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New Youtube Series 2 - Free Indie Games

Posted by Josh Griffiths on May 7, 2014 at 4:50 PM Comments comments (0)

Yes that's right, I have another new series on Youtube, the second of three. This one I take a look at free indie games (who would have guessed?) online. I'm not looking at a specific timeframe, its not retro and its not current. Its... whenver the game's were released. Everything from from RPG's, to visual novels, to shooters, you name it.

The first game up is an interactive novel called Fallen London.

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War Trash Sequel Development - Day 1

Posted by Josh Griffiths on May 3, 2014 at 5:25 AM Comments comments (0)

I've started work on War Trash's sequel now. Finally. I'm not saying its name yet because I want a grand, dramatic reveal later on. Needless to say its as silly as "War Trash".

As you can see I haven't got much done. In three hours I've set up two factions, created two characters, and started the shell of a new interior. I'm pretty slow when it comes to creating interiors, I like to include a lot of details.

I won't do updates everyday, just whenever I get something big done. I'll show you an image of what this interior looks like when its done. It'll probably take two weeks, as its a big area with multiple floors. This brings back memories.

War Trash Post-mortem

Posted by Josh Griffiths on April 27, 2014 at 7:05 PM Comments comments (0)

Welcome to the War Trash post-mortem blog. What’s the point of this, you ask? Well, I don’t know. Maybe it’s me wanting to show off, maybe it’s me wanting to point to some of the shortcomings and showing that I’m really a lot better at this than you think. Hell, maybe it’s because I’m riding the coattails of my biggest success.


Regardless, let’s get this show going shall we?


Let’s start with War Trash’s biggest problem. The plot sucked. There were some good elements, but I think ultimately it felt a little discombobulated. The group trusted you too easily, the "prove yourself by poisoning the water" seems silly in retrospect, the ending was rushed, and you never really feel like a part of War Trash.


That being said, I think it’s the characters where War Trash shines. Everyone had their own unique personality and backstory. It was important for me to cast Zombie and Octavius in an understanding light. I’ve never been a fan of the mustache twirling supervillain whose sole purpose is to give the audience someone to hate. It’s just as important to make the audience feel sympathy for the villains as it is the heroes.


That being said, the Brooklyn “let me tell you my story” thing was pretty forced.


A big part of making the character believable was the voice acting. I truly believe War Trash is the best acted mod out there. Stig Sydtangen was perfectly psychotic and sympathetic as Zombie, Chris20855pulled off a dark Octavius without being too overbearing, and Kristyn Mass pulled off the perfect balance between funny/charming and haunted/bitter.


What about myself as Edmond, Ian Black,and Zala? I wasn’t as good as those three, but for someone with literally no experience or training, I think I did a really good job. I don’t mean to sound arrogant, although I know that’s exactly how I sound. I will admit to a bit of a mumbling problem as Edmond. Well, maybe more than ‘a bit’, quite bad you could say.


I’d also like to address criticism of Julie Farkas, Mya, and Mrs. Black. Those characters are voiced by my sister, someone who is not a voice actor by any stretch of the imagination. I was having trouble finding a good female voice actor on the Nexus, and I was running out of time.


Speaking of Julie Farkas, remember that giant fire that you were spawned in front of after talking to Octavius? That was supposed to be the bodies of everyone you killed in the fort, but for some reason, I couldn’t get the bodies to spawn. They appeared in the GECK, they appeared the first time I play-tested, but after that, I could never bring them back.


When I originally planned the mod, i twas going to be much bigger. There was a quest where you talked to secondary characters within War Trash. There were also parts where you had to rob the Atomic Wrangler, interact with an undercover NCR agent, a part where you hadthe chance to save Ian, and believe it or not a section where you actually got to dig up clues about War Trash. You know, the whole reason as to why you were sent undercover in the first place.


I ended up cutting a lot for several different reasons. It took about six months to make the mod as it is, most of that time being spent learning how to use the GECK. I was having a hard time learning how to use the GECK, and I didn’t want to be there for another two or three months including everything. Some stuff just had to go or War Trash probably never would have seen the light of day.


My favorite thing I cut was a mini-game taking place after you robbed Mick & Ralphs and the Followers. You were togo back to Vault 50, and Zombie and Brooklyn had a party planned, hence why Zombie talked about a party when you got back to him.


One of the things at the party was a little mini-game where you and another member of War Trash had a drug battle, in which you both had to take everything from Jet, Ultra-Jet, Psycho, Steady, etc and try to outlast the other. After going through the supply of drugs, you'd finally be given Abraxo Cleaner to inject directly into your veins. You had a choice of taking it or not, and if you did you'd win but pass out and Bobby would die from it. If you didn't people lost respect in you.


You can imagine why this was cut. Not because I was afraid of portraying drug use, but because I simply didn't know how to execute the idea. You would have had to constantly go in your inventory ,find the drug you were given, use it, then be given another drug just to do itall over again. It was just one of those ideas that’s great in theory, but not in practice.


That’s my rambling for the day. Let’sfinish this up with a bullet point list, shall we? This is a list of things I learned from War Trash.

·     Beta testing is vital. Give your mod to other people before releasing it.

·     No matter what you do, there WILL be bugs, and they WILL make it into the release.

·     Being ambitious absolutely pays off.

·     Writing for a nameless, faceless, voiceless, brick wall of a player character is hard.

·     As a writer, hearing other people act out your script for the first time is the greatest feeling ever.

·     You don’t have to make everysingle NPC individually. I’m an idiot.


I’m glad you all enjoyed the mod, I’m glad Alchestbreach enjoyed it, and I’m glad it’s all finally over frankly. That video showcasing the cancelled graveyard worldspace is coming this week by the way. Now, on to finally starting work on the sequel.

New Youtube Series 1 - Forgotten History

Posted by Josh Griffiths on April 23, 2014 at 8:50 AM Comments comments (0)

As the title suggests, and as I not so subtly hinted at in the last blog, I got a few video series in the works. One of them is already out, and its a series called Forgotten History.

Its about, you guessed it, Forgotten History. I decided to go for an old school tone, like a traditional documentary. I've also got a VHS type opening that I absolutely love.

Anyway, here's the first episode. I do hope you enjoy.

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An Update on War Trash and its Sequel

Posted by Josh Griffiths on April 18, 2014 at 11:55 PM Comments comments (0)

It’s certainly been awhile, hasn’t it? I can’t believe I first posted War Trash on February 28th. It still feels like yesterday. Actually, the funny thing is I was going to launch it the day before. I went over to my sister’s apartment for a launch party but we lost the internet connection just as I was about to publish it. The party wasn’t even any good. I was half drunk and playing Trivial Pursuit while watching Ashens videos.


But enough of me rambling, I wanted to give an update on War Trash’s updates, and a status report of its sequel.


War Trash’s update status: War Trash is done, everyone. I know there are still a few bugs, but I just can’t do this anymore. I’m tired of banging my head against a brick wall, I’m tired of fixing one bug only to create two more, and I’m just tired of looking at it. If I kept going until War Trash was totally bug free, I couldn’t work on my other projects. I’d certainly be dead by the end of it.


Is it as polished as I wish it were? Of course not, but frankly, I just don’t care anymore. That may seem callus, that may seem like a slap in the face to my fans, but I don’t mean it to be.


As someone who considers themselves a writer first and foremost, War Trash is the by far the best thing I’ve ever done. It’s certainly attracted the most attention than anything I’ve done before. I appreciate everyone who’s downloaded the mod, and I love all of my fans, I really do. I’m sorry if me no longer care about my work hurts you, but that’s just how it is. I don’t mean to offend, I’m just tired.


Development of the sequel: If I’m so tired does that mean there isn’t going to be a sequel? No. To be even more honest, I hate the GECK. I hate how glitchy it is, I hate how broken it is, I hate how I have to download a million mods and patches from third party sites to get it to work decently. You may have noticed I named one of my characters in War Trash “Geck Blows”. That was real subtle, wasn’t it?


I’m bringing up the GECK because an… interesting thing happened recently. I’ve finished the script about a month ago. I started working in the GECK not long after that. I like to build all my new environments first before I do anything else.


I spent 3 whole weeks creating a new, huge worldspace for the mod. It was a big open graveyard in which the final battle would be fought at the end of the mod. After three weeks, it was more or less done. The navmesh was in, the world was full of buildings and interesting easter eggs. Then, the day after I finish it, guess what happened. I tried to open up the worldspace in the GECK, and it crashed. Every single time I tried to open up the worldspace, GECK crashes. I don’t know how to fix it because I can’t open the worldspace to even see what the problem is.

I’ll put up a video later (i.e. when I can be bothered) walking you through this graveyard and going into greater detail about what happened. Don’t worry this isn’t a spoiler because I have since re-written the script.


Sequel details: I like to keep things quiet, but I figured I’d give you guys a few morsels. Ever since I had to scrap all my work, I haven’t started over yet.


I’m bringing back some of the characters. We’ll certain see Graham Edmond (but not his mumbling, I promise). Graham is going to have a larger role this time around, so I hope you like the sound of my voice. Brooklyn will be back as well. Also, don’t be surprised if you see all the other voice actors back as well, and a few new ones.


When can you expect to see it? I don’t know, frankly. I’m a college student, and due to a series of events that were entirely out my control, I missed the last two semesters, so I’ve had plenty of time to work on my various projects. Fortunately for me, but no so much for you, I’m going back starting in June. I’ll be in classes non-stop from June to December. That means I’ve got about a month and a half to do as much work as I can.


I’m hoping it’ll be out by October, but don’t hold your breath.


Other projects: I’ve mentioned I’ve got a few other projects in the pipeline. I’ve got two Youtube series coming out soon, a separate video game that I’m excited about, and a novel all in the works. If you want to see my first novel, well it’s online for free! Go look under the "My Works" tab on this site. I was going to give you a direct link, but is crap and shat all over the last paragraph. Shame, I had a funny ending to this post but that's ruined now. Have some of me whining instead.

Stealing Candy from Someone Who's Earned It

Posted by Josh Griffiths on February 18, 2014 at 9:45 AM Comments comments (0)

Unless you’ve locked yourself in a candy store and have been too busy eating [unbranded generic candy!], you’ve probably heard the latest facepalm inducing bit of news. That metaphor incidentally being exactly what King is doing; grabbing all the candy it can find and shoveling it in its face and getting fat.


King, the developer/publisher responsible for the seizure inducing Candy Crush Saga, have filed a trademark on the word ‘Candy’, and are now suing any developer who dare use the word in its title. They’re also consulting top experts to see if it’s at all feasible to sue actor/comedian John Candy from beyond the grave.


Realizing that a few handful people may have a problem with a large company somehow being able to seize legal control of a common word in the English vernacular, King has stepped forward and issued a statement.


"We have trademarked the word 'Candy' in the EU, as our IP is constantly beinginfringed and we have to enforce our rights and to protect our players from confusion. We don't enforce against all uses of 'Candy' - some are legitimate and of course, we would not ask App developers who use the term legitimately tostop doing so."


Essentially they’re saying they just want to protect their customers from confusion. See, they just don’t want poor little Timmy to buy Candy Smash Adventure because it’s not their product, and any product that’s not their own should not be purchased.


Yes, it’s easy to say that this is aform of monopolization, and to an extent it is, but that’s only the beginning.They’re so worried about poor little Timmy being confused about the spurious use of ‘Candy’, they’ve decided to sue the makers of The Banner Saga, a newly released indie Viking turned based strategy game funded through Kickstarter,i.e. it’s nothing like Candy Crush Saga in anyway.


“Wait a minute,” you say reading overthat last line again, “they didn’t use ‘Candy’ anywhere in the title”. Yes, you are correct. For in fact they’re suing over the use of the word ‘Saga’ in this case. King has gone from owning the word ‘Candy’ to now trying to own ‘Saga’and quite possibly ‘the’ as well.


In response, Stoic Studio, the company behind The Banner Saga, issued this statement.


"Two years ago, the three of us at Stoic set out to make an epic Viking game: The Banner Saga. We did, and people loved it, so we're making another one. We won't make a Viking saga without the word 'saga,' and we don't appreciate anyone telling us we can't. claims they're not attempting to prevent us from using The Banner Saga, and yet their legal opposition to our trademark filing remains.”


Daring to name their story about a Viking saga The Banner Saga, has landed Stoic in legal trouble.

The real question is, to what end are King doing this? They hold no case in a court of law. Even if Stoic did changethe name to something else that doesn’t affect King any. They have nothing to gain from this from any angle. Unless this is just a warning shot at other companies, which even then it doesn’t accomplish much.


Perhaps it’s because King have other games that use the name ‘Saga’ like the aforementioned Candy Crush Saga as wellas Bubble Witch Saga, Pet Rescue Saga, and Farm Heroes Saga. So instead of suing over the title itself, they have a problem with another company sampling from their stunning innovation.


It’s no secret that the cash cow of mobile gaming has seen a bit of a fall in recent years, as the game of “copy whatever’s popular a million times” is losing its charm. Even smaller games and“casual” games seem to be centralizing around the PC as of late.


This was all brought to a head when Zynga, the former giant of mobile and social gaming took a massive hit in sales over the last year and a half. In 2012, Zynga’s gaming network had over 300 million registered users, and by June of the following year that number had plummeted to 186 million. Like all other flat-lining game studios they’ve closed offices, fired employees, shut down services, and declared war on itsuser’s in a desperation fueled prayer that ruining as many lives as possible and restricting the end user will somehow save them.


What King is doing is wrong ethically, and it’s wrong for their business. But they themselves are not entirely to blame. They’re simply taking advantage of a thoroughly broken copyright system that plagues most of the modernworld. The fact that someone can legally trademark a single, commonly used word such as ‘candy’ is enough to back that up, but that’s only the tip of the piss-pipe that is aimed squarely at the consumer. Because unlike wealth, greed alway strickles down.


The laws are written differently in each country, but as a collective whole they’re fundamentally the same. Companies can legally claim ownership over movies, video games, and music of course, butthey can also claim things like celebrity’s appearances, the image of thecelebrity itself, names, titles, and individual words as is the case with King.


Under the copyright laws there is athing called "Fair Use". Fair Use allows others to use copyrighted material to educate, research, critique, report news, or parody without needing permission from the copyright holders. It’s debatable if the system ever really worked in the first place, but when this tiny thing called the internet came around it changed everything.


In a world where anything and everything can be shared digitally with someone on the other side of the globe in the blink of an eye, the existing copyright laws have created a black hole that is rapidly turning into the old American Wild West. As more and more things are being created and shared, the big media companies are being pulled in every direction. Fair Use is being exercised more than ever, and since there’s such awealth of entertainment options the big media companies are losing customers.


So for them, it’s easy to put two and two together and assume that, for example, “Minecraft Style” is costing “GangamStyle” views, and in turn money. Is someone who watched Minecraft Style going to refuse to watch Gangam Style afterwards? Of course not. One could argue the video is skirting the rules of what Fair Use is, but it could just as easily be argued that the video has given the Gangam Style video free advertising and has given it more views. Alas, Universal Studios and Sony (those who own the rightsto the Gangam Style video, song, novelty hats, and silver sparkly suits)disagreed and had it taken down. Twice.


We in the gaming community are seeing this tidal wave of desperation and money grabbing first hand with Let’s Player’s on Youtube. For those not in the know, “Let’s Player’s” are those who play video games (usually from start to finish) and commentate over thegameplay. The practice has been growing in popularity in the last few years,giving rise to people like Nerd Cubed and Pewdiepie, both of whom have beenable to make their living solely off Youtube.


But with the popularity comes the developers and publishers who want a piece of the pie. The latest wave of Youtube changes come with takedown notices and copyright claims against thesepeople. Publishers are arguing that they’re putting the game on the internet invideo form and are costing sales. There’s even the famous incident of copyright notices being issued against Notch for using footage from his own game. The Youtube issue is an intricate one, and while new to gamers, it’s something that movie reviewers and musicians have been fighting with for years.


All of this ties back to what King is doing right now. While King is in the wrong, the fact is they’re only taking advantage of a law that is outdated. The real culprit is the copyright laws that have no grounding in age of the internet, and too many people are focusing on the companies that take advantage of these laws instead of the law itself.


This is an issue that goes beyond King, goes beyond video games even. With any luck this will become the internet’s next SOPA/PIPA, a universal problem that the whole of the internet can rall ybehind and fight against. Or it’ll be like the NSA and everyone will just whine but not actually do anything about it.


2013: A Year of Changes?

Posted by Josh Griffiths on February 1, 2013 at 12:15 AM Comments comments (0)

I hope you all enjoyed the holiday season, I know I did. I spent the whole time lying around eating twice my body weight in chocolates and playing Madden 2005. I’d say the obligatory “obligatory holiday break joke” joke now but seeing as how that’s more fact than fiction and I now resemble Honey Boo Boo’s monstrosity of a mother, I’m going to pass.

But as another year passes the same issues of the previous 365 days are still hanging around like your lazy neighbors Christmas lights. The year of 2012 was less about the games themselves, but rather the issues that faced the gaming industry as a whole: the rise of Kickstarter and indie games, women and minorities taking a stand, a greater emphasis on gaming narrative, and the growing stagnation of our games. Now there’s the rash of theso called “mini-consoles”. What started as the biggest Kickstarter every in the Ouya, has now turned into an amalgamation of mini-consoles, all of which promising the end of the traditional console.

Without any of these issues resolved, or new possibilities fully explored in the previous year, it seems 2013 will be amelting pot of change and growth for the industry. Oh, and did I mention the possibility of the PS4 and Xbox 720 being officially announced this year?

Increased Awareness of Women

For years now the industry standard for women in games has been to either make the prance around half naked for the enjoyment ofteenage boys, or to be some object that needs rescuing by the man. Super MarioBros. is considered to be the first game with a story, and all that’s about is saving a woman from a monster. It’s sad to think we haven’t come very far since1985.

But just last year something happened. Women startedto take a stand, not only against the portrayal of women in our games, but also against how women were treated in the industry itself. From Anita Sarkeesian Tropes vs. Women in Video Games and theunabashed sexism surround the project itself, to the #1ReasonWhy Twitter campaign that opened the floodgates to female horror stories, 2012 was the year women took a stand.

But what does that mean for 2013? Is anything reallygoing to change? Is simply being aware of a problem going to change anything?


Pandora’s Box has been opened, and the rumblings aren’t going to go away anytime soon. But if the arguments on (or indeed evenhaving the need to argue about) homosexuality and Islam in America shows usanything, it’s that social change doesn’t happen quickly. It’s a slow and gradual process, and those seeking equality can’t back down and keep quiet.


Of course, then there’s Japan…


Emphasis on Narrative

With Spec Ops:The Line, The Walking Dead, and even Far Cry 3 to a lesser extentshow that gamers want great narrative in their games. I truly believe the daysof the aforementioned “Girl Kidnap-You Rescue” and “There Bad Guys-You Kill”are now over, although someone should tell that to Nintendo fanboys. Speakingof Nintendo, even the massive failure of Metorid:Other M proved gamers are tired of the sludge we’re so often force fed.


Those games also show us something else. A game shouldn’t just have a great story, but it should have a great video game story. I love me some Metal Gear Solid, but I now realize thatit is just a ten hour movie. The whole point of a video game is interactivity,and no matter how good MGS is, and it is good, all you can do is sit there and watch. Whether it’s boring backstory, or really cool action sequences you’dmuch rather be actually playing it for yourself.


What Spec Opsdid was give the player jumper cables and watch as they put electrocuted themselves. What The Walking Dead did was put you in a scenario and you make these massive decisions that could drastically alter your game. Neither of them forced you to sit back and followand NPC making all the choices for you, there were no huge set pieces you hadno control over (story wise anyway), they didn’t force you down a linear hallway,and there was no hand holding.


The gameplay always backed the narrative. Bombing civilians, cutting off a man’s leg in a desperate attempt to save him; these were gameplay moments and the story unfolded around your actions. It wasn’t simply moving from Point A to Point B and watching a pre-baked cutscene.


Spunkgargleweewee (I back Yahtzee in his efforts tomake this the industry standard genre title for modern day military shooters) will always be Spunkgargleweewee, and not all developers will chose to tell an epic tale. But I do predict more games like SpecOps and The Walking Dead will be made. Most games will probably have an increased emphasis on storytelling as well if that Blops2… thing is any indication. Not all will succeed, and some will blatantly be tacked on to givethe illusion of a great story. But it’s a start.



The Ouya is not only the biggest gaming Kickstarter project ever, but also the first ever “indie” console. The Ouya was said to be an open source console, based on Android software, cost only $99, and everything on it would be free to some extent. For the first time since 1999, a company other than Sony, Microsoft, or Nintendo was making a home video game console.


And now even they have competition.


If the Ouya isn’t your thing, than maybe the USB drive sized GameStick is. Or perhaps Valve’s PC in a console body Steambox. Or maybe you’re interested in the handheld Android enabled Project Shield. Hell, maybe you’d be interested in the Xi3 that may or may not be the Steambox.


Don’t worry. The lack of an ‘Xbox’ or ‘Playstation’or 'euphemism for penis' in these consoles doesn’t mean they grew up in the other side of the neighborhood and are waiting to take your lunch money. It’s just an evolution of technology. Someare crosses between consoles and PC’s, and some are crosses between console sand mobile phones.

The point is, these are what consoles should be. It’s not about the hardware with these, it’s about the software, the content, the thing you’ll be playing, or in layman’s terms THE BLOODY GAMES! No console exclusives, no big publishing deals, no on disc DLC, day 1 DLC, none of the saturation we see on the PS3 or 360. It’s just a wealth of indie games and even some of the big games we all know and love, and some of them are even opensource. So what’s not to love about it?


Virtual Reality?

Some people think a regular controller is just fine. Some think camera’s, motion controls, or giant screens mounted on an overpriced controller that adds even less to a game than those damn motions controls are the future of gaming. But there are a select few people out there, one being myself, who believe that the future is actually more virtual reality. What?


First there was the Nintendo headache inducing failure of the Virtual Boy. Then there was that giant steel cage ball that wason Attack of the Show that one time I can’t remember the name of or find on Google. Now there’s the Oculus Rift, which incidentally is also a project launched on Kickstarter.


The Oculus Rift is the first real stab at VR (or a ‘highfield of view consumer-priced virtual reality head-mounted display’ according to Wikipedia) since Nintendo’s red monochromed failure. It promises to deliver where the Virtual Boy failed: it’s actually virtual reality on not just 3D, and it’s in full color rather than just looking like Freddy Kruger came by.


Other than that, not much is really known. There’s some technobabble about field of view and head tracking, but nothing a laymen (i.e. idiot) like me could understand. The Kickstarter was basically for a developer version, and there isn’t much info on a consumer version other than they hope to have one ready for 2013. Some of the games that will be supportedare Minecraft, Doom 3 BFG Edition, Doom 4, and Hawken; but beyond that it’s naffall.


Gaming 2012: Year in Review

Posted by Josh Griffiths on January 8, 2013 at 12:10 AM Comments comments (0)

Each year in the gaming industry is an interesting one; we either get great games or some big news from a developer. But this year was different. This year was less about the games themselves, and more about what happened in the industry itself.

We had Kickstarter and the advent of a new funding platform, a call for greater diversity in games and the industry itself, a resurgence in point and click games, the crowd funding of a brand new console, and the continued rise of indie gaming in the mainstream. It’s been an exciting year for the gaming industry itself, and thank goodness for that because 2012 in terms of the games themselves was horrible.


I’ll come out and say it now (mostly because I already did back) but The Walking Dead is my GOTY for 2012. I’m not even going to name a second place because it’s just that good. I loved the emotional weight the game carried, and how it actually treated its story like a story and not a fun little think tacked on atthe end. The characters were all well rounded and I loved all of them, some of which I just loved to hate. The game made me laugh, and most important it’s the first game that’s ever made me cry. Sure some came close, but never full on crying like with TWD, the final episode. Episode 2 especially was a masterpiece.


Sure it had its flaws; the gameplay itself was pretty much just walking from one conversation to the next, and there were too few puzzles, and those were always far too easy. Also the animation was pretty laughable at times, there were a few cases where it was enough to take me out of the experience. But those are tiny hiccups compared to what it could potentially do for storytelling in the industry. The Walking Dead is by far and away the best game I played this year.


What Can Gaming Do?

Posted by Josh Griffiths on September 14, 2012 at 2:25 AM Comments comments (0)

It’s been said before, by people like Jonathan Blow, Anthony Burch, and James Portnow, all of whom are immensely smarter than I. The most important thing we need to do is figure out what video games can do that other mediums can't. The obvious answer is interactivity, and that's a good starting point. But we need to dig deeper than that. We need to figure out what to do with that interactivity, and convey a story and a message to the consumer that books and movies cannot.


I mentioned James Portnow of Extra-Credits, he believes that narrative can be delivered to the player through a game’s mechanics alone, or at least a strong narrative. He goes on to say some other things I disagree with, and I don’t think mechanics alone are enough, but it is a good place to start. An example of a game narrating through its mechanics is Passage, a five minute game about the meaning of life, essentially. There is no dialogue, notext, no exposition, no hint on what to do or how to do it. All you know isthat you’re supposed to go right, the rest is up to you.


By the end of the game, you realize that it’s a commentary on life overall. Did you spend the game hunting for treasure, and finding new paths? Did you find the love of your life and travel the world with her? Did you simply hold the right arrow key down and wait for the game to finish? It makes you think about life, specifically your own life and how you’re living it. That is art, and it is also the perfect example of narration through mechanics.


But as I said, I don’t believe narration through a game’s mechanics is enough. You do need to provide the player with some exposition so they know why they’re doing what they’re doing. Passage is a rare case in that it has such a powerful message, and wants you to experience it as if you were the main character that it doesn’t need any exposition. Well, and it starts youoff at a young enough age where there isn’t much background anyway.


So what games do this well? Fallout 3 is the first game to come to mind. You start out as a newborn, then a young child, then a teen, before becoming an adult and leaving the vault to find your father. You see every important aspect of your characters life, and the people around him before the dramatic action starts. Another good example is Heavy Rain. Ethan Mars is a husband and father who works from home, and is really set up to be perfect. He’s willing to do whatever it takes to save Shaun because he blames himself for Jason’s death. Heavy Rain is also good at narration through gameplay mechanics when at the start of the game, Ethan tells you he needs toget some work done and you go downstairs to work on his architectural plans; obviously showing he’s an architect.


So we have narration through a game’s core mechanics, and exposition. Sure exposition isn’t necessarily interactive, but regardless, it’s an important form of narration for any storytelling regardless of interactivity. But there is still one more thing, something that is much harder to grasp for several different reasons, primarily because I can’t really explain it myself. The final piece is something that varies depending on thetype of game itself, what the developer is trying to go for. It’s part of the game’s mechanics, but not necessarily the core mechanics. Say for example, moral choice is a core mechanic in Fallout 3, but deciding on whether or not to kill an old lady in Grand Theft Auto is something up to you, not the game. There is nothing in GTA telling to you kill the old lady, therefore it’s just something you can decide on your own.


Like I said, this X factor depends entirely on the kind of game it is. In Modern Warfare 2, the infamous airport shooting scene, you couldhave stayed in the back and not shot anyone, or you could lead the charge and kill every civilian you saw. However, they dropped the ball here, in that it didn’t matter what you did. The terrorists should have gotten suspicious if youdidn’t shoot anyone. But now I’m starting to go off topic, hell I’m even losing myself on this one.


What I’m trying to say, is that the player him or herself is one of those key pieces. What the player’s moral code is, or what they like or dislike. Forcing the player to do something they don’t want to could be a very powerful tool in narration and storytelling. That’s not to say moral choice is something that should be implemented into every game, I just mean that testing the player’s limits mentally is something that could go a long way in a forming truly unique experience in the video game industry.


Interview with Pixel Perfect

Posted by Josh Griffiths on September 8, 2012 at 1:15 AM Comments comments (0)

Twenty five years ago, what has become known as the greatest boxing game ever made was released for the NES. That game is Mike Tyson’s Punchout. While there was no move in which you could bite off your opponent’s ear, the game was famous for its sheer variety of moves and opponents, all coming to a head in which you must fight (and indeed lose) against Mike Tyson himself.


To celebrate the occasion, Daniel Lanciana is releasing Pixel Perfect: Mike Tyson’sPunchout!!, an encyclopedia full of all the facts and information about thegame, its launch, and its reception since. The Kickstarter campaign recently launched, and has already collected over $2500 dollars. Daniel was kind enough to allow me to interview him, and I didn’t even need to use the chloroform this time.


Josh: For those who don’t know, can you tell us a bit about the book?


Daniel Lanciana: It's an unofficial 240-page encyclopedia on the classic Nintendo game, Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!! (MTPO). In October the game celebrates its 25th anniversary.


Josh: What inspired you to write this book?


DL: I love retro gaming, large "coffee table" books and collecting. Mergethese together and you get a book that covers everything on a single game! I'd compiled detailed information on other games in the past, but you don't get thesame sense of closure when it's digital.


Josh: What kind of things can we expect to be in the book?


DL: It's basically everything related to MTPO that exists on the web right now plus new content from the game's premier experts Matt Turk and Sinister1 -- who helped proof and research.


Josh: Why Mike Tyson's Punch Out and not something more popular like Mario, Zelda, or Metroid?


DL: A calculated decision because I don't do things in halves -- this book wasgoing to include EVERYTHING I could find. Therefore I needed a game that was fantastic and had cult status, but wasn't going to drown me with information overload!


Josh: What do you think of this popular resurgence of retro games lately?


DL: I'm a big fan as they hold a lot of nostalgic value and are still amazing funto play. You can't call yourself a true gamer if you haven't even finished Super Mario Bros.!


Josh: If you could change one thing about the original game, what would it be and why?


DL: Honestly I think it's great the way it is. You could fix the glitches and insane randomness, but then you lose the nuances that make the game so challenging and rewarding.


Josh: What's up with the pink track clothes in the game?


DL: That's a question I would love to put to the game's creators. Maybe it was white but got mixed up with one of Doc's shirts? The mystery lives on...


Josh: At the end of your Kickstarter video, you said that it could pave the way for afuture set of titles. Do you have any other games in mind you'd like to get to?


DL: Possibly a NES title celebrating its 25th anniversary next year such as Bionic Commando, Contra or Metal Gear. Now that I'm more comfortable other options could be Castlevania, Kid Icarus, Metroid or Mega Man. Maybe let the fans decide?


All in all the book looks to be very well put together and produced. This looks to be one of those books that’s great for collectors all around. It’s one of those things that keeps these classic games alive, and takes an in depth look at it you just can’t get anywhere else. Also, being the biggest Metal Gear fan on earth, I really hope he does that next.

If you want to know more about the book, check out the Kickstarter campaign. Thanks again to Daniel Lanciana for the interview and best of luck.