Category Archives: Written Word

Drewby’s Thoughts: To the Moon

Drewby here, and I’ve just finished one of the best games I’ve ever played. It’s called, To the Moon. If you have heard of it, you might have heard of one of the best games of the last 10 years, and is now in my top 5 games of all time. This game is not a shooter, is not an action rpg, and is not a driving sim. Those are the types of games I play predominantly, but this is a simpler, humbler game developed by independent shop, Freebird Studios.  It’s short, probably max of 4 hours, so play it. I played in a couple different sessions, but I wish I had played through it all in one sitting. Alas, I can not change that now, but I recommend that if you can make it work enjoy and marvel at this game all at once. Nevertheless, I can’t recommend this game enough, and I hope to convince you to share in its beauty with me.

To The Moon does not have what you may call, exciting gameplay in the way typical games define exciting. There are no explosions, no airdropping behind enemy lines, no neck breaking car chases down the open road. It is simply about two scientists trying to understand a man’s past and make his wish come true. We know very little about this man at the beginning except that, he wants to go to the moon. The scientists then use a machine to access his memories, which leads them to better understand his wish. The gameplay used to accomplish this task consists mainly of walking around and interacting with people or objects with a button press. Sometimes, however, other small types of gameplay like simple puzzles are used to interact with the story. Short of one sequence that frustrated me enough to mention it that had frustrating controls, the different little gameplay elements are done well, and don’t overstay their welcome.

Some, of you, after reading about the gameplay may not be interested in it. That’s okay because that isn’t what this game is about. It is all about the story.  As you progress, you come across some sad and hard times. Some will leave you in shock, others just feeling sympathy for the patient. Some moments will be happy, and even joyous. In the end, this tale will leave you crying (I did cry) with mixed feelings about everything that has just happened. At the end when things culminated into the beautiful tale, combined with a heart wrenching soundtrack, I cried. This wasn’t just shedding a tear, this was me blowing my nose and taking breaths as one would usually when presented with stories as these. Thinking about the story and reflecting on my own life was enough to draw me out of my shell and push me to tears.

Speaking of the soundtrack. This game provides a stellar one. It has an excellent soundtrack to go along with the game, as well as listen to on it’s own. It’s stands tall among the best qualities of this game, and is worth checking out even if you don’t play through the story. The piano focused music compliments this game’s atmosphere so well, so so well.

I must share how I feel about this game. I love this game, and want people to play it. At the end of the year, during our game of the year events, we also have an “old” game of the year segment where we talked about older games that we have played that year and what ones were our favorites. This game tops all of my recommendations from last year.

Seriously, drop whatever you are doing and play this game.

*Seinfeld Voice* What’s the Deal with Piracy?

What’s the deal with piracy these days? Have we really forgot the concept of theft? Do we not understand the value of a purchased good or service? Comics, video games, movies, and music all suffer from this epidemic. From the ripping of a friend’s CD to direct torrenting of a full length, Blu-ray quality movie average, everyday people are stealing art left and right.

What could justify this act in our minds? We understand that if a “bad guy” robs a bank that he deserves to go to jail, but if you want your favorite band’s new album and don’t feel like paying for it, it’s is “okay” to just look up a .torrent and get it in minutes. Are we ignorant of the wrongdoing? I was. As a teenager I would rip my friend’s CDs all the time in the ever desperate struggle to maximize my musical thirst. What I did was clearly theft, no different than if I had walked into Wal-Mart, pulled Switchfoot’s Nothing is Sound off the shelf, and walked out the door with it. Even though I could have claimed ignorance at the time, I was still in the wrong. Do other people not know ripping your friend’s music is stealing? Is copying your buddy’s WC3 .ISO not theft? In a way, I think the ease of stealing something negates the crime in our minds. We may think “It can’t be stealing. Stealing involves Ocean’s 11 style coordination and deception and planning”, but in the year we live in, 2014 stealing can be a few clicks with no repercussions. Comics are stolen as easily as taking a few pictures on your smartphone.

Some people I know have justified their purloining of entire artists’ entire discography by saying they are “[Band Name’s] biggest fan”. Would you go to your best friend and tell them that you love him/her so much that you are just going to steal their product so as to leave them without a means of paying their own bills? This is the worst argument possible argument I could think of. If you are such a great fan, support them! Buy all of their albums and t-shirts, and DVDs, and drive to see them at any concert within a 4 hour radius to where you live. Give them as much money as possible, don’t steal from them!

The second worst “defence” I’ve heard someone use when justifying this crime was “Well, I bought a t-shirt and concert tickets last month when they were in town.” Is it cool to fill up on gas at the gas station and walk out with a five finger discounted Snickers and a Coke? Of course it isn’t. We pay for the services and goods that we want. That is how fathers and mothers can make money to feed their babies.; how teenagers can make enough money for college and parties. If you want to buy a McDouble, fries, and a large Dr. Pepper, you pay for all three.

“But here’s the thing, I can’t afford Skyrim. Publisher’s charge too much for video games.” This is an argument more often heard from the under 20 crowd. Here is the response to that: If you can’t afford something, then you can’t have it. I don’t want to spark a controversy on welfare or healthcare. I am speaking of the burglary of art. These are completely non-essential items. If you can not afford to buy Skyrim, unfortunately you can’t have Skyrim. Life can sometimes be rough. In the grand scheme of things, not having a video game or a movie really isn’t that bad when in your city there are people without food on the table?

When Ubisoft, Sony and many other companies announced and created their intense DRM schemes, so many people complained. These efforts ultimately failed because they made it harder for legitimate customers to purchase media, but also because the pirates were even better than the protection of the media. If you think about it though, Ubisoft’s actions had to have spurned from something. Ubisoft just wanted to make sure they received the money they had earned by making good software, but according to Joystiq, 93-95% of all of their PC players had pirated their games. When they tried to remedy the issue, they couldn’t because pirates still looted and honest consumers were punished. Content providers can’t fix this issue.

We can’t end this problem entirely, but I have hope that someone reading this will at least think twice before aiding in the very art they claim to be celebrating. Please understand that what you are doing is theft. If you were ignorant of your actions, you aren’t any longer. Go and steal no more.

[whohit]Piracy Article[/whohit]

The Stanley Parable ***SPOILERS ABOUND***

The Stanley Parable is a baffling “video game”. I use quotes because while it is a video game, it bucks traditional video game design. It presents itself as having a narrative, but rather than being a video game with a story, the game is a story about video games. Using the illusion of choice, while consciously, repeatedly decrying that choice in video games is a lie, The Stanley Parable takes shots at the current state of video gaming with pointed and interesting statements made by a narrator as a reaction to the player’s actions. The most obvious and frequently acknowledged jab that The Stanley Parable throws at video games is about the illusion of choice. There is an actual line from the narrator that points out that if you are “choosing” options programmed into a game months before, are you really actually freely choosing or are you simply following paths a developer has lined out beforehand? While this clearly draws into question the choices you are making in this game, it also brings to question the “freedom of choice” offered in many popular games as a selling point. Mass Effect, Dragon Age, The Walking Dead, etc. Many games make “player choice” seem like this lofty goal that games should aim for, but if choosing one predetermined linear route or another are your only options, what kind of choice is that? By following a different path, the game further complicates the problem of offering player’s choices in a video game when the narrator offers to give you a more open game. Asking if that is something you would enjoy. The game then places you in a copy of Mojang’s Minecraft. As the narrator builds you a home out of dirt, he then suggests that the house would be better if it were made out of diamond and sends you on a search into a cave to find that resource. This move serves as both a poke at the odd desire for “progression” in Minecraft and a transition for the narrator to suggest that a game of this type is “too open”, seemingly because in its complete openness, Minecraft really has no reason for player’s choosing anything. If there is no context for player choice, than that also makes player choice meaningless in a way. After the Minecraft section, The Stanley Parable places Stanley inside a replica of Valve’s Portal. The game points at Portal for being a linear game with no player choice also. Solving puzzles, even if you find a slightly different solution, results in a linear progression through a predetermined storyline. These interesting subjects (And many more I will leave up for you to decipher) are very worth thinking about, but the most poignant issue raised by The Stanley Parable is the way it weighs in on the “Are Video Games Art?” debate. There is a section of the game where you are places in a simple minigame which involves pushing a button to save a baby from running into a fire. The baby is constantly crawling towards the previously mentioned fire and pushing the button resets his position away from danger. Pressing the button makes a very obnoxious, loud noise and the baby, while crawling, constantly cries in a loud and annoying way. As a player, when I reached this section of the game, I simply let the baby crawl into the fire, and moved on, but the option exists in the game to sit there and play this section out for 4 hours. Yes, you read that correctly, you can sit there and press a single button to stop a baby from crawling into that fire for 4 HOURS and the game “rewards” you with easily in my opinion the most direct argument against games being art that I’ve ever experienced, but rather than deciphering the message for you, I’ll simply link to that section of the game and let you see if for yourself. Note that this game is being artistic by calling out games for not being artistic. Ironic. I think that there is so much more to say about this game, and possibly even different interpretations of the information that I viewed, but part of the fun of good art is the way that it can be dissected so intricately. Is The Stanley Parable a fun game? No. Is it a clever and compelling look at the current state of the video games? Definitely. At $15 it is an interesting proposition. If you want a game that breaks the standard conventions of video games while poking fun at them, you should definitely check it out.

Possible New Sleeping Dogs Sequel

Polygon is reporting that another game in the Sleeping Dogs universe is currently in development. Since Sleeping Dogs is my personal favorite open world game that I have ever played, this is obviously exciting news for me. The downside is, the project, called “Triad Wars”, could just as likely be a Free to Play bad third person shooter as a proper sequel to Sleeping Dogs. Here’s to hoping for the best!   Source: http://www.polygon.com/2013/10/7/4813036/sleeping-dogs-triad-wars-united-front-games