That being said, there are scenes that are so weird, creepy, and bizarre that would look so good in the remake. The segment inside of Cloud’s mind, for example contains a number of unsettling moments. Tifa spinning around in a black abyss, as one example…

mLZpBz

The thought of that inexplicable drip-drop noise still gives me chills, as does the ghost of Aeris in the slums church.

vOeN7p


So – again – I am looking forward to this remake with all the optimism and open-mindedness as a man-child can.  I do not think the remake will be bad. I also don’t think the remake will be the game I have known and loved for the past two decades. But that’s fine. That’s how it should be. There is no reason to tamper with something that is already so beloved. Square Enix is going in the right direction with heavy changes, because this should be thought of as a new game – a true remake- not just a rehash.

-N8

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