I Will Now Solve Your Ancient Problem

Tags

, , ,

Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

Spoilers for the “Navajo” chapter in Beyond: Two Souls

Butch:

I got absolutely nothing. I’m tired. Day chock full of camp stuff, chores, gardening, rearranging furniture, all that stuff.

I REALLY want to play. Like REEEEEEALLY.

But I haven’t.

Sigh.

Try not to play three or four games I want to play.

I liked being ahead of you better.

Feminina:

You complained constantly about being ahead of me!

But I know what the real problem is: the real problem is, you’re not playing. Ahead or behind, as long as we’re playing we have stuff to talk about and don’t go (more) insane.

I probably won’t finish three or four games, but I make no promises about not playing the Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit or whatever it’s called, that we were talking about.

Because free. Plus, the Life is Strange universe or whatever. And also, free.

Butch:

I know I complained! But I was wrong! I take it all back!

You’re finished, aren’t you?

If you are, am I anywhere near close?

Feminina:

You’re…halfway-ish? Yeah. That feels about right. But remember, many of the chapters are short.

You’re gonna love it, as soon as you get a chance to play.

Butch:

Fuck it. I just put my foot down. Everyone’s done their hobbies today but me. I sent Mrs. McP out to garden with Meatball. I’m gonna play.

Feminina:

That’s the spirit! You need your hobby too!

Just refer them to our increasingly insane non-playing posts to convince them.

Butch:

Short chapters my ass.

Played an hour and a half, STILL didn’t finish Navajo.

You fucked it all up and missed 63% of it, didn’t you?

You finished this cuz you played 12% of it.

I’m playing! I am!

Feminina:

I said SOME of them are short! Navajo is not one of them. It’s pretty interesting, though, right? Genuine creepiness in there. And there’s this sort of inevitability that is very interesting, that first night when I was all “no, I’m totally going to do as my generous, weird hosts advise and stay in my room during this creepiness,” but I couldn’t. You have to go explore! Or at least, once you leave the room you can’t get back in, and have to go explore, right? I guess maybe if you never left at all, enough time would eventually pass that it became morning, and then you’d just leave, and then you’d get 18 undiscovered paths.

I didn’t do that, though. I got up and poked around, even though it was obviously a bad idea (except, was it? because Jodie IS uniquely placed to investigate this weirdness).

Anyway, some interesting stuff there. You’ll love it once you finish the chapter.

Also, it’s not MY fault you obsessively follow every path that leads to murdering and destruction of property, while I efficiently get caught and take the shorter, less deadly way to the end of the chapter.

Am I forcing you to succeed at those QTEs? I am not.

Butch:

Huh? I couldn’t get out the first night. I went to bed. Then I did all the farm helping and stuff, and then back to bed and then shit happened. ALL that shit happened.

And then there was horseback riding, and tracking down all the stuff in the story, and relics, and ritual, and bumping into the “crown” dude, and partial nudity (twice), and all that. And sending the thing back from whence it came. And now I’m after that.

Why? What did you get?

This didn’t seem to need QTE success! I got my butt kicked a couple of times! I think I missed a whole burning teepee dream sequence!

Feminina:

Oooh, NOW who’s leaving paths undiscovered?! Ha.

That’s funny, I don’t know what I did the first night that was different. Maybe I didn’t go to bed at all? I heard weird noises, and I sent Aiden poking around the nearby bedrooms, and then I think he unlocked the door for me and I wandered out. And then it seemed like I couldn’t get back into my room, so I figured that was just the way the story went. I went and knocked on the other bedroom doors, and they all yelled “go back to bed you idiot!” (more or less), but I went and opened the front door instead (like an idiot), and saw an eerie, ghostly figure in a mask.

Then the dad came running out and slammed the door and said “no, seriously, go the hell back to bed” (more or less) and so I did. And had an eerie dream sequence about the masked figure.

Did you not do that? That was pretty much it…then I woke up, did the work, etc.

I liked the way the masked figure seems sinister at first, but then turns out to be a helpful spirit rather than a harmful one. Because man, he (I think it was a he) was creepy at first. Opening the door on him in the middle of the night after skulking around in that house where everyone else was hiding, and my every nerve was saying “this is such a bad idea!” was SPOOKY. Nicely done scene.

And then eventually we learn that he’s trying to right this ancient wrong (although I was also pretty sympathetic to the reasons the ancient wrong got started).

I did kind of feel there was a fair bit of ‘white savior’ there with the whole “now I, a white stranger who knows nothing of this place or your culture, will come along and solve your problems,” but I think it could have been worse…at least she had a good reason to be able to help. “Oh, your problem is a ghost, I know ghosts in a way that most people do not” works better given her entire previous history of being the one person we see dealing with ghosts, and I felt that the story did try to be respectful of the native characters and culture (though someone actually of that culture might feel differently, I don’t know).

I did like that you needed Aiden to be the fifth ‘person’ in the ceremony. It was kind of cool to have him involved that way.

Did you save the dad? I didn’t save the dad. It was one of those urgent-feeling moments when I thought “I have to do this ceremony NOW NOW NOW I’ll save him later!!!!” and then after the fact I thought “great, he’s dead and I’m sure nothing would have happened if I’d paused to heal him.” This game does artificial urgency well.

Thinking it over, I bet maybe you just got all the same stuff I did, only I got some the first night and you didn’t get it until the second night?

Butch:

I poked around, too! I tried to possess people! I couldn’t figure out how to open my door! I guess I didn’t notice the blue dot. Ah, well. So I went to bed (after changing. Good to know that even homeless people have nice bras) and did a QTE to pull a pillow over my head.

Shit.

Damn. Missed the dream. Sigh.

I got a lot the second night.

Though thinking on it, I think I must’ve gotten the same dream. I DID have a weird dream that first night, which is where I first met the weird masked dude.

Though did you get more of the burning teepee thing? Cuz I started, he was all “crown,” and then a horse came and I blew a QTE and it ended. Did you make the QTE?

Yeah, that was a nice twist with the spirit. I saw him in the shower, which was also rather startling. Did you channel the dead sheep? Cuz that was creepy, too.

Well, an ancient very serious problem. An ancient fuck up.

I never asked “Navajo?” cuz I didn’t want to pry. But yeah, really, when you know ghosts, does it really matter if you’re white?

I didn’t feel the “white savior” but I did feel the trope of “If you want some really mystical shit, do the Native American thing. Preferably with an older, deep voiced dude, a mute, or both.” Hang up some dreamcatchers, have a deep voiced guy with a grey pony tail, boom. Mystical shit.

Kinda cliche. Especially when there’s no Native Americans in the story to that point. Just “We need mystical shit….uh…she’s all of the sudden in the desert! So…Navajos! Yeah….”

Yeah. “We need another SOUL….hint hint…..”

Nope. Blew it saving the dad. Didn’t save grandma, either. Did you? Could you?

Feminina:

I don’t think you could save grandma, but I’m pretty sure we could have saved the dad. But it really felt like there wasn’t time, didn’t it? The game does urgency well.

Mystical deep voiced dude with a gray ponytail! So true. So tropey. Although I had less of a problem with it in this case because she’s been running into spirits her entire life, so it felt more like “let’s do a different TAKE on the spirits,” than “hey, we need some mystical spirits!” She’s been encountering spirits in the lab setting, so to speak, and running loose on the streets, but maybe it’s time to meet them in another environment. I was basically OK with it.

It was also interesting that these traditional shamans were able to accomplish, via rituals and amulets or whatever, this portal to the infraworld that it’s taken science until now (or whenever this takes place–there was a recent year mentioned in there somewhere, so we could count backwards, but I can’t be bothered) to figure out the same thing. It emphasizes the importance of individual talent/aptitude and helps explain why Jodie is so important…a person can either do this or they can’t, it seems (with some genetic trait involved, since the grandmother was a descendent of one of the shamans), and Jodie is unusually good at it.

It does kind of go back to the ‘mystic natives’ thing you mentioned, that this is where she learns about other people who had some connection to the other world. Hm.

An interesting chapter, all in all.

Butch:

It does do urgency well. And showing you the wood and the gas can and all. Like “There it is! Get it! Get it now!” Makes me wonder what I missed just riding the horse directly to the next thing.

Yeah, I guess it was OK, but it was so random. I saw “Navajo” as a chapter, and thought it would be a code name or something but no. Just “and now we’ve left winter and somehow gotten to the desert cuz we need some grey haired ponytailed Native Americans cuz mystical.” If the game took place in New Mexico, ok. But it doesn’t. Or didn’t.

As for the family line, well, grandma was a baby, so, what, 80, 90 years ago this happened?

But that, too, is a bit of a trope. (cue old Native American voice): “They didn’t respect our ways. Thought we were simple people. But we knew. Let me show you….” ***sprinkles weird dust*** Chants something that sounds like “Hi…hi ya…a Heee ya…..” Dream sequence. You wake up. “The white man….they never took the time to understand.” Everyone nods sagely.

Etc.

It was an interesting chapter. Not done, though. I’m holding a blanket. There’s something to channel. Almost done.

By the way, it bears noting re: Native Americans that David Cage, the director and main creative mind of this game (he is VERY controlling) is French, not American, so maybe the subtleties of Native culture are lost on him, and we can excuse some tropeyness.

Maybe.

Advertisements

A Lot of “Hm” on This One

Tags

, , , , ,

Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

Spoilers for the chapter where Jodie sneaks off the base (or doesn’t) in Beyond: Two Souls

Butch:

You got stopped before you got out to go party, didn’t you? You didn’t do ANY of that, did you? You had five unplayed paths, didn’t you? You probably didn’t even get to dress all punk and wound up all conservative and never did any of that cuz you got spotted, didn’t you?

You did, didn’t you?

Feminina:

Yup. That’s exactly what I did.

Siiiigh.

Butch:

Well, you want to know what you missed?

You missed some stuff.

No wonder you’re a million miles ahead of me in this game. You’re only playing 27% of it.

Wait….did you dress different? Did you have blue hair and a midriff baring top and lace gloves and ripped fishnets?

Cuz I did.

Feminina:

Yeah, sure. I mean, I’m not going to go back and play it again. Probably.

I mean, I guess I could. What are we doing after this? If there’s nothing waiting in the wings…

Butch:

Life is Strange? I could do that. Especially as we have that free thingy already waiting–Captain Awesome.

I dunno, how far past me are you? Are you, like, done? Cuz even my timeline is pretty full.

So last chance: Spoil or no?

And how WERE you dressed?

Feminina:

Oh, yeah, Life is Strange. I could do that. And the free thing.

I think I just dressed normally to go out, because I was sneaking with the possessed Cole and trying to look casual. I only got as far as the security gate.

I did notice that when Dawkins was forbidding me to go out he said “remember whoever’s birthday party?!”

And I was like, “hey, I behaved really circumspectly at that party! Nothing happened!”

I mean, I guess I was sad, but it’s not like it was a huge disaster where I gave away a bunch of DPA secrets and burned a house down. Are you implying I can’t handle some sadness, Dawkins? Because that party was in no way a good reason to keep me in now!

I think that comment would have made more sense if I’d caused a bit of trouble at the party. But that’s me, just staying out of trouble, and then failing even when I TRY to get into trouble.

Butch:

LiS has been on the list for some time. Nice and low key.

Oh, DUDE I was a punk emo goth chick.

Wow, he didn’t say anything like that to me. I was just all “I want to be like other girls” and he shouted “YOU’LL NEVER BE LIKE OTHER GIRLS!” and I got all mad.

Weird.

(Hint: You had to have possessed Cole speak. Then the guard thought he was sick and backed away. Or, if that isn’t what you fucked up, hide in the trunk of the car.)

A lot happened in that chapter. Like, a lot.

Basically, either we talk about it now and I spoil everything, or we devolve into derailment.

But your call.

Feminina:

On reflection, probably I won’t actually play it again. I had the experience I had with it, and even though I’m curious about unplayed paths and alternative outcomes, I think I’ll just stay with what I did.

Butch:

In that case…..

(Avert your eyes if you want to just save this for a couple weeks. I’mm’a spoil:)

So you sneak out. You use possessed Cole to drive you to a place near a seedy bar. (Somehow, possessed Cole can still drive, which struck me as odd. Does Aiden know how to drive? Or is Cole still in there somewhere with his knowledge?) Then Jody asks Aiden to walk Cole into the woods and “make sure he’s safe.” Jody gets to the bar to find her friends aren’t there. She goes in anyway. The bartender doesn’t believe she’s 21, and she orders a lemonade. Two guys playing pool leave (I got “Didn’t listen to the customers. Damn.). You can a) leave or b) play pool. I decided I wanted to be cool, so I played. I guy asks to play, too, and, even though I KNOW this is a bad idea, I said ok. I played, and played well, cuz QTEs, and then, almost too predictably (more on this in a second) the sleaze playing pool with Jody tries to rape her. Aiden, of course, goes nuts and starts breaking all sorts of shit until the men start to run. At this point you can a) let them leave or b) choke one to death. At THAT point you can a) let the other two leave or b) possess the bartender, who then grabs a shotgun. You then HAVE to hit R1 to kill the first, and HAVE to hit R1 to kill “yourself.”

Then Dawkins and Cole and the guard rush in, Jody’s all “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry” and Dawkins, oddly, is all “It’s ok…It’s ok…I understand.” Not “DUDE THREE DEAD GUYS!” No. “It’s ok…” like a young child had spilled milk by accident.

So that was one thing.

Another is that her friends never show up, so it’s unclear as to whether she was just early or her “friends” set her up to embarrass/risk herself.

It was telling that, once you possessed the bartender, you didn’t have a choice BUT to kill the living guy and “yourself.” And you HAD to hit R1 to do both. Gruesome. And that option only came about AFTER you killed the first guy.

But…..

The whole “young girl goes place young girl should not be and gets assaulted” trope bugged me. You could see it coming from eight miles away. I was hoping that there’d be a twist to it, like, Jody gets to fight some, or something, and it wouldn’t devolve into “damsel in distress, save her” but it went STRAIGHT to that. Jody didn’t get a single QTE of her own. Just boom, assault, on table, save her Aiden! This is exacerbated by the fact I’m thinking of Aiden as male for some reason, so it felt REALLY tropey and cheap.

But it did do the trick of having me, the player, want to kill the living fuck out of everyone, which I did, despite the multiple chances not to.

But what’s really odd is that you could see this coming from eight miles away and it still didn’t occur to me to leave. Like, Jody would have done this (would she have?) so I did. Is that ME being all tropey? Did this TRICK me into a trope or was it just a lazy use of trope?

And it wasn’t just me. Like, everyone picked the same things I did. Stay, fight, kill, kill again. Kill kill kill. Like, 91% of everyone who got there. Which…when you had that many chances NOT to kill kill kill……

So I can’t decide if it was lazy/tropey/annoying, or good game “So why did you do that, hmmmmmmm?” game design. Can it be both?

See what you’re missing, here?

Feminina:

Hm. I do see what I’m missing. More chances to be destructive. Once again, a lot of people are probably a lot happier because I failed to get out and wreck stuff.

Hm.

But yeah, I see what you’re meaning about the trope. What would have been a cool twist on the young-girl-shouldn’t-be-there-gets-assaulted trope, would be if the guy just congratulated her on her awesome pool skills and left her alone.

Can you even imagine? And, yeah, that doesn’t fit into the larger narrative as well, because “I snuck out and everything turned out great” is a less interesting story than “I snuck out and disastrous stuff happened.”

I mean, disaster just IS a more exciting story than “everything is fine.” But that would actually have been interesting, because you’d be seeing the trope coming from eight miles away, you’d be all keyed up and anxious the entire time, and then nothing would happen, and it would be an interesting counterpart to the garage earlier where you’re all tense and anxious just waiting for something to happen, and…it does, or doesn’t, it’s hard to say, but in any case the terror is more in the anticipation than the reality.

And, to go back to giving them credit, maybe they intended this to be a counterpart, like, “entities are scary but it turns out they’re not as scary as HUMAN EVIL” (see also: the guys beating up Stan and setting the building on fire in the Homeless chapter).

Hm.

Oh, and dude, you don’t think of Aiden as male “for some reason,” you think of him as male because that’s how Jodie thinks of and refers to him. She’s called him “him” from the beginning.

I did wonder how she knows that, whether she just assigned him a gender, if he’s the ghost of someone who was in fact male, etc., but calling Aiden “him” is thoroughly supported in the text.

Butch:

Oh is it? I can only remember her saying “Aiden.”

Ok, I don’t feel so bad.

And well, certainly people were more alive in your game. But these were “bad guys,” not just poor Kevins.

But…something. Let her fight them off. Have Aiden get angry BEFORE anything happened. Something! Have one of them try to help but have Aiden kill him anyway. Something! But, as it was, there was an extended sequence with you as Aiden fighting away while Jody just curled up on the table and cried. Which… isn’t a twist.

And there were such parallels with the garage scene! Cuz so much of it started mundane. You open the door. You walk to a table. You sit. You drink a lemonade. All things you had to do with dots and stuff. Mundane. But then the end was predictable.

And one SERIOUS mistake they made was showing the “monsters” in this scene early. In the garage, you don’t see anything. In this, as soon as she walks into the bar, these two dudes (soon to be dead dudes) leer at her, and you’re all “Yup. And there are the dudes that are going to be sleazy then dead.” Really raising tension relies on the unknown, not knowing exactly what’s coming. This? “Oh, yeah. There’s the guys.”

And see also the player. Those unplayed paths were basically “Stayed in the bar/unplayed.” “Choked an assailant to death/unplayed.” “Killed all assailants/unplayed.”

So SOME of the human evil was the fact that I pretty much chose to kill the fuck out of everyone. And yes, bad guys, all that, but they were RUNNING when I chased them down and killed the hell out of them. It had serious overtones of the doctors at the end of the last of us. Killing dudes who may have been bad, but who weren’t a threat and were begging.

Ooo! On that! One of the guys, when terrified, says “It’s a spirit COME TO PUNISH US FOR OUR SINS” (emphasis mine.) Hm.

Hm, indeed. I really can’t decide if this chapter was great or terrible.

Feminina:

It is very interesting that you had a lot of opportunities to leave, and chose not to, and that’s why everyone is dead.

Although this also becomes a bit victim-blamey, doesn’t it? Why is it on her to prevent violence by not being in a place she “shouldn’t have been” (i.e., a public place some sleazy guys happened to be)?

I guess we could argue she knows Aiden tends to get violent and so she’s responsible for keeping HIM under control, which works (-ish) if we assume he’s like a dog and not morally responsible for his actions, but is problematic if we assume he has human or near-human intelligence, because if that’s the case, it was HIS choice to kill, not hers.

It’s especially odd, as you say, that you-as-Aiden had no choice about that…that kind of leans me towards the “Aiden is like a big dangerous dog” theory. Once his fighting instinct kicks in, he literally cannot control himself.

Which, if true, means that it IS kind of her fault for taking him out in situations where that fighting instinct will be roused, though you have to feel for her, just wanting to be ‘normal’ for 20 minutes.

On which, the chapter title, Like Other Girls or whatever it was, is also interesting here. Because…it’s just what all normal girls do, getting assaulted in bars, right? Way to normalize rape culture, game. Ha.

Anyway. I guess I’ll stick with my non-traumatic failed escape. And let some sleazy guys continue to walk the streets and attack other girls! Yay!

There’s not a good call here.

Butch:

Well, only one chance to leave before the badness. You could’ve just not played pool. But you DID have a lot of chances to leave without killing folks AFTER the badness happened. You could have easily have scared off her attackers, let then run away, then ended the chapter. You had multiple opportunities for that. So it isn’t just “You could have left many times, and you didn’t.” It was “Ok, you could have left, but even after you didn’t you got and stayed bloodthirsty.” And so did over 90% of everyone else.

Well…..Aiden didn’t get “violent” per se. The whole first part, once the attack happens, is Aiden just chucking tables around and tearing down dart boards and spilling drinks. It’s only after the bad guys RUN that you get a chance to get really violent, which is an interesting twist. So yes, you didn’t have a choice, as Aiden, to just sit there, but you COULD have just spilled some drinks and broken a radio and knocked over a vending machine and let them run away. He COULD control himself, or we, the player, could control him. I chose not to. I could have hit triangle and watched the baddies run away.

So who’s fault is all that? Mostly mine, not Jody’s or Aiden’s.

I think the title was being rather..ironic. In that hipster way.

Because she obviously had no earthly idea what she was doing. Indeed, the whole vibe is that she didn’t want to be there at all. She was uncomfortable, she was scared, etc. She was only doing it because she wanted to be with her “friends” who said it would be “fun.” And it’s left very open as to whether her “friends” knew full well that it would NOT be fun, that she would be uncomfortable or worse, and that they’re continuing to laugh at the naive freak like they did at the party.

So when Dawkins is all “You’ll never be like other girls,” sure, it’s cuz she has Aiden, but also it may well mean that she’s better. That she’s not the kind of person that would mock people, or stick them under the stairs, or tell them to go to a seedy bar so they’d either make a fool out themselves or get raped all for their own cruel amusement.

Cuz the whole “I’m sorry….” “It’s ok…” dynamic at the end…could be awful “I’m sorry I incited all this by daring to be female” ickiness, but it could be “I’m sorry I tried to be like them because they’re so awful.”

But then again, is a story where there’s exactly one likable woman progressive?

Of course, there’s exactly one likable person….

Still can’t tell how I feel about this chapter.

But my sleazy guys are very, very dead.

Feminina:

Ah, I see. So it really was YOUR call, not either of the characters.

Well, I’m willing to accept that you’re to blame for the murder and destruction. Sounds about right.

Now I’m kind of curious what I would have done if I’d made it that far, but there’s no point doing it now.

Another interesting thing here is the contrast between the view of ‘ordinary humanity’ that we get here, compared to the recent Homeless chapter.

Perhaps, again, an intentional contrast…people are horrible, but also sometimes they’re not. A study in contrasts. Humans are just as confusing and dangerous as the entities. Etc.

Butch:

Yeah, if you’re not in the moment, I don’t think it would work. And the moment has passed.

Life Springs Eternal or Something

Tags

, , ,

Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

Spoilers for young Jodie’s first night in the lab, and for part of ‘Homeless,’ in Beyond: Two Souls

Butch:

Ok, now I see where you learned to fight monsters, cuz they were unavoidable in that chapter, right? Little Jody was gonna get attacked no matter what, and you had to fight.

That, too, was pretty good horror. So much of it was mundane. Getting ready for bed, putting the bunny in first, nothing on TV, and yet you knew, like KNEW something was gonna happen. Excellent tension building. Classic horror.

So, I got “Didn’t spy on parents” so I missed something. You?

And I beat the entities, so I know what she said if THAT happened. You?

But, of course, the “huh?” moment of the chapter was Aiden’s “story.” How’d he do that? The elephant? I didn’t think he could DO that. What DID he do? I don’t get it. Don’t spoil.

So now I’m a blue haired teenager. Sigh. A long day of dealing with emotional real kids followed by having to play a game AS an emotional kid.

Can’t wait.

Feminina:

Yeah, this is where I was thinking I must have learned it, if not at the condenser. Because you can’t really avoid it there!

I do not know how Aiden managed the ‘story.’ It was cool, but…wha? I mean, you’d think to make a shadow, he’s need some solid presence, and we’ve never seen him be solid. Maybe he just altered her perceptions or something? I mean, she seems to be able to sort of see through his–eyes, I guess, although he may not have actual eyes, but anyway–maybe he was just imagining really hard and showing her what he imagined? I don’t know. It was cool, but…I don’t know.

This game does do creepy well. There are a lot of genuinely uneasy parts.

I didn’t spy on parents either. I didn’t think to until I saw the summary, and then it was all “damn it, I totally should have sent Aiden out there to eavesdrop.”

We shall never know what they said.

Beat the entities…I don’t remember. I mean, they left, so I suppose I did. I remember at the end she said “Aiden can chase them away now” or something, and I thought “I can? Well, that’s a relief.”

Butch:

What she said in my playthrough was “It’s ok…Aiden isn’t AFRAID OF THEM anymore.” (emphasis mine)

Which is a rather loaded thing to say.

This implies, what? That Aiden isn’t one of them? That Aiden IS but somehow weaker or excluded or something? Or he, too, is a child/thing?

But it’s an interesting thing. Because it means that the first time (chronologically), that is the “imaginary friend” chapter, he was afraid of them. That twists the whole idea of where he came from/what he is. We’ve been thinking that Jody had this powerful thing attached to her from the very beginning, but she didn’t. She had something…not weak, but certainly scared.

But Aiden, even scared, had a protective view of Jody even then. Before getting the courage to fight off the monsters, he was the one telling the story, comforting her, the way a parent or older sibling would.

I keep forgetting to go places with closed doors. Silly.

Feminina:

Right, right, that was it. Not afraid anymore. Which is indeed interesting, because it implies both that Aiden was formerly afraid (and therefore, like Jodie, was perhaps young and uncertain?), and that not being afraid is, in itself, sufficient to fend the monsters off.

Perhaps they feed on or are empowered by fear? Maybe fear, weakness, general depression…? That could explain why they were all over Jodie during the Homeless chapter. She was clearly in a bad state there, and maybe that allowed the monsters to come after her in spite of Aiden?

While, perhaps, Aiden’s lack of fear helps defend against them, and HIS lack of fear makes her fear less as well, leading to the rather cheerful “it’s OK now” statement?

And maybe it’s that quality of fearfulness or despair or the like that makes some people vulnerable to possession and attack by Aiden (as well as other entities, probably).

I should note that this is all speculation…there’s a lot we don’t understand about these things.

Butch:

Oooo good point about that maybe explaining why some dudes are possessable and some aren’t (I wasted all that time in “homeless” trying to find a dude to possess so he’d pay us. No luck).

When you say “we” don’t know, do you mean “we” or “me?” How many chapters ahead are you?

Feminina:

Oh, who can keep track of numbers?

And yes, like you said, unless specifically prompted, I keep forgetting that I’m also Aiden. Door is closed? Guess I can’t go through it, because I’m Jodie.

D’oh! Only later do I think “I’m also a bodiless spirit, I could totally have gone through that door!”

I do go through things, quite happily, when the game reminds me I’m Aiden. I tend not to remember otherwise.

You said something yesterday about some moment that would have been odd in a dual player situation, and this also makes me think of that…if there were two people and one of them was JUST Aiden, I bet you’d pretty much never miss anything Aiden could do, because that player would be constantly on the lookout for opportunities to act. Maybe Mr. O’ and I would have kicked ass here.

Oh well. I’m good with playing on my own again.

Butch:

I usually check everything as Aiden, except when it matters.

The thing I noted would be weird in coop wasn’t a notice thing, but a choice thing. Saving Jodie from suicide. That seemed choice like. If Jody has choices, why not Aiden?

You certainly play more alone. And when mr o is at the gym.

Feminina:

Maybe it’s a reflex for him. A self-preservation thing. I don’t know. It is interesting to think about how that would play out if one person were actively controlling Aiden, but didn’t have the option to let her drop to her death, say.

Maybe it’s just his version of the ‘edge of the world.’ The story doesn’t go here, so when he nears that area he just goes back, and drags her with him.

Butch:

We shall never know. Because we are wise and play alone.

Another thing I have been pondering is this game’s willingness to use kids to scare/upset/raise tension. We’ve seen kid Jody in peril a few times now, and games don’t usually do that. And that childbirth scene was fucking harrowing. I got all caught up in the QTEs, because I figured that wasn’t a “this has to happen” deal, and if anything had happened to that baby it would’ve been a big ol’ nope.

I can’t tell if using kids is gutsy, overly manipulative or both.

Feminina:

Hm. I think it’s been OK for me because the peril is kid-sized peril. I mean, it’s creepy and scary, but I don’t have the sense that child Jodie’s life has been in danger–the entities harassed and bruised her, definitely, but they either weren’t as strong as the ones at the condenser (possibly because they haven’t been condensed) or they didn’t want to actually kill her (especially if they feed on her fear or something).

The entities threw those guys at the condenser around and killed them easily…but all we ever saw happen to Jodie was being levitated and bumped around. I mean, not to minimize that, it was totally physical abuse and terrible, but it didn’t seem necessarily MURDEROUS to me.

Hm. I dunno. I think it works OK for me. I didn’t feel as if my heartstrings were being hamhandedly yanked, anyway.

Butch:

But that childbirth scene….

Dude.

Why even have that?

Feminina:

Yeah, that was intense. I think maybe it was meant to be about how life goes on and stuff. She’s gotten disconnected from that with her focus on death, with all the dead condenser dudes and the town she may or may not have destroyed and the fact that she’s literally connected to what is possibly a ghost…so maybe this scene was about hey, life is still out there! Even in the most unwelcoming circumstances!

Life and hope…or something. I dunno. It was a bit startling to find ourselves acting as midwife in the middle of the game, though, you’re not wrong about that.

Butch:

Especially as she was the last person you saved, and, thus, the easiest one to miss. Eww.

That just plain wasn’t gonna happen.

Feminina:

The last person to save? You mean in the burning building? Yeah, that wasn’t going to happen. But you couldn’t really have missed her, you could hear Tuesday calling so you knew where they were…for me, it was more a choice of “should I just leave Jimmy and go get them, or take the time to save him?”

Which felt risky, but I waited and got him, and fortunately still was able to reach Tuesday and Zoey.

Real Life is the Disorder

Tags

LadyBrain_64Puncherson_64

Feminina:

OK, how did we missed this potentially alarming news?

http://www.who.int/features/qa/gaming-disorder/en/ [World Health Organization page from January 2018 describing ‘gaming disorder’ ]

Butch:

Total bullshit.

****looks at posts from when we didn’t play****

Shit.

Feminina:

Yeah…

I mean, the good thing is, it says it’s a disorder if playing games interferes with other stuff in your life, right? For us, it doesn’t really. I mean, that’s the problem. Other stuff interferes with GAMES.

It doesn’t really say the disorder is “if you’re able to stop playing when necessary, but unable to maintain sanity.”

I mean, not in so many words.

I’m going with “we’re totally fine.”

Butch:

Yes! Other stuff interferes with GAMES.

So really, we have “real life disorder.”

So we’re not totally fine.

Feminina:

We are totally fine, damn it!

No, you’re right. We’re screwed.

Butch:

Front and back of our first T SHIRT!!!! in some time.

Feminina:

And there’s your Friday, everyone. Have fun with your real lives out there.

Life Among the Lowly

Tags

, , ,

Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

Spoilers for the Homeless chapter in Beyond: Two Souls

Butch:

Little 20 minute bites my ass.

Finished the chapter. Took longer than 20 minutes.

Well THAT happened.

I gotta say, the whole baby thing was rather harrowing. Even though I knew I couldn’t “fail,” per se, at that point I was very tense that a) my actions would lead to the death of the baby or b) the baby was going to be stillborn no matter what I did and just no. Nope. No. I felt SUCH relief when all was well.

And, after that, no fucking WAY I wasn’t rescuing them.

I can’t tell if this is a “set things up for later” chapter or what. This is certainly the first chapter that set Jody up as a superhero, I’ll give it that. That “I am the special one cuz I am the PC” deal. Which was interesting. And to have that weird future vision be a part of it was very interesting.

But I’m still processing why they started this chapter with her so powerless. Homeless, struggling, barely able to walk. Shit, I wasn’t even able to figure out how to get enough money for food, and ended up with cold dinner. So here I was completely unable to fend for myself, then ended up working all these “miracles.”

Cuz did you notice they kept saying that? Miracle? Indeed, if you helped all of them after dinner, the trophy you got was “Miracles.” That’s kinda loaded.

An interesting bit of narrative there.

And what was with the TV imagery?

A lot to process. Still thinking on stuff.

Feminina:

I know, I know. I did mention that myself, and it was in fact right after I finished that chapter. “Some of the later ones aren’t as short,” remember? And then you were all “OMG what do you mean later, are you already finished?” We had a whole exchange on the topic.

I tried to warn you. But at least it was refreshingly snowy, right? Although yesterday wasn’t nearly as hot, so you didn’t need it that badly.

Anyway. Interesting chapter.

This was another thing I didn’t complete! I didn’t help everyone at dinner! I wanted to, but I did things in the wrong order, or something, and then there was a point where there were no more conversation options, but I’d missed someone. I kept being all “guys, anything else, hey, YOU must need something?” but no. Or maybe I just kept trying to talk to people, but really I was supposed to go warm up at the fire, or something.

Regardless, I suck. But whatever. I saved them all from the burning building later, so they’ll have to be content with that.

In terms of miracles and her seeming to have ‘superpowers’ while also being so helpless…I was thinking maybe this contrast, and this sequence overall, is kind of meant to underscore the difference between this world and the high-tech-science-CIA-action-drama world in which we’ve previously seen her?

Like, her ‘father’ sees her as a monster, and the government sees her as a useful weapon, and science sees her as an interesting field for experimentation, but to these people, her powers are something else, and it can be something amazing and wonderful. It’s a way of looking at her (and, I think, it’s interesting that the focus is really on HER rather than on Aiden, though Aiden enables her powers…at least the way I did it, she didn’t talk about Aiden, so this group of people are relating to Jodie, not Jodie/Aiden).

It feels as if there’s a distinct emphasis on the way different groups approach Jodie, that the game really underlines: we see the scientists early on wanting to know exactly what she and Aiden can do, and then the CIA training her for combat and espionage because remote-vision, possession, and force choking are useful tools, and now we’re seeing how she appears to people who are less interested in understanding or exploiting her connection with Aiden, and more willing to just accept what she does as a miracle. She can channel a message from a dead loved one: the CIA doesn’t care about that, and the scientists maybe would see it as of peripheral interest compared to the importance of figuring out what’s going on and what else they can do with it, but that alone is enough for Stan.

And her starting out helpless and almost dead is, maybe, the way she herself becomes like these “normal” or “simple” people. She’s symbolically as well as literally left behind all her prior concerns about missions and science and whatever, and entered a world where the priorities are not freezing to death and trying to get food. (You didn’t take the money Aiden made the ATM spit out for you? I took it, man. Hot dinner for me.) And in that world she can make new connections with other “simple” people in the same situation, who accept her as damaged like them, and who don’t demand anything from her.

There’s a straightforward story of a wandering hero in here, under all the jumps in time, and I think we’re seeing her, narratively speaking, visiting many different lands and meeting their many different people, all along the way to figuring out what ultimately matters most to her.

Oh…and it took me a stupidly long time to make this connection, even though the chapter titles are right next to each other, but after she jumps out of the window at the hospital and we see her walking along the road and a cop car pulls up…that’s the cop who was talking to her back near the beginning of the game, right? Before the swat team showed up and got destroyed? So we’ve come back almost to where we started (though not nearly to the end).

I don’t know if it means anything that this is where that happens…after she makes a human connection with people who see her as another human rather than a fascinating lab rat or a useful tool, that’s where we pull in one of our first experiences with her.

Hm.

Butch:

You did warn me. And, it was right around, oh, breaking into the supermarket that I said to myself “Self, I do believe this is one of the later ones that aren’t as short.”

Better late than never.

Those fires were hard to avoid. I kept warming myself being all “No! Not that stand up! Ok, now where were we oh not again!”

One thing I overtly did not do was try to kill myself. That was an interesting choice.

They seemed to be content with being saved. Everyone seemed ok there at the end.

Hmm. I like that interpretation, that this is about her, not her-and-Aiden.

Cuz not only does this focus on Jody, the people accept her. There was the snide reference to “Guess he’s not the only one with a drug problem,” and that kind of jarred. What was great is that they pretty much accepted her BEFORE they knew about Aiden/powers.

She is amazing and wonderful, but she was still worth saving before they knew that.

But what did you make of the fact that the people who are focusing on her, caring for her, and are the most likeable people we’ve seen so far (I think) are people society has cast off? There’s no one in society more ignored than the homeless. Indeed, I was going to say that these are either flawed people (the drunk, the drug addict) or victims (Stan/Tuesday) themselves, and they are the ones accepting her as one of them. She’s welcome amongst the victims, the flawed and the discarded, AND she’s amazing and wonderful.

THAT’S interesting. Especially as society as a whole tends to hold scientists and cops and soldiers in much higher regard than the homeless.

I didn’t take the money cuz I didn’t FIND the ATM. I found the sleaze who propositioned her and said no, and then went into the diner and got rejected, and then spent altogether too long messing around in the diner trying to figure out how to get money out of that situation, failed, and boom. Night. Moving on. I was GOING to go look for other ways to get money, but ran out of time I guess. Had I found an ATM, hot dinner for me. But no. Where’d you GET hot dinner?

So you think that this is a traditional game narrative, just in non chronological order? You think, had we picked the option to play the chapters chronologically we’d be all “yeah, yeah, seen it?” Or not? Cuz what you just described, a wandering, lone hero walking the lands, meeting people, figuring their own story out…I’ve played that. As have you.

That’s exactly where this ends, yeah. And that’s the cop from the intro, and yes, we’ve come full circle.

And so that means that, after she makes that connection, she’s, basically, turned into a zombie. She loses herself after finding all that.

Speaking of losing herself, what do you make of the whole “No, Aiden, don’t send me back, I want to stay with you” stuff? I also googled, and found that if you try to kill yourself, AIDEN stops you. I would’ve figured it’s Stan, but no. Aiden seems to want to keep her alive DESPITE HER WISHES, which implies that a) she can’t control everything Aiden does and b) Aiden is likely more intelligent than a dog.

Also, in terms of gameplay, another interesting question is how that would play out if we were playing co-op and a real human was playing Aiden. Cuz that seems like a pretty big choice that would have to be taken out of the hands of the player playing Aiden. I don’t think I’d like that. Mr O certainly wouldn’t.

Feminina:

I did try to kill myself, I tried to jump off the ledge, and Aiden made a force field and bounced me back, and I said “I just want this to end!” or something. But he wasn’t having it, either because he didn’t want to lose his connection with life through her (what happens to him if she dies? who knows?), or because he cares about her and didn’t think she’d be better off dead (and given he may be a ghost himself, it’s possible he would know).

I agree it’s very interesting that she finds her connection to humanity among the lowly and downtrodden, as it were…high-minded science and high-powered military technology just don’t have that human touch.

Butch:

And yet he doesn’t care enough to save her from the monsters swirling around her all episode. What’s with that?

Feminina:

I think he was trying to save her? I certainly tried, as him, to zap them, but it didn’t do much. Maybe he doesn’t have that particular power.

I was wondering if maybe her weakened state allows them to get closer and…I don’t know what they do, siphon off her energy or something. There was a definite predatory quality to their movements, but it was hard to tell exactly what they were doing to her.

Maybe if she’d stayed in the world of science, we’d know! Ha. But seriously, perhaps it’s partly about how if you give up the horrors of being a military tool, you also give up the informational advantages, or whatever.

Butch:

Yeah, I’ve been sorta going Aiden every once in a while, sorta the way Lara Croft used senses in Tomb Raider, just to see what’s around. So I did that, and was all DAMN monsters and couldn’t do a thing.

So it’s selective.

Feminina:

Yeah, and did you try going into that doorway, in back of Stan’s little shelter there? Where she just gets this sense of horror and jerks away?

There are various places where if you try to walk somewhere Jodie will just turn around and go back (an interesting version of the ‘edge of the world wall’), but this was the only one I’ve noticed where she seemed actively alarmed. Monsters!

Still don’t know what the monsters do, exactly.

Butch:

No! I missed that! Damn!

In Stan’s place? Horror? Weird.

But you’re right, I do like the end of the world walls.

I Failed That QTE on Purpose

Tags

, ,

Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

Spoilers for the Condenser chapter in Beyond: Two Souls

Butch:

Ok, did the condenser.

Can’t decide if knowing I couldn’t die helped that or hurt it. It certainly took some of the “AIEE” factor out, but it also took out some of the “Damn this would be frustrating” out.

Cuz some of that would have been frustrating. I had the damnedest time figuring out how to kill some of those monsters. A lot going on there. Hard to see the little dots.

This “Not being able to die when things are obviously trying to kill you” is a mechanic that I’ll be pondering a long time.

So let’s ponder other stuff for today. The not dying will keep.

Thought this chapter did a great job amping up the horror. It was a nice contrast between “dark garage kid is scared” stuff with actual OMG MONSTERS! And the reveals were great. From the first doctor all “Die, bitch!” followed by the nice doctor who turns into someone you have to kill (more on that in a minute). Nicely done.

But as good as the game was at building tensions and foreshadowing story and all that (and it was very good), things do sometimes come out of left field, like this channeling business. I was a bit “Wait…new mechanic?” at that. Nicely done for narrative purposes, but that was…kinda new. Still, not a bad mechanic. One thing I like about it mechanically is that they, Jody and Aiden, have to do it together. Unlike other Aiden actions, JODY starts it by looking at the dot (I don’t know what else to call that) and THEN Aiden does his thing. Aiden CAN’T initiate it in Aiden screen. That’s pretty cool. Reinforces their bond.

And can we now put to bed the whole “She’s scared of Aiden” deal? There, all “I was scared you had left me” at the end? She was very much not “Am I free? Am I finally free?” No. Not one bit.

Which was a nice callback to the end of the “Imaginary Friend” bit. At the end, there was a choice “Hug bear” or “Aiden,” and if you hugged bear (as one does), she just hugs it for a while then puts it down and nothing happens. In this chapter, she’s all “Stay close to me Aiden” as a kid would tell their bear when afraid of imaginary monsters. He’s that security, a real teddy bear in a world of real threat.

But, to go back to Divinity and turn things upside down, Jody thinks of Aiden as something that keeps her safe (be it from the monsters, or the kids with snowballs, or kids that lock her under stairs, or evil zombies trying to kill her), but a lot of the time she’s only IN those situations because she HAS Aiden. She’s not the freak at the party but for Aiden. She’s not being asked to go into a haunted, zombie infested laboratory but for Aiden. For all I know (and I don’t know), the monsters wouldn’t care about her at all but for Aiden.

So Aiden is BOTH security and the cause of the threat that she needs security from. What kind of security is that?

Interesting.

But I’ll tell you real fear: I thought I had a game breaking bug. I could NOT find the damn key card for the life of me, so I went online to see which dead guy had it and the first things I see is “Condenser key card: Glitch.”

Turns out I was just looking at the wrong guys.

Phew.

Feminina:

I did think the condenser was a nice, moody bit of well-done horror. And yes, this chapter finally clarified both that Jodie’s relationship with Aiden is one where she cares about him, rather than being unwillingly afflicted with him, and that there actually are monsters. So it was nice to get some more facts there to pin down that part of the story.

It was informative, also, to see Aiden’s tricks (possession, throwing things around) used…I was going to say “for evil,” but that’s a matter of interpretation since the people Aiden possesses and forces to shoot their comrades and themselves would probably disagree that that was “for good.” Let’s just go with “against Jodie.”

We now know that Aiden, whatever he is, is not a weird anomaly among spirits (except, as far as we know, in that he’s permanently tied to a living human–though there could be others like them we haven’t encountered). He has similar powers to what the monsters have, and can fight them–though you’re right, those fights were tough. It’s hard to focus those dots on the other dots! And if you don’t get it quite right when you try to blast them, you seem to push yourself away from the monster rather than hitting it, which is not helpful.

Probably would have gotten frustrating if we’d been able to die–though on that, I felt the tension and alarm worked pretty well anyway…maybe, to callback a bit to yesterday, kind of the way you can feel tension and urgency while watching a movie even when you know the main character isn’t going to die, or like those climbing bits we talked about in Tomb Raider a million years ago, where we agreed we probably couldn’t have actually fallen, but where it felt genuinely dangerous anyway. But as you say, we can table the discussion of not-dying for another time, when we’ve had more time to think about it.

Back to mechanics, I found it’s also a little tough to focus the dots around the ghost-wave so Jodie can channel, so it’s a good thing nothing ever tried attacking her while she was working on that. That would have been very frustrating. “Almost…got it…now just hold for a second…” [Monster attack]

The channeling did seem to come out of nowhere a bit, but I thought it worked…it was a good way to increase the creepiness, as well as being a useful way to get information to us about what the monsters were and what had happened, so I was pretty into it. Although I missed a body somewhere, because in the summary it said “didn’t channel every spirit” or something. Siiiiiiiiigh.

This chapter, with the references to the “infraworld” and the information about the condenser, also help us figure out what other people know about ghosts/monsters/whatever…not ALL that much, it seems, but they know there’s a whole plane (or something) of them, and how to open a hole to that plane (or something). From my understanding, it sounds as if spirits (or whatever they are) can sometimes slip through anyway (hence Aiden, and presumably the sources of other ghost stories through the ages), but the condenser makes it easier for them, and/or actively pulls them? Or something?

The old ‘messing with unseen forces we don’t understand’ story. Hey, it’s a good story.

Butch:

As old as time, that.

It was well done! Liked it. Good horror is not easy, and I think they pulled it off.

Yeah, Aiden does seem to be like the other spirits. He certainly can do what they do.

As for being attached to another human, it was pretty clear that the monsters didn’t/don’t like Jody. We know they’ve been haunting her since she was a kid, and they seemed to know her. “What are you doing here?” and all that. Yes, they killed everyone, but I got the sense they knew who/what she is. And they had no desire to talk about things first.

Interesting. More, where’d all these things come from? And why are they so mad?

It did make things a little less tense for me, knowing I wouldn’t die.

Though one part I did like, even knowing I wasn’t gonna die, was the bit where Jody is walking through the furniture and things are being chucked at her. There, like the fight with the doctor, I failed a bunch of QTEs, which made her feel like she hadn’t gotten all that training yet (which she hadn’t). I think they made them harder, and that was cool.

But on that…..

Three percentages in this one. “Channeled all bodies,” (who did that? This guy!), I get if you didn’t do that. But only 98% everyone killed the doctor, and only 85% or so shut down the reactor. Now……how’d anyone get around THAT? Did you?

HA! I channeled all the spirits!

All they all were, were grisly deaths. Except for the very helpful firefighter dropping the extinguisher.

What I couldn’t figure was who was actually seeing that. Did Aiden posses Jody and let her see it through his eyes? Or did Aiden give her some power?

The condenser pulls them…or something. Thanks for telling me “infraworld.” I redid that cutscene three times and only heard “mumble.”

Cuz I was wondering on “condenser.” Why call it that?

Well, infrared light, say, has a longer wavelength than the light we can see. To see infrared light, we have to condense the wavelengths into something, say, a pair of goggles can translate into something we can perceive.

That said, infrared light is all around us, all the time. We just can’t see it until it’s, well, condensed.

See where I’m going here? Maybe the monsters are already here, but they can’t interact with us (and we can’t see them) unless they’re somehow condensed.

Feminina:

Hm…condensing the infraworld so it can interact with us…interesting. I like it.

And it could explain other things, too, like maybe Aiden himself is some sort of condenser, making it easier for other spirits to locate and pester Jodie. So, as you say, it’s kind of his fault they bother her, even if he doesn’t mean it.

Or maybe it’s actually NOT about him, exactly, but there’s something about Jodie herself that acts as a natural ‘condenser,’ and that quality attracted or trapped (or something) Aiden when she was a baby, and it ALSO allows other spirits to locate and interact with her. So maybe it’s not his fault, they would bother her anyway, and she’s fortunate to have him around to keep them away, even if he’s not always completely successful at that.

Maybe he’s her familiar.

About the channeling, yeah, I’m not completely sure whose eyes we’re seeing those snippets through. Some of them felt like they could have been the last memories of the dead person she was focused on, like “and then I saw Fred thrown violently into the air, and now I’m dead” but some of them definitely seemed like the last moments of the dead person she was focused on, as seen by someone else. And who else was there?

Maybe they were just impressions left on the air, or something, and the connection with Aiden allows Jodie to perceive them. There is that theory about ghost sightings, right, that they’re the result of intense emotions leaving an imprint on the fabric of spacetime or whatever. (I don’t know that I when I encountered that theory it specifically used the phrase “the fabric of spacetime,” but dude, it should have.)

So maybe that’s what’s going on here…it’s not the memory of any specific person, it’s just the imprint of an event marked by unspeakable horror. On the fabric of spacetime.

Butch:

Yeah. ‘Condenser’ is a weird term for the thing that makes the monsters come/happen/whatever. A loaded term.

Still don’t know why Aiden seems benevolent. Every other thing seems to want her dead. Or…well…do they? They do, I suppose. Or do they just want to stop her? Or tear Aiden away?

I read each channeled memory as being seen from a different set of eyes. We often saw the very body we were channeling land where it now lay. So it couldn’t be from the dead person’s point of view. Odd.

Fabric of spacetime still doesn’t explain why the presence of these things leads to horror when Aiden doesn’t. Usually doesn’t. He sure fucked up that town. For me.

By the way, I’m assuming that this time you AREN’T in the 2%. Or are you?

Feminina:

Um…I think so, actually. “Failed to shut down the condenser”? Yup, that would be me.

Just trying to stay away from the crowd, you know?

So, yeah, back to talking about failing. It really seems like that’s a point where someone would have died and had to try again, in a game with death and reloading as a mechanic, but I just kept fighting (badly) with zombie scientists and then…I’m not sure. I was walking out of the building.

I’m not sure how that works, logically, because I got out somehow, and I said “don’t build another one or next time there won’t be anything left” or whatever. So it was destroyed, and how did that happen if I didn’t do it? How did I get out?

Hm. I was so puzzled thinking back on this that I looked online, and the internet (GamePressure.com) says if you fail to defeat the entities, “Jodie will be taken outside and the building blown up by soldiers.”

So I guess someone came to rescue me, even though I was the only one who could safely venture down there? Probably they all died and I should feel bad? I don’t know.

It comes back to that point about how to manage story progression if you can’t die, and you have to get to a certain place in the narrative. If you don’t have to win a fight to get there, what’s the alternative?

Because in an important way, it doesn’t matter how bad you are if you can die and come back. Sooner or later you’re going to get it, even if you’re terrible at combat (as I clearly am). But if you can’t die, and they don’t want to just have the fight go on forever (two days later, I’m still trying to duck when I should be punching! the suspension of disbelief over how I’m still alive has become agonizing!), they have to figure out something else.

And we talked about how sometimes losing a fight might actually turn out for the best — for others, like the residents of that destroyed town, if not for you. So that’s one way to handle it: put in a bit of a twist, make an alternate story.

This didn’t feel quite like that, though–it felt a lot more like “if you can’t win this fight, screw it, someone will come save you.” Which is possibly lazy, if they didn’t bother to work out an alternate path that was interesting, or is possibly the harsh but fair consequences of not having figured out how to fight effectively.

I will say, I guess in defense of the way things flow, that aside from the puzzlement of not knowing exactly what had happened (which honestly was kind of lost in the conversation with Dawkins, such that I didn’t really remember it until now), it didn’t FEEL like a crushing failure.

It just felt like “this is the next thing that happened in this story.” They didn’t go out of their way to say “eight good men just one day from retirement died to save you, you pathetic loser” or anything.

So they’re kind of going out of their way, I think, to avoid the success/failure divide. Mercifully, for terrible, terrible players like me.

Related note: this would be a good option for video game newbies! As well as for experienced yet terrible, terrible players like me.

Butch:

Seriously?

Did you at least kill the zombie doctor?

Wait, shit, you didn’t even get to the bit when you’re running and running on the catwalks, trying to shut the thing down? You didn’t even get that? You didn’t make it past the ice corridor?

DAMN.

You were taken outside by whom?

Weird.

But yes, I did the whole deal, very tense, blew the thing up, got the same cutscene you likely did, hugging Dawkins, etc.

But yeah, in the catwalk part, there were all SORTS of places that you’d likely die in a game where that could happen. In addition to lots of monsters, there were QTEs where you had to jump gaps in the catwalk (which was very high), jump to swinging things, jump OFF swinging things, as one does. Nathan Drake or Lara Croft would have died nine times each.

I did the QTEs, but damned if I know what would have happened if I had failed, cuz it wasn’t just a “get bonked and fall” deal, it was a “fail to jump a gap that would lead to a 200 foot fall” deal. Like, I’d jump it but with less style?

I shall never know.

But….we’ve played many, MANY games that are narrative heavy where death, even repeated, frustrating death, is commonplace. Shit, even in your first game, DAO, I can recall more than one fight that took me a couple days (remember Brood Mother?) and 27 or so failures (remember the end of the forest with the werewolves?). I even coined the term “reaper moment” for that very thing: the very, very hard thing in the narrative game.

There’d be an easy way around that whole “they don’t want you to die 27 times” problem: make shit easier. That’s really the middle ground between really hard and impossible to fail. Make it so you CAN kill the reaper in a couple tries.

Or just one, with the threat of death. Remember in TW3, the fight for Kaer Mohren? That fight that must’ve been 45 minutes long that ended with Ciri going all screamy for the first time? 45 minutes, didn’t die once, but the whole time I was a mess cuz I knew I could die. It led to absolutely perfect immersion: tension like hell (which Geralt would’ve felt) but with no interruptions for dying 27 times (or even one time). Perfect balance. We talked about it then.

So just saying “Meh, I’ll make it impossible to fail to keep the story moving” is really saying “I don’t want to think hard enough to get that balance that CDPR did in TW3. Which is kind of lazy. It CAN be done.

Yeah, that’s kinda cheap that ‘someone will come in and save you’. Maybe I will come to regret destroying that town, or you will regret NOT destroying that town, the same way we might regret our decisions about the teens at the party. But here, we both got to EXACTLY the same place, not the same place with town/no town or the same place with scared, mad teens/not scared, mad teens. EXACTLY the same place. Knowing stuff, dead dudes, blown up condenser. Period.

Kinda cheap.

Well, I know you saw this cuz you didn’t have to go to an option screen to see it:

When we started a new game, it asked us questions like, what language, etc. One option was “I play video games regularly (or something)” vs. “I never play games (or rarely, or something).” I picked “I play games, dude (or something),” and I’m still not able to fail. Shit, I’m doing better than you are. So damn, if you’re saying “this would be a great option for newbies,” I wonder what would have been if we had picked the option for newbies we were actually offered.

Cuz usually there is an option for newbies. Most games we play (if you go to the options screen which you never do) even have a setting easier than “easy” called “Explorer mode” or “Story mode” or some shit. I suppose you CAN die in that, but it’s really, really hard to die.

So, again, GUARANTEEING success is not really necessary to keep things moving.

Feminina:

Well, but maybe that’s actually what they were trying NOT to do, is “guarantee success.”

Maybe they were thinking “people who are actually good at this mechanic deserve something cool, so let’s give them an extended sequence of excitement and drama, and if they aren’t good at it they won’t DIE, but we’ll just skip all that extra stuff (which, let’s be honest, they would probably suck at anyway since they clearly suck at games)”.

Maybe this is their attempt to have a meaningful consequence for failure that isn’t dying and reloading. Which…I don’t know…it’s not actually THAT meaningful since I had no idea what I’d missed until you mentioned it, and as I said it’s not as if they were up in my face about “you screwed up the QTEs so you didn’t get to go to the condenser shut-down party!”

Except that I guess “3% of people failed this particular task” is kind of doing exactly that, so on second thought I take it back. The STORY didn’t say that, but the summary did. Which goes back to our earlier conversation about why they offer these summary screens, and maybe that’s another part of it. There aren’t significant story consequences of failing, but you will be told that you managed to screw up something 97% of people had no problem with, so that’s a consequence. Perhaps a consequence worse than game-death, even!

I mean, whatever, we all die all the time, but being SCORED? Having my performance compared to that of every other person who’s ever played this and noted as a failure?

That’s hitting me where it really hurts! Well, not so much me personally, but somebody who cares more about their trophies and stats than I do.

Hm.

Oh, and yes, I did kill the zombie doctor, if you mean the first, possessed guy. It was the waves of later zombie doctors that got me.

Butch:

Yeah. And, let’s face it, the threat of “I’m going to die and feel failure and have to redo all of this when I really should stop and make dinner” isn’t the same as “Whelp, guess I missed a cutscene.” So it lowers the tension somewhat.

Not so much you, not so much me, in terms of caring about trophies. And it’s one thing to have “Shut down the condenser” (cuz it’s pretty obvious that “shut down the condenser” is the unplayed path) but a lot of the time it’s just “unplayed path.” For all you know, that unplayed path was “Failed to brush teeth, had root canal.” You don’t know you’re missing something good. If it was something like “You: didn’t hit the tennis ball. Not you: Got to go to a fancy dress ball, then got naked” then it would be much more of a sense of failure. Unplayed path sort of undermines that.

But the doctors…so you never even GOT to the catwalks?

So when did you first kill the entities? Later?

Feminina:

Kill the entities? Uh…maybe never? I don’t know. I mean, I zapped them as Aiden by sending the little dots at the dot, and chased them off, but that was earlier in the condenser chapter, right?

Or…maybe that was in a different chapter entirely, in which case never mind.

But if there’s something more to it than zapping them and running them off, like they die dramatically in an explosion of flame or something, then I can confidently say that I never saw that, so maybe that death animation was your REAL reward for being good at QTEs.

And yeah, I agree, it’s one thing to say “you failed to shut down the condenser” and have the obvious unplayed path be shutting down the condenser, but with some of them (“climbed through the window” compared to…what?) it’s a lot less definite what the other option was (a door? an air vent? escaping through the sewer?), and almost impossible to say by looking that one was a ‘better’ path than the other.

And as you say, the “undiscovered paths” where you have no way of knowing WHAT options you didn’t get to pick either of, who knows if we would have cared about that or not. Doesn’t seem urgent.

Butch:

Uh…maybe? Yes, that dot thing making them go poof is what I’m talking about, so maybe it was earlier?

They kind of got a bright flash or something. Not really died. Figured they died.

And right. Unplayed means just that. And it’s not always easy to assume. Shit, sometimes you don’t get to see EITHER path (that DID happen to me, in the Embassy chapter), so who knows?

Doesn’t seem urgent at all. So hardly an incentive to do every QTE.

Feminina:

OK, yeah, I think I did that. Fighting the monsters with the dots.

It’s all about blue dots with Aiden. Zoom around and look for a blue dot to mess with!

I do find myself mildly curious about the other paths, and this game is a lot more replayable than the last several we’ve done, but even so I probably won’t actually play it again. There’s something about just making your choice (or failing your QTEs) and living with the results.

“That’s how it happened for me, and that’s how it is.”

Unless the unplayed path has the good arrows.

Butch:

Ooo that’s cold, man. The good arrows. COLD.

But true.

Feminina:

I blame Mr. O’.

Although I can’t really blame him for my poor performance in this current game. That’s just bad fingers, I guess.

Butch:

Well, we CAN blame Mr. O. It just wouldn’t be accurate.

Not that that’s stopped you before.

Roads Not Taken (Because We Failed the QTE)

Tags

, ,

Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

Minor vague spoilers for story bits in Beyond: Two Souls

Butch:

Well, as promised, didn’t play.

But I was thinking on the end of “hunted” and how you got caught and didn’t mess up the town and I didn’t and did mess up the town.

Did we talk about gameplay making choices? Cuz I was, once again, finding it interesting that that divergence wasn’t based on choice. We made the same choice (I want to succeed at this QTE) and yet wound up with different stories. And I thought that would be a good place to start but now I don’t know if we’ve done that already cuz I’m tired.

This is what it’s come to.

Ok, I went back and I don’t think we went down this road so let’s definitely go down it some more.

We make choices in games all the time. We’ve talked on that.

We’ve talked about how sometimes these choices have obvious consequences (bioware, etc.) and sometimes they don’t (Bairdotr, the Bloody Baron, etc.)

But I can’t recall a game that had you make a gameplay choice (I shall try to succeed at this QTE) and have the story change based on your success or failure. Usually, if you try to do something in gameplay and it doesn’t work, then what happens is “Reload,” or, maybe “Ok, you don’t get to have that shotgun/treasure/platinum trophy.” But that’s it. The STORY is dictated by things we, the players, CHOOSE to do. Not our successes or failures.

Even things that look like successes or failures kinda aren’t. Things like Rock Paper Scissors in Divinity or skill checks or something don’t have anything to do with our gameplay skill. Shit, even those are based on choice, in that we choose what stats to buff or whether to use charm or intimidate or reason.

So this bit here, this story divergence that is based on our reflexes and dexterity, I can’t think of another instance in games where this has been the case.

And I think I kinda like it.

Thoughts?

Feminina:

Hm. I’m trying to think of other games where things played out similarly. I think…hmm. It’s basically a story that branches based on success or failure at a skill check.

And there was a bit in DA2 where someone gets poisoned or something, and you can cure them if you have a certain other character with you but not if you don’t or something (it’s all a bit vague with the mists of time)…anyway, that was another story branch that kind of depended on a skill check (though that of a companion you did or didn’t have with you).

More relevant to the point, there are places in some games where you try to get across a space, say, and if you succeed that’s one thing, but if you fail you fall through the floor and have to climb back up and maybe come out at another door. That’s a very, very minor story branch.

So I think there are small sort of proto-examples of story changes that are based on skill checks, but you’re right that it’s not common, and I think in this game the changes are much more dramatic and meaningful than in those smaller instances.

And I think it works well in this game, so I agree that I kind of like it. It ties in with that sense of continuity that I mentioned before, that comes of not having death/respawning as a mechanic. Instead of forcing you to succeed at a specific task (winning a fight, for example), this game allows you to fail, and then takes you from there along a different path to the end goal of the sequence.

Which is actually pretty interesting in that it gives you a chance to play a game you’re not very good at, and have that still be a workable option.

I mean, in combat games, you pretty much have to get good at combat to proceed. Not necessarily THAT good at one particular thing, since there are difficulty levels to set and often there are different ways to approach battles so that players can focus on the things they’re better at (one person might like to stay back and snipe, one likes to just charge in), but if there’s a fight you have to win to move forward, then you have to win that fight if you want to play the game.

In Beyond, you can actually be terrible at combat, you can lose all the time (in game-narrative terms, you can say that Jodie was just never a very promising recruit for the CIA!), and the story lets you do that and still continue. Partly because there are a lot of non-combat-focused tasks, but also because winning the fight is not the only way the story can go.

Maybe you aren’t actually the baddest badass to ever walk the halls of CIA Preparatory Academy. Maybe you kind of suck. There could still be a story about you. Life goes on, the story continues, even for people who don’t win every fight they get into.

And on the other hand, we’re used to having a lot of chances to win when we have to/want to win. It’s no big deal if we fail, we’ll just try again.

In this game, if you fail, the story continues, and you lost that opportunity to win. You will never win that fight.

Speaking of which, have you noticed yet that sometimes conversations have a limit? Like, you’ll have three possible topics of conversation, and you pick one and play it out, and there there are two more, and you pick one, and then the conversation is over? It seems that there are times when you don’t get to just exhaust every possible topic the way we’re used to: you pick one thing to talk about, and the other options are gone.

I found that very interesting also, and related to the whole “things move on and you only have this little time to choose which direction they go” feeling. It makes you think harder about conversation, that’s for sure. With every topic I pick, I have to think “OK, if I only get one thing to ask about, which do I want it to be?” Because you might not get another chance!

So…yeah. I think this game does a lot of very interesting things with story and mechanics and expectations, and based on my experience with it I am a lot more inclined to check out Detroit: Become Human as well. Goofy title or no.

Butch:

Right, skill check. Which isn’t player skill at all.

True. But again, this wasn’t an in game skill check. I didn’t get a bonus to this QTE cuz I buffed up “drive motorcycle” or some shit. It was purely “My hands did it, yours didn’t.”

And that…I can’t even think of proto-examples for that.

All true, the bit about never getting to win a fight if you lose. But I wonder how we’d feel if this wasn’t an example of giving you (or allowing for) an alternate way to get to AN end of a sequence, as opposed to these gameplay focused things having real story consequences. I think it takes something out of things when you could do the QTE or fail it, but you get to the same place. Yes, that’s necessary in such a time altered game, but still. If there was a narrative way for things to really MATTER, when the whole outcome of your story hinged on whether you were “good” at the game, would we like that?

I did notice that about conversations! Did you also notice that if you don’t pick a thing in a given amount of time, it picks for you? I was playing and junior came out of his room, and I was at a dialog choice and I thought “Ah, perfect. Dialog choices are like pauses I’ll just put junior to bed and HEY WHO PICKED THAT?”

I kinda like that. Gives things some urgency.

Let’s remember this when we play the new LiS. This is a big deal in the new LiS.

And there it is. Femmy has reached the point in a game where she’s hoping for sequels and wanting to play the other stuff the developer did. Her highest form of praise.

I’m with you! I just need some time to play.

Tonight. I have a bunch of leftovers. Game ahoy!

Or not.

Feminina:

Is there any higher praise, really, than “I want more of this?”

But I agree, this works in large part because the choices in this game are contained within each chapter: we know we’re going to get to the other side of the room, so to speak, and so it doesn’t REALLY matter whether we successfully cross the floor the first time, or fall into a pit and have to climb back out again. We see different things along the way, but the destination is the same.

If there were larger things at stake, like, I don’t know, you throw yourself into your alien lover’s arms or spurn him/her forever not because you chose that but because you accidentally held down L1 instead of R1, we would certainly hate it.

What works well and intrigues us in this game would be a terrible fit for some other games. Which is fine! Good even! We don’t need or want every game to work the same or use the same tricks.

And yes, I also noticed that if you hesitate too long, one of the dialogue choices will select itself for you. As you say, it adds a little urgency to conversations. You can’t just sit and stare forever in the middle of talking to someone–you’re going to say SOMETHING!

‘Urgency’ is an interesting concept in general in this game. We talked about how some moments FEEL urgent but probably are not, in the sense that you won’t actually die or ‘fail’ if you don’t hurry.

In the path you didn’t take in the forest, I was arrested and had to escape from the back of a cop car, while the cops just stood and chatted and waited for backup. And it felt urgent, “I’ve got to get out of here before more guys show up, or these ones come to check on me!” but I think in all likelihood they would have just stood there chatting and no one would have come, no matter how long it took me to figure out how to get out of the car. (On the other hand, delaying too long before running on the train would probably get us arrested very quickly, so sometimes there ARE consequences.)

So in some situations there’s this tense, time-constrained moment that actually isn’t. You can actually take as much time as you need to poke around as Aiden, looking for things to throw to distract people, and so on.

On the other hand, conversations, which we don’t usually think of as terribly urgent, will move on without us if we don’t act. Conversation and tide wait for no man! Speak up or the game will speak for you! (Not a unique mechanic, of course, we’ve seen it with those fast-choice dialogues in the Witcher 3 for example.)

Obviously this different approach to different situations is based on the overall sense of what works in a game, which is also interesting to think about.

We seem to be pretty OK with having a character select a line of dialogue for us if we don’t pick (it even works kind of interestingly as a “this is the way you/Jodie lean by default, but you can change your/her mind”), and have the conversation move on. We were surprised, but it works all right.

But if this also happened in action sequences, if Aiden and Jodie eventually just got her out of the car on their own if you took too long, we would probably think it was weird. Right? If the game just played itself, if we didn’t play it quickly enough, that would be very odd?

And this is an interesting note about what kinds of things we feel we need to control in a game, and what things it makes some sense to us as being acceptable if they’re partly out of our control.

I guess practically speaking it goes back to choice and story branches…the game can PICK a branch of the story for us (whether in terms of what happens when you say a certain thing, or what happens when you succeed/fail a QTE), but at a certain point you’re on that branch, and you have to do that for yourself.

The story doesn’t branch at whether or not you get out of the car: it branches TO that point and then you have to get yourself to the next plot node, or however you want to call it.

And we’re more or less OK with it picking branches for us because we accept the idea that sometimes if you don’t act quickly, things will overtake you–not choosing is also a choice, and we accept that, and so even having the game make the choice feels like still playing the game. We’re all right with it because we haven’t been completely cut out of the action: we were there, we were involved it was our action or inaction that made something happen, so we the player still MATTER to what happens in the game.

Whereas solving the puzzle of how to get from point A to point B, which has no meaningful story choice involved, is at the point the entire game, and if the character does it for us we’re not playing anymore, we’re just watching, and we’re not all right with that (although there are certainly times you kind of wish you could just say “hey, character, just do this, OK?”).

Hm.

Butch:

Well, maybe not L1 vs R1, but, say, your lover dies if you don’t do XYZ and lives if you do. And XYZ is a gameplay thing.

It would be different. And maybe more immersive.

I don’t think I’d like it, either, but then, how can I say that AND mock Mr. O for reloading cuz Bairdotr?

And on reloading, Beyond kind of makes that not an option. Once you’re past a certain point, it’s “accept it or RESTART THE GAME.”

That’s pretty draconian. And it certainly would have prevented what is now known (cuz I say so) as the “Bairdotr episode.” It’s effective. Annoying?

Again, though, why are we being so of two minds on this? What would be wrong with a game making you live with stuff? Even gameplay stuff?

This leads to something I’ve mean meaning to talk on:

There are things that really AREN’T urgent that you still have to do. When you’re getting out of the car at the party, you HAVE to move the stick to open the door. There’s nothing else TO do, but you’ll sit there until you move the stick. There’s even multiple camera angles. Ditto with taking the book from Dawkins. He’ll hold that thing up forever.

There seem to be a lot of these moments. One thing to do, not that big a thing, you still have to do it.

There would have been no difference (I think) in making the cutscene before the party include her getting out of the car and taking the book.

So this game is kind of all over the place in what IT says we “need” to control and what we can’t/can’t entirely. It’s weird. Why does having to take the book “work” in the sense of the game?

I think that whole “You’re not playing anymore” might be why you have to “take” the book. To remind you that you’re playing. Or something. I still don’t get it.

While this has been a great bloggage game, I’m kinda annoyed that our comparison of notes, and our pulling back of the curtain to find you can’t really “fail,” takes a little something out of it for me. I’m at a point where I’m being driven to a place where some entities have done some very bad shit, and I have to deal with it all. When I got there, I, the player, was thinking “Oh man….this is gonna be hard. Tense. I’ll probably get all frustrated, die a lot…” There was some trepidation there in terms of playing it, which made sense, as Jody would be FEELING some trepidation. That’s good game design. But now that I know that I could sit there just kind of hitting the sticks in some random way and I’ll still make it to the next chapter, the trepidation is kind of gone.

So is that a flaw in how we’re playing it, or in the game design?

Feminina:

I don’t know if I really see much to talk about on “why are we of two minds about this?”

We’re of two minds about everything! Whatever it is we’re talking about, one or the other of us is likely to be all “well, this is great but on the other hand would we want to see it in that,” or “I hate it but I can kind of understand why they did it…”

We’re always seeing two sides of things. Or more. It’s how we do.

And I really do think that in some instances you have to do something (your example of “take the book” is good…also, all those times when you have to hit individual buttons to climb up or whatever) just to remind you that you’re playing.

As you say, the action of you taking the book is not a choice, and is in no way something that you, the player, must experience or lose out on valuable immersion. I move the stick and take the book, Jodie on screen takes the book without my intervention, it’s the same thing (except that I might stand there and space out for 20 minutes if I decide to go make tea or something, while Jodie-in-game would just take the book right away). I think there are various moments in some of these scenes where it might have felt too much like just watching a movie, so they put something in for the player to do to keep us involved.

Which is fine. It does keep me a bit more involved, and it WOULD start to kind of feel like watching a movie–honestly, it kind of did anyway, once or twice, so the technique is not entirely effective–but it certainly helps ensure that you keep paying attention and keeps you in the mindset of “I am playing a game here, my presence is needed.”

Butch:

Fair point. Sorta our blog thing:

PFTL: Two minds. Or more. Usually more.

Kinda wordy, though. LIKE US!

Right: “this is a game, better have the player do something.” Moreso than even in games that have “less gameplay” like Gone Home. There, we’re doing all the moving.

But one of the, like, four blog posts I’ve actually “authored” defended long cutscenes. I’m often ok with long cutscenes. I sort of think that if a cutscene feels too long, or disengages the player, that’s the developers fault, not the fact it’s a long cutscene.

I’m not against taking the book. It just seemed odd.

Feminina:

Agreed–I’m not against taking the book either. Or hitting L1 and then R1 to clamber through a window, or whatever. It’s fine. It keeps me doing things.

But it does sometimes feel like it’s only giving me things to do to make sure I don’t feel left out, or something.

On the other hand (because other hands are what we’re all about!), maybe we could argue it does serve a real, intentional purpose in that it makes us feel more involved with Jodie’s experience even when Jodie’s not doing anything interesting.

Along the lines of “you can be terrible at fighting and still get through the story,” maybe it’s a kind of “you have to do unexciting, routine things to get through the story, because life is full of these sorts of tasks.” With the mixture of action- and conversation-focused chapters, it really does seem that they want us to experience Jodie’s life as both dramatic and mundane. She’s weird and special and there’s a deep mystery, and she’s just some kid who’s stuck in this life.

Maybe giving us mundane tasks to do like opening doors and taking books is part of that.

Butch:

Except sometimes the mundane makes some degree of sense. The mundane stuff in the first part of the “imaginary friend” chapter, the turning on the TV, the gazing out the window, the asking for a hug, that all served to amp up the tension because you KNEW something was gonna happen. If you look at a movie like the Shining, some of the creepiest shots are just of a kid riding his big wheel, even if there aren’t the creepy little girls around the corner. Or underwater shots of people swimming in Jaws. They’re disquieting even when nothing happens because you know SOMEONE’S getting sharked sometime.

But I didn’t get that sense from taking the book. Yes, you knew something was going to happen in the chapter, but you pretty much knew it wasn’t THEN. The friend chapter, the whole thing felt like something was gonna happen the whole time, and that was creepy.

I’ll also say that being Aiden on the train and just walking around shaking people’s water bottles served a purpose, in that it gave us some sense of Aiden as a character. That sort of thing has to happen cuz we can’t see/hear Aiden. So it’s mundane, and it’s pointless in terms of you’re just shaking bottles, but it’s still serving a narrative purpose.

The book? I don’t get it.

Feminina:

Life isn’t always about action, or even about creepy. Sometimes it’s just about showing up and doing what you’re told.

Take the damn book.

Ha.

Butch:

Ain’t it a fact, dude. Ain’t it a fact.

It’s hot. Very hot.

But I’ll still try to play.

Feminina:

Play! Maybe you’ll get to the scene that’s all cold and snowy. That’s bound to make you feel better.

Butch:

I just did the snowball fight.

That was nice.

It’s really hot. At least I got the air conditioners in.

Feminina:

Yes, the snowball fight was good timing. Very refreshing.

It’s possible there’s more snow in the future, though. Don’t lose hope! Play on.

Butch:

Oh thank god.

Cuz this kind of heat just plain sucks.

It sucks worse cuz the PS4 is not in an air conditioned part of the house.

Now is the Winter of Our Pondering

Tags

, , , ,

Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

Spoilers for that one chapter when Jodie’s a kid in the winter in Beyond: Two Souls. 

Butch:

Man, I was SO hoping for a million difficult QTEs and I get that.

Ha.

Did the whole winter as a kid chapter.

Now, as we talked about our issues earlier, you with the nails and stuff, my turn. I hate cymbal monkeys. Hate them. Why does anyone BUY cymbal monkeys? All cymbal monkeys do is come to life in a creepy way when demons are around.

Anyway, good chapter.

The garage was nicely done. I didn’t want to be in there at all. Booked right out.

So couple of things:

I didn’t go into Jody’s room, or the room at the end of the hall. Did you? What’d I miss?

The QTE in the mirror freaked the shit out of me. I admit.

As Aiden, I laid off the kid that was hurting Jody, which goes back into our “Who’s really bad, here?” thing from the other day. I’m not sure the game would’ve let us kill the kid, but I didn’t kill the kid.

Nor did I use Aiden to get a cookie. And one of my paths was “Behaved well,” so there ya go. Nicer as a kid. Hmm.

Something I really missed was whether these were Jody’s parents. She called them mom and dad, but I thought there was something there when Aiden was eavesdropping where they were all “They sent a girl to live with us…” or something. I was distracted. Did you catch that?

So that’s what I did. Then I stopped because I didn’t have the energy to face a bunch of things from the other side or some shit.

Feminina:

Cymbal monkeys ARE creepy. And as you say, their only evident purpose is to serve as a demon-alert. Which I guess is useful, but can’t they just set off something like a smoke detector instead? That’s also very annoying, but less creepifying.

OK, I take that back, in Fallout 4 cymbal monkeys also alerted bad guys to your approach (unless you shot them, which you always did with great satisfaction, so there’s that)…which in a way implies that in FO4, WE were the demon. Heavy, man.

Anyway, I also behaved well in that sequence and didn’t take a cookie, and was creeped out by the mirror bit. And, again talking about whether Aiden is good or bad, it’s really hard to tell in this whole chapter. She tells him she doesn’t want to play with him anymore…because he’s been horrible? Or just because she’s bored with him? Or because her ‘dad’ doesn’t like it?

Speaking of which, I also heard the parents talking, and it definitely sounds as if they’re not her birth parents. And at first I thought oh, well, she’s adopted, but the way he said it (“we agreed to look after a little girl”) makes it sound as if it’s not even that…he, at least, doesn’t sound as if he even sees himself as a parent, just someone who’s “looking after” her.

Maybe more a foster care thing, but clearly one of some duration considering she seems completely at home in the house, she calls them mom and dad, etc. (Which is weird if he doesn’t see himself as her father, but…maybe initially he hoped he would? And the mom seems to really care about her, where the dad is ready to toss her out with the recycling, so maybe it was more the woman who wanted her to call them mom and dad.)

And back to Aiden–the mirror was creepy, but was it because he was trying to scare or threaten her (and even if so, was it serious, or intended to be in fun?), or just because he was trying to connect with her and didn’t know how it would come across?

And the thing with the doll, moving it to the table for the tea party with its head backwards…that was also creepy, but was it creepy because Aiden is creepy and mean, or just because maybe he’s a kid like her (or in a similar stage of development for a spirit, who knows) and he’s awkward and possibly didn’t even realize the head was wrong or that it mattered?

And the garage bit (agreed, that was genuinely creepy out there, which worked so well because that’s exactly the kind of thing that would be scary for a kid, and as players we don’t know if it’s scary because she’s a kid or because there’s really something out there)–was that Aiden messing with her? Or the ‘monsters’?

Is Aiden the monster?

And as you said, when he attacks the other kid: is he lashing out because of murderous rage, or just overreacting trying to protect Jodie, or is it not even his idea and he’s only doing it because she wants him to?

Is Jodie the monster?

It’s really hard to tell what’s going on, but it’s all set up in a way that I thought was effective…there are a lot of possibilities but we’re not supposed to know what’s going on yet, and I’m willing to hang in and wait for more information to be revealed.

Many questions, few answers.

Butch:

Or FO4 just wanted to give you a chance to shoot cymbal monkeys. And, really, who doesn’t want to shoot cymbal monkeys?

I sort of read it as her wanting to be normal, not having her “parents” hate her, that sort of thing. Because she didn’t TOTALLY abandon Aiden. She asked Aiden for help getting through the fence. That said, she didn’t ask Aiden for help in the snowball fight, OR to get the bully off her (it just Poofed to Aiden then). She said “he was defending me.” So I don’t think she thought he was horrible, or was bored, but wanted just to be a normal girl, which also dovetails with how she/we behaved at the party. She wanted to fit in.

Ah, ok, wasn’t just me thinking she’s not really their kid.

And yeah, I think it’s just dad. Mom there certainly seemed maternal. She wasn’t all “Hey, I’m not your mom, call me Lorraine” or some shit (I made up Lorraine. Just came to me). She was very motherly. And it wasn’t lost on me that in “first interview” (which is the next chapter in chronological time that I’ve done), mom was the only one in the waiting room. Dad was nowhere to be seen.

I’m guessing there’s more to it. There’s still some room on that side of the timeline. I don’t think I’m done being young Jody.

Wait, you read that as Aiden in the mirror? I THOUGHT it was Aiden, but could it have been a monster? Or is there stuff I don’t know? I haven’t actually SEEN a monster, yet. But I figure I will in this chapter. She certainly never said “Hey, Aiden, knock it off.”

Whoops, didn’t do the tea party. I did the mirror, then mom said “Get me some oil,” so I left and did that and then couldn’t go back upstairs. Never went into Jody’s room or the room at the end of the hall. Regretted it.

What’d I miss?

I couldn’t tell if anyone was messing with me in the garage. It was creepy, but I got out of there before anything other than general “I am a kid in a dark creepy garage” stuff happened. I DID see that, in the end choice thing, I got “Got out of the garage in time,” but it didn’t tell me what I avoided. Did you not avoid something? Cuz I didn’t have anything explicit that said “I am being messed with.” Though I’m sure there would have been.

As for the snowball bit, I thought “Protect.” Did you kill that kid? COULD you kill that kid?

I read it the same way I read Junior, who is a big dude and always has been, protecting others on the playground when he was younger: NOW he knows that decking kids, even kids that deserve it, is something that’s gonna get him in trouble. When he was young, this did not occur to him. He just thought “That kid is in trouble, I shall punch the kid who is being bad despite the fact I am twice as big as said kid and will likely send him to the nurse,” and I’d get a call from the principal, and he’d be all “What’d I do, dad? Wasn’t that the right thing?”

I read Aiden as just as much a kid in this scene as Jody, and someone who was all “My friend is in trouble, protect” like Junior did, without any thought to HOW he was using his power/strength (like Junior did).

That said, I’m not sure WHY I’m reading Aiden as a kid here, or why you are. There’s nothing that indicates he’s a kid. He’s been with Jody since JODY was born, but what’s to say he isn’t some 500 year old thing that has been attached to 52 different people? Why assume they were born at the same time? But we are making that assumption. Or I did make that assumption.

Very few answers, because, it seems, we’re seeing answers, or assuming answers, that really aren’t supported by anything in the narrative.

Hm.

Feminina:

Oh, yeah, that’s the other question about the creepy mirror bit: was it Aiden, or was it something else? I was kind of in a “I’m not sure how much I trust Aiden right now” mood, so I was ready to believe it was him messing around, but it could absolutely be that it was a ‘monster’ instead.

Because definitely SOMETHING scary is going on, with the cymbal monkey and flickering lights and her being dragged out of bed while she’s trying to sleep. And I don’t THINK that’s Aiden, I’m inclined to say there’s Aiden and there’s also ‘monster,’ but I’m also aware that I don’t know anything about Aiden so I’m trying to keep in mind that it could also be him…displaying a good ghost/bad ghost tendency (I’ll scare you and then comfort you later?), or again just not realizing his own strength…we don’t know anything about him, so who knows?

I did not get out of the garage in time, because I was trying to poke around and face my fears, and the lights went out and the door shut on me. I screamed and mom came to let me out. So nothing major, but scary mischief that, again, PROBABLY wasn’t Aiden, but who knows?

If it’s not Aiden, who/what is it and what do they want?

What you missed…I just played with my dolls for a bit (another one of those times when you think “this is a weird thing to be pushing buttons for–but also it was kind of fun). I had two Barbie-type dolls having a tea party, talking to each other about cake or whatever, and then a third doll, with its head turned backwards and its limbs kind of awkwardly twisted, moved by itself up to the table, and Jodie said “stop it Aiden” or something, and that was it.

And as I said, it was quite creepy to see a doll with its head and limbs in the ‘wrong’ order moving by itself, but it seems just as likely that Aiden was honestly trying to play, as that he was being all weird and sinister on purpose.

The whole chapter was a lot of trying to guess at the motivations of invisible beings who can’t express themselves clearly.

And then, to make it even more interesting, trying to guess at what was going on with our visible, physical sort-of-parents!

And no, I did not kill the kid, and I don’t know if you could or not. I’d think not, because that’s a pretty heavy thing for her to have in her past, but who knows?

Butch:

Yeah, scream vs. “knock it off” is telling. She was scared of what was in the mirror. She hasn’t seemed scared of Aiden at all.

Good mystery!

Well, here’s the thing about the garage: maybe it isn’t a who/what. Maybe a light burned out. Maybe a door shut. Things happen. We’re assuming there’s some THING doing things, when maybe it’s just a creepy dark garage and a burned out bulb and a door closing. There’s no reason to think “spiritual mischief.”

Except for the fact it exists in the game. But just because it exists in the game world, doesn’t mean that IS what it is.

Did Jody seem scared at the tea party? Or just “stop bugging me?” Cuz that would dovetail with Aiden messing with stuff on the train (which you didn’t see) and being generally irksome.

Good chapter. This game is doing a lot of things right.

Which is either setting it up for a cool ending or setting it up to crash and burn in a pile of smoking nonsense.

Feminina:

Yeah, scream vs. “knock it off” is an important distinction…or is it? Was it a scream of real fear, or one surprise? It’s not as if she ran out of the room in terror after she saw it, she just kind of moved away. She didn’t appear to be afraid in that moment that something was going to attack her or anything. So I still felt it could have been a not-nice Aiden OR it could have been something nastier.

Unclear.

Many things are unclear. Will they become clear later? Perhaps.

Butch:

Hmm. Fair point. I suppose Mrs. McP (who is home for the day) was just doing laundry and jumped and yelled in surprise when Meatball came into the laundry room. And she’s 44.

How’d Jody react to the doll I didn’t see?

I’m very much into this game.

Though try not to finish without me. Mrs. McP is home today, so chaos tonight, I’m out tomorrow. Sigh.

I’ll try not to forget everything.

Feminina:

Hang in there! With the doll, it was more of an annoyed “stop that,” but then, the doll didn’t appear suddenly and startle her.

Butch:

Yeah, see? It didn’t arrive and startle her, but if she was really afraid of Aiden, she’d be all “AAAA! Go away! Let me have my tea party!” and she’d run.

So I don’t think she’s scared of him.

Something else I was pondering (and don’t spoil if you know): Is Aiden intelligent? Like, not in the sense of “does he have the ability to act on his own,” but more “Is he like a human?” Cuz something like a well trained dog will putz with stuff annoyingly, follow commands (“Go get ’em, boy!”) and instinctively defend its owner. We’ve been assuming (so much) that he’s human, or the equivalent thereof, but is he?

Feminina:

That’s a good question. You’re right, he could be at dog-level intelligence given what we’ve seen him do. A dog (with superpowers) could wander through walls, knock things over, even kill people by choking them invisibly. He needn’t be the equivalent of human.

It seems like Jodie considers him her equal in terms of understanding?…not that it’s been spelled out, but she talks about him that way? but that needn’t necessarily mean anything. Kids might consider dogs to be their intellectual equal, and when she’s an adult, maybe she’s just used to thinking of him like that.

I don’t know.

Butch:

Well, I don’t think he IS a dog, just something equivalent.

I like this game. Certainly worth the money.

Success! You’re a Terrible Person.

Tags

, , , ,

Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

Spoilers for the Hunted chapter of Beyond: Two Souls

Butch:

So yesterday, was tired, was kinda grumpy, arm was sore cuz doctor, and I figured “Hey, you know? I could use some good, mellow narrative. What are the odds that the next chapter will be a bunch of stressful QTEs?”

Sigh.

Well, I didn’t get arrested, got off the train, that sort of thing. Again, I probably would’ve liked it more if I had been in a better mood. Even so, that was pretty good. Nice mix of tense and actiony. Cool motorcycle chase.

Maybe we can add “action sequence on train” to our list of things games should have. I enjoy those.

Even tired, I’m pretty good at the QTEs.

And very cool of the narrative to make us wonder what in holy hell Jody did.

Some thoughts!

I wonder if you could fail all that. I had some tense moments at the end, because I didn’t think about the helicopter until rather late. Jody was all “They’re almost here! They’re almost in!” and I’m running around all “What do I do? What do I do?” It sure FELT like there was a time limit, but I’m not sure there was. It went on long enough that I started thinking “Wait…can I chill? Maybe if I just chill…” which sort of broke the immersion and the very good lead up of tension (cuz that shit was tense). Either way, didn’t fail, ended the chapter.

Second thought!

So in all that, I figured out you can outright kill dudes with red auras, and I felt kinda icky about that. I was like “Wait….DUDE! Not cool!” Everyone’s all “She killed him!” (More on that in a minute.) And I, Butch, felt kinda bad, like “Whoa whoa whoa, that wasn’t the plan….” Which is weird cuz I kill dudes in games all the damn time. These were Kevins, right? Faceless dudes trying to kill me. And yet, something about all that, made me feel weird. Was it because I’ve seen Jody as an innocent child? Usually we don’t see that in games. We start the game a stone killer, we end as one. But here, we see Jody as a child drawing pictures. We see her awkward, trying to fit in at a party. We empathize. So when she kills a Kevin, there’s a “Wait….hold on…” moment that we don’t generally have when killing Kevin. At least I felt that way. You?

And yet, oddly, the bits where I possessed a dude and shot guys AS THAT DUDE I didn’t feel that weird. Which is also something that makes me ponder.

Third thought!

These guys kept saying “SHE killed him!” Which suggests that these guys have no idea about Aiden. Right? They’re not saying “Call off the ghost!” or anything.

Good stuff.

Feminina:

And you just know, next time you play you’ll be all raring to go, “let me at some QTEs, I’m ready for tension!” and it’s going to be just some long, thoughtful wandering around looking at things.

Interesting question about ‘failing.’ My sense is that you can fail at specific goals in a sequence (for example, say I didn’t manage to escape the train, so I failed at that), but that whatever you do, the story will lead you to the same conclusion (having been arrested once, I then escaped later and still wound up running through the woods), so you can’t ‘fail’ in a way that will affect the ultimate outcome.

I think it’s like, everyone starts at point X and everyone ends up at point Y (basically you have to, or the out-of-sequence narrative wouldn’t work), but there are various paths you can take within the chapter to get from one to the other. I’ve come to think that maybe this is another function of that “you and % of other players” summary after each sequence: to demonstrate that your decisions and actions are counted, that they matter in a sense, even though they don’t actually have any real impact on where you end up.

I think the fact that you’re always going to end up in the same place could make your actions seem kind of inconsequential, especially without the mechanic of repeated deaths and respawns to remind you that you’ve failed and then, ultimately, succeeded, so maybe giving you a different means to evaluate your actions (comparing your path with other possible paths and other players) is supposed to help give them some sense of consequence.

Speaking of which, I don’t think you can fail in the sense that you die (I never have, and it’s certainly not because I’ve been SO DAMN GOOD at combat), and I don’t think you can do anything that significantly changes what any of the other major characters are going to do in any future sequences. I mean, basically you can’t be able to do anything that would change ‘future’ events, because you might have already witnessed them: obviously I can’t do anything that will result in Dawkins dying when I’m a kid, if I’ve already seen Dawkins in a chronologically later episode where I’m an adult.

So, again, this could make your choices feel less important (no matter what I do, eventually I’m going to get to where I need to be for the story to continue, and so will everyone else who matters). On the other hand, I kind of like this because it adds to the sense that you just have one story and the path you choose is one seamless thread from beginning to end (which also plays interestingly with the out-of-sequence chronology…everything is seamlessly tied together, and at the same time all jumbled up).

I’m perfectly accustomed to and comfortable with the dying and respawning mechanic, but narratively speaking in a literal sense it does break things up in weird ways. “Here’s my story where I fought that guy and died, and here’s my story where I fought him using this other weapon and still died, and here’s where I tried attacking from this other angle and died, and here’s my story where I finally won and that’s the one that really matters, but all the other ones are in there somewhere…”

In Beyond here, we don’t have to make that little mental skip over all the times in the story when we died, we just…survived all the things that happened to us, and that’s why we’re here now. Just like in any real story of anyone who survived some things and is here now.

Again, I’m totally fine with the dying in games, I don’t know if I’d want to make every game one in which you somehow just survive everything — how would that even work in games with a lot of combat? I think it really would take away a lot of tension, which in a shorter game like this can be made up with atmosphere and so forth, but also there are a lot of sequences with no risk of death to contend with at all. Still, leaving it out is also an interesting choice that I’m kind of enjoying.

So, yeah. That’s what I’ve been thinking.

Butch:

Really? Hmm. Now I feel silly for feeling such urgency.

Did you still get to go on the motorcycle? I liked that bit.

That makes sense, point X to point Y. But I feel that, like LiS, eventually some of these differences will have some effect on the story as a whole. Maybe not in “Ok, you’re getting a whole different chapter” kind of way, but something. Or else, what’s the point of some degree of choice?

Maybe things like getting arrested won’t matter if you just escape, but I have a feeling that my decision to fuck with those kids at the party will lead to some small difference to your story, as they likely have a different opinion of you as you didn’t do that.

But who knows? I noticed that “only” 98% of players “wreaked havoc in the town.” That…seemed kind of unavoidable. What did the other two percent do?

True, Dawkins couldn’t die out of time. But you raise an interesting point: Why not have death/fail points and respawns? We’ve played a ton of games where you have a timed thing to do a thing (like, say, protect another character) and, if you don’t, boom. Reload. There wouldn’t have been anything that would have prevented that. Sure, you can’t say “And she really died here and all those other things in the future never really happened jokes on you and credits,” but games have fail points. Players die. Etc. That’s what save points are for.

But wait, that works ‘better’ narratively speaking in a traditional sense (you don’t read the same chapter nine different ways in a book before proceeding), but do you read narrative in games that way? I always just assume that the fail points never happened. They’re there (or the possibility of them are there) to raise tension and, therefore, maintain some degree of immersion. You don’t WANT to fail! You don’t WANT to die! So you get that adrenaline rush that we get playing games.

It bugged me that, even for a moment, that I had this thought that “Whatever…no matter what I do I’m not going to fail and go back to a save point” because I relaxed. I started toodling around, looking for dots. I should have kept feeling “OMGOMG SAVE JODY!” because that’s more immersive.

And I don’t really count those in the narrative. There aren’t a thousand OTHER Uncharted stories where Nathan died. All that dying stuff is just an artificial mechanic. Right?

No doubt that something that’s frustrating and takes days breaks the narrative flow. You know how I feel about impossible end bosses fucking up the climax of a story. That I give you.

Interesting you say “games with a lot of combat.” Cuz a game that we keep comparing this to is LiS, which, sure, you couldn’t die or fail, but it had no combat. It was JUST a game with a seamless story. And I sort of expected this to be as well, for that very reason: having a bunch of deaths would break the narrative. I was very surprised when, there I was, learning to shoot. I did feel like “Wait…punching? Shooting? In this?”

This chapter WAS a lot of combat, and that moment where I realized that maybe I couldn’t fail DID take away a lot of the tension.

So maybe the question isn’t “Why doesn’t this game let you die?” but “Why did this game put in so much traditional gamey shit where the risk of dying adds tension?” Cuz just saying “Ok, no punching, no shooting in the traditional sense” ends the debate on whether you should be able to fail.

Oh and you never told me if you felt the same way killing as Aiden/killing as possessed dudes. Curious on that.

Feminina:

It’s a really good question, why have all the combat moments if you’re not doing a combat-focused game? I’ve found that to be one of the things that I’m not sure about with this game…the parts that are a sort of stealth/combat/assassination game fit oddly with the parts that are a thoughtful narrative game about drawing pictures of your ghost-soul and doing QTE math or whatever.

How successfully do those different parts fit together?

I think it might be tied into the “Two Souls” in the title, that there’s intentionally this split between the focus of the chapters, and maybe it’s meant to be about how even action heroes have ordinary aspects to their lives as well, and even ordinary people can potentially get into situations of high drama…probably not being hunted on trains for high treason, but any of us could be in a car accident or have a tree fall on our house or something that would be a crisis event for us.

So, Jodie is an ordinary person (as we know from having been a kid with her) but she’s also not (as we known from having been Aiden with her as a kid), and she has ordinary-person problems as well as high-drama-action-movie problems, and that’s all part of her two lives and arises directly from her two souls, or whatever.

So I think it’s intentional, and I guess I think it’s not unsuccessful, although the sense of disorientation is sometimes distracting.

“Wait, I was just planning this quiet evening at home, and now I’m sneaking around murdering dudes, and these are two very different game priorities!”

As for Aiden killing people, like the possessing part, I didn’t figure that out until later (or…chronologically earlier…but never mind), so I did not deal with any sense of guilt about that in the forest section. When I did figure it out (it’s sort of purposefully introduced, like the possession, for those of us who missed it earlier), I felt kind of weird about it, but not weirder than Aiden making possessed people kill each other and themselves. It feels like the same level of responsibility for me, I guess. Both things are definitely Aiden’s work, and I feel they’re equally on my hands.

Butch:

I’m early into the whole combat bits, but so far I’m a bit jarred. I mean, I like both. The thoughtful parts are good thoughtful parts, and last night was good (as was the tutorial level) as a chase/fight/defend level. BUUUUUT I’m with you: not sure what they’re doing in the same game. Yet. I did notice the next bit I’m a kid again, so I guess there won’t be QTE motorcycle chases. I’ll see how I feel after the switch back.

Hey no spoilers! Treason? What? La la la.

HER two souls? That would imply that Aiden is also “hers,” or “her.” I’m not so sure.

But yes, I guess it is too early to assume the “two souls” are Jody and Aiden, which is what I was doing. You’d think I’d learn not to assume meanings of titles by now.

See, for some reason I did feel different. When I was a possessed dude, sure. Pow pow pow. But AS Aiden it gave me pause. Not sure why. You didn’t feel that way?

Feminina:

I swear there was a point in the train sequence where the cops are coming through showing Jodie’s picture and they say “this woman is wanted for high treason.” I remember specifically the “high treason” part, like, this is SERIOUS treason, not just casual everyday treason.

Or else I was imagining it, in which case, forget the treason, I probably made it all up.

I dunno, man…I didn’t really feel different about Aiden’s techniques for killing people, anymore than I feel different about killing Kevins with a sniper rifle vs. snapping their necks with my bare hands. I mean, yeah, different method for sure, one’s a little more personal, but the result is the same and the responsibility is the same. It’s not as if Aiden’s not the murderer when he makes some guy’s own hands shoot the gun.

I did wonder if maybe the different colors of people’s auras, aside from being a tool to let you know when you can possess or kill someone, are supposed to signify some significant weakness of character, like maybe we can somehow blame those particular guys for being vulnerable to possession or ghost-choking while their companions are not, and thus perhaps feel slightly less guilty (“it’s his own fault! He was having evil thoughts that allowed me to possess him, and if he’d been of nobler character I wouldn’t have done it!”) without actually being any less guilty, but I must say that so far the game itself has not said anything to support this, so it’s probably just my own interpretation.

Butch:

Oh, maybe. I remember the picture, but I booked it out of there quick. Like “Wake up, oh shit, bye.” Didn’t hear much chatter.

I hope it someday does say something about that, because I’ve been wondering why I can do some people but not others. It would be handy to do others! But, I think, it’s just a limitation of gameplay. There’s lots of things it games it would be great to do, but we’d need a PS8 to do them. This might be one of those.

But speaking of possessing, I noticed something else last night that ties into the dying thing: Aiden seems to be unable to die. I possessed a guy, shot a dude, then GOT SHOT DEAD and Aiden just poofed out and went about his business. So there’s that. I was worried all “Shit, back to the save point oh wait I’m ok.”

Hm.

Feminina:

Dude, Aiden’s a bodiless spirit. How’s he going to die? I’m only concerned about him if someone shows up with one of those machines from Ghost Busters.

Butch:

Those just trapped ghosts. We’re cool.

Feminina:

Whew! Safe.

Oh, and I forgot to note earlier when you were all “I wonder what the 2% of people who didn’t wreak havoc on the town did”…

Um…we crashed the motorcycle and got caught and never made it into town? I never even SAW the town.

I have a lot of ‘undiscovered paths’ in my storyline.

Butch:

Wait, what?

Uh….we’ve been talking about wreaking havoc on the town all day….crashing helicopters, killing Kevins…..

Feminina:

YOU were talking about that. I was talking about running around in the forest and fighting people on the road and on the train.

I told you my version of Aiden didn’t kill anyone in this part…perhaps because we were never in that big fight.

We were only in smaller fights. Crashing helicopters and so forth?–that’s all you. I got distracted by the other topics of conversation (the consequences of choice and so forth) and neglected to clarify that I hadn’t actually done that part.

Sorry. But it didn’t seem relevant to the larger discussion!

Butch:

Whelp, so much for arriving in the same place no matter what the choices.

If you got caught we did not end up in the same place. Not even close. I did not get caught. I killed the shit out of everyone except the SWAT dude from the prologue. As he was crawling away, hurt, I went up to him and said “If you come after me again, I’ll kill everyone.”

Which kinda set up the prologue, there.

And then I strode out of the town, which was on fire cuz of the crashed helicopter and the gas station I blew up very much NOT caught.

So I guess you don’t end up in the same places.

So much for the earlier discussion.

And, I guess, you DID fail. MY town fight was Jody running as the soon to be dead swat Kevins closed in, then Aiden pulled open some doors, she went in someplace and barricaded herself in, and then it was a “protect the person” deal where you had to kill all the Kevins and crash the copter before they got in. She was all “They’re getting closer! They’re gonna come in!” which is what I thought was timed, and what I was wondering about re “was it timed.”

So you DID fail. I didn’t, which now makes me wonder even more if I could have.

Feminina:

No, dude, that’s the thing: we DID end up in the same place, and I thought “oh, well, same ending then” before I proceeded with my thoughts.

Because I got caught, and then I had a scene where I escaped (which you presumably did not have), crashed a car, told a surviving dude that I’d kill everyone if they came after me again, and strode off.

Getting caught kept me from wreaking havoc in the town, but it didn’t keep me from winding up at the same place you wound up, i.e., striding off into the future, free and alone (except for Aiden).

As for my having failed…I guess? It’s arguable that I failed a possibly-timed mission to protect anybody, because I was never in a position where I was supposed to do it, but sure…I didn’t in fact do it, so yeah. I guess.

So that’s what I meant, with all that “many different paths to the same end, many choices that don’t affect where you end up.”

We took different routes to get there, but we both got to point Y.

Butch:

WHICH surviving dude? Surviving dude implies other dudes did NOT survive. And I didn’t actually kill anyone (I’m assuming we don’t knee Kevin in the groin enough to kill him) until I got to town.

That’s so WEIRD.

Well, the path you didn’t take was “wreak havoc in town” and…what…something else. I forget what. Something a lot of people did.

You’re not very good at this game, are you? Divinity made you soft.

So you didn’t learn Aiden could kill in this chapter then, either, cuz the first time I saw red auras was in town.

Never mind, then. I thought your getting caught was some sort of failure, but I guess not.

So WEIRD.

We shall see if this matters later on. That and the party.

Feminina:

The surviving dude who emerged from the crashed car. I don’t know if the other dude in the car was dead, actually, they might have both survived, but I only talked to one of them.

I’m not very good at this game? Ouch, man. That’s harsh.

Perhaps true, but still. Harsh.

Though it raises another interesting question: do we assume that the things more people did are the “right” or “best” things to do? Certainly we can read a level of judgement into it when it’s something like arrested on the train vs. not arrested on the train, because we WANT to not get arrested. If most people didn’t and I did, yeah, we can be judgy and say I suck at this.

But where’s the shame in being among the 2% who managed to NOT wreck a town?

I avoided causing a lot of property damage! Many people’s lives are a lot easier because I didn’t destroy their streets and buildings! Why should I feel bad about that?

And this question is kind of a joke, because it is obviously self-serving, but also, it’s a legitimate question if we’re going to talk about the kind of character we want to play, the moral choices we would make, etc. This wasn’t the result of a choice I actively made, but if it had been, I would have chosen not to wreck the town (just like I chose not to wreck stuff at the party: I like to keep Aiden a little close to the vest).

So should I feel bad about missing out on a scene where I would have done something I would feel kind of bad about doing? Is discovering every path automatically the best way to go, even if some of them are things I wouldn’t have wanted to do if I’d known what they were in advance?

I don’t know. I don’t know if succeeding (at the immediate goal of not getting caught, or whatever) is necessarily always going to be better than failing. I don’t know if the thing more people do is always going to be the thing I wish I’d done.

So yeah, I’m not very good at this game (certainly not as compared to Divinity, where I was one of a group of unstoppable tanks), but I’m also not sure being good at it is really what it’s about.

Or perhaps I’m just making excuses.

Butch:

You’re in the TWO PERCENT.

Facts are harsh, man.

Cuz the only way you didn’t do that is by fucking up about 27 QTEs. I didn’t get them all. I got hit, tripped, and bit by a dog, and STILL made it to town.

I did not, however, crash the motorcycle.

Hmm. You are making excuses, but you’re also raising valid points.

And an interesting counterpoint to Divinity. Divinity was a role playing game, and, as Mr. O pointed out, the fact you HAD to do bad to finish the game restricted some of that. This is not a role playing game, and yet, as you say, we’re being given more latitude to be as good or bad as we want. While this was not a choice, certainly “Revenge/leave” was, and one that one could objectively say was “good/bad.”

It IS interesting that this chapter didn’t give you an active choice. If you crashed, you didn’t kill everyone. If you didn’t, then you did. Once you were in town, there was no way to proceed that wasn’t wreaking havoc and killing. You couldn’t, at that point, say, run away or hijack another car or whatever. Once you “succeeded” at the motorcycle chase, that was it. Kill.

Feminina:

Self-serving excuses and valid points: not necessarily exclusive categories!

I think actually the thing that kept me from getting to town was just the motorcycle crash. I missed the “protect me Aiden!” shield while racing the motorcycle toward the SWAT team (what was that again? left and I held right, or something?), they knocked the motorcycle down and that’s what got me caught.

Getting arrested, bitten by dogs, whatever, that was irrelevant to the confrontation at the bridge. You don’t have to mess up 27 QTEs, you only have to mess up the one that matters.

Lessons for life, man.

Butch:

Oooo! I think I came close there! That was a toughie.

But I did it.

Feminina:

You did it! And you wound up having to kill a bunch of people.

Success at a tough challenge, and the reward is lots of destruction and murder. I mean, I think I probably also left a couple of dead guys in my wake, but only a couple.

Lessons for life, man.

I’m honestly not sure what the lesson is, but something. “You never know what you’re going to get” maybe.

Thanks, Forrest Gump! Bah, I had no patience for that movie.

Butch:

I did kill a bunch of dudes, I did. But they were trying to kill me. So there’s that.

Feminina:

Oh yeah, I’m not questioning your actions. You did what you had to do.

It’s the circumstances that put you in the position of having to do it that are to blame. And you got there by doing well.

Virtue may be its own reward, but virtuosity will be rewarded by waves of dudes trying to kill you.

Hm.

Butch:

You may, however, question my actions at the party. I chose to do that.

What’s funny is that I’m under the impression that Aiden is…maybe not evil per se, but not very nice. And I have no real reason to think that. Jody was the one who told him to take revenge. I was the one that chose to mess things up in the experiment. There really isn’t anything that Aiden HAD to do that Jody didn’t tell him to do.

Yes, he killed some dudes, but at Jody’s request.

And yet I still have this reaction that Jody is the good guy and Aiden isn’t. But when you look closer, that’s not really true.

This game is playing with assumptions a lot.

Feminina:

That’s definitely another interesting question!

Because yeah, there’s that impression of Aiden as at least mischievous and somewhat destructive, and of Jodie as being sort of the innocent person who’s stuck with this entity, and yet…whenever he’s causing real damage, it’s because she asks him to.

We, as him, chose to knock some extra stuff around in the experiment, we could choose to knock things around on the train (I actually didn’t mess with anyone’s stuff there, until I needed to wake Jodie, so I was being polite), so that kind of small stuff is certainly on Aiden, but when he’s possessing people and killing them, it’s because she asks him to.

So, speaking of responsibility, who’s really responsible for the bad stuff he does? Even beyond whether it feels different to possess someone and have them shoot themselves, than it does to just choke them to death…what about how it feels to be the person who asked the spirit to do that?

It feels…weird.

And yeah, who’s the nice one and who’s the mean one, here?

Butch:

And where do we, the players figure in?

This game has some good stuff. I’m impressed.

I did mess with stuff on the train, and it was totally benign. Like, rustling someone’s newspaper. Shaking someone’s water. One guy, you nudge him and he doesn’t even wake up. Like, people barely noticed the stuff he was doing. It was like he was bored more than anything. Forget evil: it wasn’t even that annoying.

Feminina:

It does have some very nice thought-provoking aspects. And the gameplay is entertaining too…even when I’m faintly mocking it (“ooh, another gripping interlude of getting through a doorway one foot at a time!”) I mainly enjoy it.

Well worth the nothing we spent on it, that’s for sure.

One Step at a Time

Tags

, , ,

Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

Some spoilers for Beyond: Two Souls

Butch:

So last night I was tired, but I had time while people were watching fireworks and I figured “You know? I think a good half hour of escapist narrative would be good now,” so I plopped down and loaded up the game.

And was greeted with what seemed like an eternity of QTEs. Which was very much NOT what I was in the mood for.

But hey! I’m in the CIA! Whoo hoo.

And while I was very grumpy about these QTEs while I was doing them, I must say it was a pretty cool tutorial. Having Jodi start out all weak and crappy (like me) and having her get better as I got better, interspersing the working out and all that, cool stuff. It was a very well designed tutorial. I just didn’t want to do it last night.

I am a tad worried that the controls seem a bit mushy. And I could NOT figure out that whole “hold the dots on the other dot to heal Jodi” deal. How can you see the dots? Whole screen was a sparkly mess.

Still, good level.

And then I decided to at least preview the next level. There Aiden was, on a train, so I said “Ok, I’ll screw around then quit and start here next time,” so I screwed around and tossed people’s backpacks and newspapers and shit, and woke Jodi up, and then another cutscene with cops and now I think it’s saved there with the cops and not on the train so my idle fucking around is now part of the story.

Which is art imitating life.

Feminina:

The CIA training bit was a little weird. So many QTEs! And for random things like “climb up with your left foot…now climb up with your right foot!”

You know, many games would have just had you move ‘forward’ and you would climb automatically, but whatever. You do you, Beyond Two Souls.

But all the running and falling down and then running slightly more effectively, etc., was a decent tutorial. And very cinematic. Training montage!

I KIND of like the combat mechanic, where you just move the stick the direction you want to go, but also I’m not very good at it. I’ve been trained by hundreds of other games to DO THINGS in combat, like push buttons, and so having to just move is weirdly disorienting for me. Nice of them to put everything in slow motion, but I still get it wrong a lot.

Holding the dots on the other dot is hard. Doing things with the dots is always a challenge, really. But don’t worry, you’ll have plenty more chances to try to make the dots do things!

HA! Your random screwing around is totally part of the story. But hey, that’s Aiden for you, right? He would definitely do that kind of thing.

Butch:

Yes! L1 to step! Weird! And I still can’t tell when to hold x or tap it.

And writing qtes? Doing math? Weird.

The weirdest was shooting. He was all “aim and shoot.” And you didn’t really have to aim, did you? What’s with that? In games, one aims. I spent forever trying to aim before saying fuck it and hitting r1.

Also, one had no prompt. I was hanging from monkey bars all “WHAT DO I DO????”

Was that international game design?

Anyway, did everything well enough to get three trophies. Even grumpy.

Waiting to get blood drawn. This week, man. Busy.

Feminina:

I STILL can never tell when to hold and when to tap. Basically, I do one and then if it flashes red at me and I have to start over, I try the other. That’s skilled, experienced game playing for you.

And yeah, the monkey bars! The dude is yelling at you “MOVE! MOVE!” and you’re thinking “I don’t know how!”

Intentional gameplay? Making you feel more like the character because she, also, doesn’t really know how to do this thing that’s being required? Or just a weird oversight? We don’t know! But it was kind of effective at creating that mood, so maybe we can give them credit there.

What do you want?! Stop yelling at me! I don’t know how to do this thing!

Butch:

I was pondering this as I was getting my blood drawn to ignore the fact I was getting my blood drawn (I, like you, am squeamish) and maybe it’s tap when it’s a circle and hold when it’s a square? Maybe? I dunno.

It did create a mood. But c’mon, she knows what monkey bars are. And he was misleading! He was all “Use your momentum to swing to the next bar!” So I was pushing the stick back and forth and stuff and nothing. Like, tutorials are supposed to TUTOR. Just saying.

But maybe that was the point.

I did get pretty ok at it. Three trophies and all.

This game does have some nice touches.

I have to say, so far, I’m pleasantly surprised. Liking it more than I thought I would.

Feminina:

I don’t know how many trophies I got for that sequence, if any. Maybe none, I didn’t notice them pop up, but then, half the time I don’t just because I’m not paying attention to the top of the screen. (‘Or any other part of the screen,’ you might here interject, given my frequent failure to have noticed some important detail you want to discuss. But hey, the games get played somehow.)

It does have some nice moments–there are things I quite like about it. I’m enjoying it. There are some other aspects that feel a bit underdone, but I cut slack…it’s a little game doing something different, and that won’t always be knockout awesome, but is certainly, in this case, worth the playing time.

Butch:

They DING you know. But that’s sound. Never mind.

Hey, you notice things just fine when it’s just you playing. You’ve gotten used to your Divinity induced blindness.

And well…hang on. This raises an interesting question: Is it a little game?

Yes, it certainly feels like life is strange. Story, choices, not a lot of whiz bang action, that sort of thing. But they broke the bank to get Ellen Page and William Dafoe and live cap everything in the whole game (that’s a lot of Ellen Page!) and all that shit. It certainly had a budget behind it. This isn’t some Divinity/Life is Strange/Gone Home thing that was made by, like, five people on a shoestring. Budget/Tech/scale wise, this is legit AAA.

So does it deserve the slack that we would give a little indie studio?

Feminina:

Nah, I’ve never been that good at noticing trophies, even before Divinity. They ding, which is sound so clearly I ignore it, and they pop up in the top of the screen where I usually notice them, just as they’re disappearing. “Wait, I got a trophy for what now?”

Not that I’m complaining–I don’t WANT them to show up right in the middle of the screen with a big flashing arrow on them or anything. I don’t care that much. They’ve just always been something that I miss half the time, except on the rare occasions that I’m trophy-hunting and actively paying attention.

And…interesting question. It FEELS like an indie, but of course you’re right, all that starpower can’t have been cheap. Although maybe they spent their entire budget on Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe, and the rest of the game was farmed out to a tiny studio with five people. Not that the game is badly done, or buggy, or in any way suggestive of a low budget, really…it plays very smoothly, if with some odd mechanics as we’ve discussed, and the faces are obviously superbly captured (and really, as I’ve continued playing, I don’t find them creepy-looking–I feel they manage to steer pretty clear of the uncanny valley through keeping it just obvious enough that it’s an artificial image that your brain doesn’t think it’s trying NOT to look artificial, and recoil in horror at how it misses…if that makes sense).

I guess it’s just the slightly unusual choices of mechanics, plus the things they have you doing with those mechanics (climbing one step at a time, say), that makes it feel indie. When really, rather than being necessarily indie, those are just DIFFERENT choices than most big games make.

Hm. I guess I still cut some slack for trying to do different things.

Butch:

Totally agree that it feels indie. It’s like a AAA indie game. Which I’m not saying as criticism.

I think it may speak to AAA games that we feel that “creative” and “different” are somehow NOT AAA. And that may well be a criticism of AAA. Certainly is.

And maybe one of the reasons we like Sony. This was a Sony exclusive. So was Horizon (which was a creative risk), and Death Stranding (see E3 posts for discussion of weirdness). They’re willing to take some risks in the AAA space.

Feminina:

Well…I guess it can be a criticism, but I think that’s just a natural feature of the market. A Big game wants a big audience, and so in order to draw the largest possible audience you need to be first comprehensible to the largest number of people so they can even play it, and then engaging for the largest number of people so they care enough about it to play it, talk about it, and buy more of your games in the future. Which all tends to mean using mechanics that are similar to mechanics lots of people will already know, and telling stories with broad, basic outlines that will hit the notes of ‘big important story’ for lots of people. (Save the world! Again!)

And it’s a criticism to say (fairly) that as a result those games tend to tread the same ground over and over, and to avoid wildy new, creative, different things, but also, we enjoy those games ourselves if they’re well done, and we eagerly buy and play them, so they’re doing something people (us included) like, and pursuing a perfectly reasonable strategy.

In summary…it takes all kinds. I want Big games, AND I want smaller, creative, different games. I want games I can play for 110 hours, AND I want small games I can play for a few weeks and have done with.

And sometimes there will be combinations of the two, Big and Different, and sometimes those will be awesome, but the potential for misjudging a large general audience’s willingness to learn weird new mechanics, or ability to connect with a weird story or style, means it probably won’t happen terribly often because the risk is too big.

Regardless, overall it’s a very good time to be playing games.

Butch:

True. I am likely being cruel. It’s been too long since we played a good ol’ big AAA thing. I am becoming overly erudite.

Can’t argue with it being a good time in games. And, if E3 was to be believed, it’s likely to get even better.

At least we know our blog will carry on and on and on.

Feminina:

Yeah! Stop being such a snob, man!

Games just want to please you (and a few million other people), and here you are being all mean about it!

Ha. Obviously, I’m all in favor of continuing to criticize games for whatever strikes us as worthy. I just wanted to note that we can criticize all we want, and the criticisms will be valid (obviously, if we’re making them, because we certainly would never complain about anything just for the hell of it)…but I think for certain issues, there is just never going to be a satisfactory answer.

We can point out that a certain lack of creativity is a common feature of Big Games, and that will be very true, but it will also probably never NOT be true, given what Big Games are.

Whereas if we point out a certain overwhelming lack of male nudity in Big Games, there’s always the possibility that at some point in the future this problem could actually be addressed. This is the hope to which I cling.

Butch:

Sorry, man. Sour grapes. I just wanna play!

But true. What would we do if games were perfect?

There’d be nudity in general. And dress balls. Dress balls followed by nudity would be grand.

What?

Feminina:

I didn’t say anything! You’re right! You’re absolutely right!

Fancy dress balls followed by nudity would be just fine. Fancy dress balls leading to fancy dress heists leading to nudity and group hugs?

Now we’re talking.

Um…I don’t specifically need the group hugs to be naked. I can take or leave orgies.

I just meant there should be group hugs in there somewhere. They could also come before the nudity, either way is fine with me.

Butch:

Man, these days it’s Friday derailment every day, ain’t it? We got behind there, with Divinity. Lost time and all that.

And we’re brain fried cuz end of year. At least I am.

And I’m down seven vials of blood, here!

SEVEN!

Feminina:

Seven!? What is that doctor doing, secretly raising a vampire in the back room?

Mark my words. It’s a vampire.

Butch:

Nah, it’s to make sure that a) I have the right amount of medicine in my system and b) that said medicine isn’t making everything stop working. There’s a lot of medicine and a lot of everything.

It sucks.

But, gotta say, given our affinity for booze, it’s nice to have that regular affirmation that the liver’s doing ok. Bottoms up!

Feminina:

YES! Liver function acceptable! Time to drink! Some more.

Butch:

It’s really the only one I care about.

“Well, based on your levels, we really should-“
“How’s the liver?”
“What? I was talking about your levels which are kinda important.”
“The liver. How’s the liver?”
“You do know I’m a neurologist.”
“Whatever. Liver. Focus, doc.”

Feminina:

“CAN I DRINK?! Tell me now!!!!”

“Well…yes, sure. Also your brain is–”

“Great thanks bye.”

Butch:

That’s pretty much my approach to my own medical care.

And I’m fine!

Right. Right?

Feminina:

Well, are you still drinking and playing games? (At least when scheduling allows.)

YES!

You’re fine.

Absolutely fine.

Butch:

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

And oh did I link you this?

https://kotaku.com/cyberpunk-2077-is-a-violent-impressive-blend-of-deus-e-1826807140

Want. So very much want.

And you get your MALE NUDITY!

Feminina:

YES!

Just like I said: some complaints CAN be addressed. My dream lives!

They need to do better than the Witcher 3. Raise the bar, people!

Butch:

See? CDPR will deliver us.