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Some spoilers for Life is Strange (episode 1)

Butch:

Got some in. Got Warren’s drive, took a couple pictures, saw the Catholic girl being harassed, took a picture, redid it and intervened (little do they know I took the picture in the first go, a clever move that will no doubt prove pointless, because each time I do something I think is clever it winds up not mattering), gave the thing to Warren, got saved by Chloe, did the LONGASSED cutscene, chilled with Chloe, now I’m shamelessly rummaging through her parent’s house. I’m about to go downstairs.

So I can’t decide if the way they handled Warren getting beat up was designed to be thought provoking or it was just a narrative cheat. The problem with a narrative where the player can undo, like, everything is that any narrative needs certain things to happen no matter what. They must’ve known we would WANT to rewind and save Warren, but I have a feeling that Warren getting beat up and us going with Chloe is a pivotal point.

So I want to give them credit. I do. I want to say “This was designed to show that even the powerful are not ALL powerful….you can’t change everything you want to change….sure, you saved the girl from getting hit with a football, sure, you saved a bird, but you didn’t save Warren, even though you tried to rewind even after the long cutscene.”

But I have a feeling that it was designed more like “Look, player, this kinda HAS to happen, so it’s gonna happen. That’s why. All that other stuff is for bloggers who over analyze.”

I already like Chloe. Not as much as Nathan Drake’s Chloe, and in a different way, but I like her.

Feminina:

Nice, nice. Excellent progress. (I have done nothing. I’m in the last stages of the main plot in the witcher expansion, but haven’t played in days.)

I liked Chloe too. She’s a good character: Max’s friend, a decent person but also kind of a jerk sometimes, complicated.

I feel like maybe Warren getting beaten up can be both. It does have a later narrative purpose, but not one that I felt they HAD to force on you that way, so I think that the “you can’t change everything” message was at least as intentional and important there. And that message, of course, also has a narrative purpose, because it’s important that we get to understand the limitations of Max’s power, so it’s really narrative all the way down.

However, at the end I was more on the “important lesson about limitations of power” side than the “Warren had to get beaten, so damn it, he got beaten,” which for some reason feels a bit less plot-hammery, even though the result is the same.

Butch:

The result is, for sure. It also moved things along, because if Warren was gonna get beat anyway, it would have taken a whole mess of redos of that long bit for the player to get that he was gonna get beat. I mean, I would have sat there rewinding all damn night trying to find the way to save him, only to be pissed when there wasn’t one. That would have been frustrating AND it would have broken the forward momentum of the story. Badly.

Feminina:

Right, there’s that too…it was far preferable that they just make the thing happen if it’s going to happen, rather than let you flail around for hours trying in vain to avoid it. (Although I suppose we could have argued that this reflected Max’s frustration and disappointment, which we would be sharing…but the actual frustration would probably override the neatness of the shared feelings or whatever).

Forward momentum, though, is another interesting idea. Because we DO break the momentum, intentionally, when we stop and rewind every conversation option. We do it on purpose, and the game encourages us to do it (more than that, actually requires us to do it). So they have to be conscious of where you reach the point that the back-and-forth is too much and you’re losing track of the actual story.

You can tell they’re aware of this, with the option to fast-forward as well as rewind, so you can skip parts of conversations that you’ve had before to hurry to the point that you’re making a different choice. They also carefully give you only a few different options: you can’t try literally EVERYTHING Max could conceivably do (fake a seizure! Yell “FIRE!” Start punching people! Hurl confetti everywhere!)

Even so, I have to say that there were a few places later on where I got a little ‘done’ with a specific conversation. As with anything, it’s a delicate balance and it won’t always be perfect. They mostly did a pretty good job, though, as far as I was concerned while playing it.

Butch:

Yup. There are certain things games should not endeavor to recreate. Frustration. Tedium. That sort of thing. Saying “Well, the character would be bored, so be bored” might be all artsy but….no.

There’s already been a couple of those instances of being done with conversations. Especially when the thing you “change” is, like, three prompts in. You want to say “Uh, Max? You don’t have to say the first nine lines of this the way you said it before, you know…..” I was scared the Warren bit, which was LONG, was gonna be one such thing. Because it was obviously important, but very long.

I also like the cheat of giving you that little speech bubble when you learn something important. If I had to do every conversation over and over just to SEE if things had changed (given the fact they often don’t) that would really suck.

It is a very fine line, the move it along vs. give you a chance to use the mechanic of the game. And it’ll be another difference in how we play it. You had to deal with it a few hours at a time, every few months. Will I want throw my controller somewhere in episode 4 after 15 straight hours of it? Perhaps, perhaps not.

By the way, is this longer than I was led to believe? I think I’m already a good three hours in, and Episode one doesn’t seem to be about to end…..

Feminina:

I don’t THINK it’s that much longer. I dunno, I just remember playing through them pretty quickly as each episode was released. A couple of evenings each, if I recall correctly. I think you are actually pretty close to the end of Episode One, so assuming I played for an hour and a half or two hours every time I played (plausible on weekends before I had a baby), that would match up reasonably well.

You may also be more thorough than I was…the first couple of episodes I was kind of haphazard about looking around at everything and taking all the photos you’re supposed to take to match your journal. I was so busy playing with the ‘rewinding time’ business that I forgot the ‘poke into every corner’ business.

Butch:

Oh dude I am poking. I mean, I’m still in my “pick up every damn mug” groove from Gone Home.

Why did they have so many mugs? How come, in games, no one ever picks up their damn mugs? I know my house will never be in a game because, were we leaving on vacation, Mrs. McP would pick up the damn mugs.

Feminina:

There were a lot of mugs. And you had to pick them all up because what if there was a note under one of them or something? And the tissue boxes! I took so many tissue boxes out of drawers and stuff, just in case.

And given I missed some things, there probably WAS a note under the one mug I didn’t pick up.

Sigh.

But you go on and poke into every corner. Take every picture! Glory and trophies await.

Butch:

At least, in this game, they give you the little outlines of pictures. Sort of like DAI marking the shards on a map.

Uncharted did not give you any hints as to where to look.

Indeed, just last night, when the dude chucked the football, I was thinking “Hey….sounds familiar….” checked the journal and voila! A sketch of a busted window! Went back, snap, trophy ahoy!

So now I know to keep my eyes peeled for a carrot…a sunset….a bird…..

Feminina:

Yes! That is a nice feature. Again, it took me an episode or two to actually start LOOKING for these things. At first I flipped through the different pages thinking “nice, nice, OK,” read her journal entries, and kind of forgot about them.

Your more deeply ingrained habit of looking at options and actually paying attention to them will serve you well. I think I only got about three of the photos from episode one. Another reason I was tempted to play again!

But first I’d have to actually finish the thing I’m already playing.

Will probably not take up No Man’s Sky…Mr. O’ has not bothered to pursue it lately, which is not a ringing recommendation. But hey, our purchase provided some encouragement for people doing new things…we favor trying new things. They don’t always work, but it’s worth trying.

Butch:

Yeah, the more I hear of that game, the less I want to play it. Too bad, really. Had potential.

Look at you. Wondering if you’ll ever finish a game, lamenting you don’t have time for the next one, it’s like you have more than one kid or something.

Feminina:

It really is almost as if children require vast expenditures of time and energy that cannot then be dedicated to games.

Someone should have warned me!

I think I’ll buy a house next, because no one has ever said anything about THAT being a huge pit of timesuck.

Butch:

You probably will. No one listens to me.

You watch. This weekend, you’ll see your kids romping in our friend’s yard, and you’ll be all that could be me all the time…..

And I’ll say “Yeah, until the fucking tornadoes” but you won’t listen.

To drive this point home…..

Know why I can’t play games tonight? Oldest kid’s school stuff.

How about tomorrow? Nope. Middle kid’s school stuff.

Sigh.

Feminina:

“Look, I send them to school in the first place so I’ll have more time to play games, NOT so I’ll have to attend pointless events that take me away from games. I don’t know why this isn’t easier for the school system to understand and plan for.”

Butch:

Exactly!

I’ve heard the principal’s speech so often I could give it for her. And probably get bigger laughs on the jokes.

Jesus. You never went to school, but, had you done so, you would not relish going back for your kids’ stuff.

Feminina:

And reading this blog later is what will convince our kids not to visit us in the home, thus leaving us more time for games.

Butch:

Proper planning is the key to a happy retirement.

Feminina:

Our example will surely be an inspiration to the internet.

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