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Stuck between uneducated hardcore gaming nerd and pseudo intellectual, I've found my ego has not be recognized as much as I want (i.e. by everyone). Why not continue my rants in a more specifically highlighted area in which I could get some actual discourse, rather than an ignorance of my rants or creating an atmosphere of intimidation which results in no discussion at all. I love talking about games, I love games. Why not put it to good use?
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Of artistry and video games, one often is hard pressed to find when the defining moment had been created. Could it be when the first avatars of game players were created for Pong? Or perhaps when the console Nintendo Entertainment System's (NES) Super Mario Bros. was released dictating one of the first stories and finest craft seen for a game? Perhaps when Street Fighter 2: The World Warrior appeared on the arcade scene and reviving it with a gameplay artistry that was impossible to ignore.

Ideas of gameplay skill being artistic the same way as a basketball player weaves through defensemen for a slam dunk, or how a figure skater lands a triple loop, the problem we find is that it was still based on skill. Skill in a limited fashion of the world created which cannot improve beyond it's technical limitations whereas those sports analogies continue to grow, change and innovate. No in this essay I propose that the 6th entry of the Final Fantasy (FF6) series was the first game to have birthed artistry in gaming like Venus from the sea foam.

To start, it was a game that pushed the technical limits of the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES). Even though 3D pologonic gaming had started to arise in the industry, this was at a time where the skills of the game designers were at their peak at the era, but knew that they didn't have unlimited resources to tell a story but instead they needed the limited resources of their imagination. As I said before skill found in playing a game is not artistry because of the technical limitations and but it's through the design to create more than the sum of it's parts that made FF6 artistic. One only has to look at FF7 as a game that they wanted FF6 to be, but didn't get a chance to do so at the time.

Taking a cue from Opera, they created a show that is half in reality and half in the mind of imagination. Offering not just bigger everything from it's previous entry but BIG in general. This was a game that was meant to be heard from the front rows of Japan to the back rows of North America.

But from the beginning, we get our Heroine of the stage. Like a grand diva she is escorted even treated like royalty with a crown and enters into the town of Narshe. This is truly surprising because this is almost a prologue to the first act, even becoming a sort of behind the scenes look of the opera of FF6 as if seeing the paparazzi trying to get a glimpse at the star of the show before she takes the stage.

After a tough entry into the theatre, she ends up in a house of what we could really see it as, a dressing room. She is resting, revived and reborn as Terra! I don't use reborn lightly since you can literally assign her name like a parent. Working on two levels, it's appropriate that she started out as ?????? as a blank canvas. Because as we progress through the game we see her character built through your actions (the beforementioned artistry of gameplay skill) but also through the game designer's intention.

But as we see Terra escape from the Narshe warriors, it's merely saying that it's almost time for curtain rise. She exist to backstage and appears on the first stage! To emphasize it's breaking the mold of games of being the first artistic one, we find her on a stage that can be seen from both sides for the audience. Drastic almost impractical stage set ups have to be created in order to equal to anything in reality but still it makes sense. Innovation demands experimentation.

More things happen, Locke appears and in our first multi party battle, the truth is revealed. It's actually an appearance of a Chorus of moogles, which fulfill the purpose of a chorus by summarizing the types of weapons available throughout the game. Is there any other reason why Mog has the technique "dance"?

But what of the Nihlism you ask? Interestingly our avatar for Nihlism is through the form of Kefka Palazzo. It's interesting how we first are introduced to him properly through him in the middle of the desert. A useless empty stage, much like his viewpoint on motivations to exist. If there was anything to solidify that video games are art is by the sheer existence of Kefka's laugh sound. Now notice I say "laugh sound" not his laugh. Why you ask? Ask yourself the question if you heard his laugh from any other voice actor or different technical level of sound, would it evoke the same feeling. Would it actually his be laugh? No. Kefka's laugh has been engrained into the very technical speakers and hardware of the game. True art could never be recreated, perhaps remade or paid homage to, but never recreated to be exactly like the original.

But what is commonly evoked as the most artistic for the game is the Opera scene. To be fair the singing sounds like wails and squeaks and warbles. But why does it evoke such a sense of power? Is it because it's a game that dares to have an opera in it, perhaps being the first opera a lot of game players have ever seen let alone want to be involved in? Or is it because it actually sounded good despite it's limitations? I think it goes deeper than that. It's because this inception of an Opera is an homage to itself. From the Act 1 of the Returners reuniting, this beginning of the Act 3 states that you are already playing an opera. Like L'OrFeo, Locke being Orpheus looking to bring back Terra from the brink of her own hell of being half esper or unloved and unknown.

The opera scene is pivotal because it summarizes the feelings you have been having about the game already. The cast has been set, as if every new character was an audition in itself. From Cyan's solo one man act of kicking ass, to taking in a true Diva of the opera Celes. Now the game engages us the way we have been engaging it. It is moving and we have to react with our outputs to it's inputs. We have to produce the right outputs lest the game gives up in it's own "controller throwing" moment and resets the scene. Like how the game follows the script when we play, we have to follow the script when it plays us.

Finally after Setzer appears, being an obvious homage to Don Giovanni, the Impresario states

Unforeseen twists at every turn! Just as we think Maria is to become Locke's new bride, she's dragged off by Setzer instead! What fate lies in store for her now? Be sure to come back and see Part Two!

We are literally told that there is more to come. And with that. I leave Act 1 of this essay and will think about Act 2 at another time.









SEPTEMBER 30TH DINOSAURS WILL FLY!



The 4th wall in video games became fully realized when Lakitu is the cameraman for Super Mario 64. It's a simple enough concept with the 4th wall always being where the audience is behind viewing the show, the actions, the actors and actresses. However unlike cinema or the stage, the concept of the video game 4th wall is very different. It's the first time in entertainment the 4th wall can be engaged beyond the scope of what the director wants us to see. Instead of a constant fixed perspective, a movable camera means we can direct our own gaze to what we want to see. Yes, in some ways this 4th wall is more constrained because the world has to be designed, created, with it's boundaries being fractionally smaller in comparison to the earth, the limitations only bounded by the hardware and the imagination. However with movies, it's not like we can take the camera away from the director and decide to see the area they chosen for us. For all the limitations the game world might have, every accessible inch is for us to look at our discretion. In some ways the 4th wall ceases to exist because how can a wall exist when the 3 walls can always change? Can it really be a 4th when there is 360 of walls to be had?


In a clever move of both revealing and destroying the 4th wall, the mirror room reminds us that the camera has been Lakitu all along. However if the camera producing the 4th wall caught itself in it's gaze, then does it become part of the world? Being able to produce a 4th wall loses all meaning because now it has become part of the scene, where does it begin? Does or can it even exist in the traditional sense?

In some ways Lakitu doesn't have the traditional role as voyeur. Yes he holds the camera, however he does not have a viewfinder in which to see the contents of the camera. He is a witness to events, but lacks the necessary disassociation with the subject in order to fit that role. He can only imagine what it captures or how the film would appear. The audience in turn takes on the role as the voyeur. In a rare instance we have become both director and audience.

As a passive viewer of cinema and stage, we are stuck with the gaze the director given us. Hopefully showing us the beauty of the screenplay through their and the crew's ability. However the difference being in actively engaging in our entertainment is that we actually have power as the voyeur by directing the camera in a spot to see our actions, satisfying our whims. The artisty of the game is hardly ever in it's cinematic view because no matter how beautiful it looks, the screenplay of the game is determined by our actions and buttons presses. Hence how game enjoyment suffers when they camera system is a problem. If it's not there to capture the actions, the artistry does not exist.

We are telling the story through the joystick. The technique is the screenplay for which the character enacts on screen. Just as the camera is the input for recording the visuals and revealing the essence of the film, the controller records our button presses to revealing the essence of the game. Therein where the power lies.

If we compare Lakitu's role with the player's we are on opposite sides of a similar role:

Lakitu
- Is in the reality of the scene.
- Is only a witness, not a voyeur because he is not displaced by the camera.
- Does not know the content of the camera.


Player
- Not in the reality of the world.
- Knows the contents of the actions and therefore changes the power of the voyeur from anonymous viewer to anonymous controller.
- Is displaced because of the camera and viewing the scene through it.


Traditionally the voyeur takes pleasure in seeing the activity that is occurring but without notice or interference. Part of the enjoyment is seeing an activity playing out just as you would have wanted it, however at the same time not knowing the intent of the subject or it's further actions. Intentions and emotions could only be interpreted by the subject's actions and the viewer's imagination much like the cinema and stage.

With video games it turns this idea around. Suddenly the viewer is in charge of the actions even the emotional intent of the subject. Our inputs are the screenplay of which the character can only interpret what we want them to do within the scope of their abilities; substituting the directors directions with ours. Another aspect of this change is Mario knows that he is being filmed; knows that he is the subject of our gaze. So in what way is the state of voyeurism still applicable if the subject is aware? Because instead of us interpreting what his actions mean; he has to interpret our inputs into the controller, much like how an actor interprets the screenplay and direction. Our enjoyment is now seeing our inputs become the controller of the activity. The abstraction of not knowing the subjects thoughts are now reversed for Mario not knowing anything about our thoughts.

On Sept 30th dinosaurs will fly in a bid to impart the traditional role of voyeurism onto the viewer. How are we to interpret this? What are the button presses in order to perform such a feat? Only our imagination can see this. Even in the demo view of the game, they show us how to perform this feat, wresting control away from us again and making us the passive viewer again. Everything comes full circle and the traditional definition of voyeur returns. Where the passive viewing of cinema and stage can be enjoyed by an audience of many, the actual active engagement of the game can be only enjoyed by few, often singular. However as the gamer plays in the presence of others, they themselves have become the subject of voyeurism of the audience watching them play. You might say, "Hey, the audience is in the same room/reality as the player, much like Lakitu is with Mario. How is this different than just being a witness like Lakitu?"

It's different because like an actor who cannot break their eyeline in order to maintain the continuation scene, the gamer cannot break their eyeline of the screen to maintain the continuation of the game. While the audience may not be looking directly at the gamer, they are still looking at them through a lens. The lens of the television in which the actions are played out just like how they wanted to be for their entertainment, but not fully knowing the emotions or intent of the gamer. The gamer has become the audience, director and subject all at the same time, fulfilling the act of voyeurism by their audience. The 4th wall returns both through the lens of the television and the concentration needed to block out anyone not engaging with the game.

It's funny that creating "Let's Play..." videos sort of undermine this whole process of both the 4th wall and voyeurism. Mostly due to the camera capturing the game doesn't involve a real life camera, but instead the abstract of a recording program; therefore making further dissolution of the 4th wall by try to minimize the role of the camera. The second undermining action is expressing the feelings and intent of the gamer, therefore eliminating any sort of enjoyment through interpretation of the subject's actions. Coupled with the fact that they produced this video knowing full well that people seek it destroys any last bit of voyeurism for the audience.

In a misuse of the pun in my title, it's only speedruns or TAS playthrough's that truly mimic the Laplace Demon concept, knowing where every action and atom's place in the game in order to reveal it's true artistry through gameplay. Perhaps because to return being a voyeur of gaming, you have to fulfill the screenplay so perfectly, the actions are known but the intent and methods not. It's through this often silent run through a game that we take pleasure in seeing the activity without notice or interference that returns us back into the role of voyeur and perhaps by almost tricking Lakitu's ability to keep up with Mario's actions...re-establishing his role with us.








A yuletide tradition among fighting game enthusiasts, but I did this shitty image version of the song. Enjoy and click on "next" for the next stanza

http://lorangecat.livejournal.com/2010/11/19/

Merry Christmas to all.








I love Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.

Brilliantly adapted. The changes from the novel were beyond well suited, they were strokes of genius. Wright gets it right. Simply the best adapted creative work since Harry Potter: PoA.

However upon watching the dismay at the box office and the apparently failure of film, even going so far as vanity fair making a plea to watch this film which can appeal to most everyone and anyone; really does it seem like such a stretch that Pilgrim is goose egging at the theaters?

You have Edgar Wright which an apparent niche group of people get his brand of humour. You have Michael Cera who's success in films are only determined by whether it's an alternative darling of the month, a series that is totally aimed at 30-40 year olds with distinct nostolgia of a certain time era and a concept that based on what most people think is a comic book.

It's like somehow people thought this perfect storm union of geekery would result in a media geek hammer that would bludgeon's people's apprehension to watch films like these, like smashing a badnik and making them into a fluffy Pilgrim embracing animal. I for one am glad for the marketing this film had got, like many of you I am also disappointed at how badly it performed at the box office. I'm not one for rankings, ratings and numbers anymore, I left that back in the Entertainment Tonight era in the late 90's, but given it's content, what it is and how far it came along perhaps this financial failure (so far) is an indication of how good it actually is. We basically got on of the best films of the year being a geek filled, fun film that includes all aspects of geek culture from games, music, film and comics. I knew that when the trailer said "It's on like Donkey Kong," they were not screwing around with making this film for us and not trying to make it for everyone.

IMHO Scott Pilgrim is a success, as much as a success as it could be given the odds. Be content it got this chance, that it actually exists in such a way that it's not a complete bastardization of the taste of the fanbase.








In this world where gaming is still seen as this activity of bloodthirsty shut ins, middle aged loners (or until recently middle-aged housewives looking for an online trick) and a reason for obesity, it's hard pressed to find good examples of positive news or examples of gamers. Yes we do come together to celebrate gaming but often when anyone talks about the community, they refer to it as a fanbase or a market to exploit; or more importantly a group of fanatics that will cry foul over some gameplay tweak or in game glitch than talk well of each other. Even praise amongst us is superficial idolization of the best rather than the character behind that talent.

I'm doing this post because I'm part of a great gaming community of Shoryuken.com and a well known contributing member of that community Ricardo "Dasrik" LaFaurie had passed away. It's funny because I knew Dasrik from another online forum well before joining up at Shoryuken.com. It's hard to imagine that you can know someone online for 10 years, which IMHO is a lifetime. But it's even harder to imagine that someone who's a part of your online history is now gone. While it's easy to dismiss online relationships, there are real people on the other side. While we might forgive the shortcomings of the random troll or idiot, when you actually have someone who isn't acting like a complete moron; that makes for a solid friendship and it his harder when you lose them.

We've come together when one of our members have passed away and this time I think it needs special mention because of the unprecedented amount of love, support and generosity from a gaming community concerning the life of a human being.

Currently we've:

- Raised over $5000 in donations that will 100% go to his family.
- Had an anonymous donor of $2000 from a single person.
- Currently have a special memorial raffle for a Mad Catz Arcade FightStick Tournament Edition with proceeds going towards the memorial fund.
- Countless of condolences from members all across the fighting game community.


I will admit, yes I will post links to the donation page and the raffle because even if it seems inappropriate, this tragic moment in life reaffirms that gamers are good people and our community should be indicative that some people reading this are as considerate and caring as any other gaming community. It goes to show that we are not a bunch of anti-social nerds who need to be regulated by a gov't body, but human beings. This is an example of the positive aspects of the gaming community that everyone should know and take to heart.


If you wish to participate in the memorial raffle here is the information.


http://www.shoryuken.com/content.php?r=80-Dasrik-Memorial-Raffle-Win-An-Exclusive-FightStick-TE!

This is the RIP Thread for Dasrik:


http://www.shoryuken.com/showthread.php?t=220982

This is the original donation thread:


http://www.shoryuken.com/showthread.php?t=221118

If you wish to donate you are more than welcomed to. This has grown beyond anything anyone had hoped for. Even if you simply want to make a account to say RIP in the thread, it will be appreciated.

R.I.P Dasrik








FF13 heading to X-Box 360 brought a small insight to the bizarre relationship we gamers have with Squaresoft's business practices. In regards to FF7, it held a sway over gamers to jump Nintenship onto the PS1 decks, created a near decade (and somewhat ongoing) wait for Square to return back to Nintendo. It established a new graphical order and design for games in the series. In regards to FF1, it's release history across multiple platforms and multiple times reflects it's historical importance in gaming history; truly a game for the people regardless of console loyalty. In regards to FF6 it represents a pinnacle of 2D 16-bit RPGing, a crown jewel representation of Nintendo's golden age; and being the last flagship FF to hit Nintendo, is possibly the reason why FF1-FF5 have gotten advance or remakes out of some sort guilt licensing out of leaving Nintendo when they did. Having a huge ass user base probably helped to, but still it's nice to think that way.

With remakes of FF3 and FF4 released on the DS, it might be safe to assume that continuing the idea of this retro-loyalty Square-Enix might follow suit with FF5 and FF6 as well. This would have been the best consolation prize that any fan of the pre-FF7 games would enjoy. It strikes a peculiar balance between catering to nostalgia via keeping some elements such as super deformed chibi characters and adherence to the original plot; but also gives us an illusionary graphical remake by modeling the characters after their Amano designs rather than the SNES in battle representations. For most fans of the artwork who could only glimpse at the protagonists in their intended form via the menu screen or only appreciate the art by the enemy sprites; I imagine it was a treat to finally see the other side of the battle line being just as artistically expressed.


Lord Cecil, you certainly look more badass than being the size of one tile.

However Square-Enix has always been the tease. Just as we were comfortable with the idea that the FF3DS engine is the best that they will offer in terms of graphical representation of the pre-FF7 games, Dissidia changed a few things both for the better and somewhat for the worst. Aside from a tech demo, and her FF Anthology appearance FF6's Terra was represented in quality 3D, along with Bartz from FF5 and what we could easily say an upgraded version of Cecil's FF4DS model which already featured cinematics that stirred up dreams for a more real-time offering on par with current gen productions.


See what a real cash grab effort looks like?

As some of the A-List games become more brown and grey it only reinforces me standing in the camp that games are getting far too realistic nowadays. Why push the boundaries of realism when you have at your disposal to create anything you want or want the players to see. At least with games like Loco Roco, Okami, Team Fortress 2, Patapon and other games we are beginning to see more developers trying for something more stylistic than realistic. In fact since the time I wrote this rant, many games had went to a non-realism route, with even some games changing midstream to differentiate themselves from the competition.


Borderlands before and after art style change

That's why I was always sort of torn whether any of the pre-FF7 games should ever be remade because in the end we'd just get photo-realism as opposed to something that rivaled our imagination at the time of playing those games. Granted the DS intro cinematics and Dissidia certainly did an exceptional job of CGing Cecil, Bartz, Terra etc. into the 3D realm and yet that isn't something I necessarily want to represent the moments or characters. Square-Enix basically painted themselves in a corner with FF:Advent Children because now if they ever remake FF7, the *have* to use FF: Advent Children quality and design to appease the fans. I guess FF7 is suited for that, but like I said not so much for the pre-FF7 games.


I'm a coward. A coward who denies his true art-style origins.

However

Last year's film festival had a film called Ten Nights of Dreams and it left me with the hugest smile on my face in a long time. It's basically a collection of short films that has 10 different dreams directed by 10 different directors. I didn't know what to expect from it and as I sat in the dark by the 6th film I believed this film was beginning to be a waste of a ticket. But once the title of the 7th dream and the credits for the directors shown I got a chill down my spine. I saw Yoshitaka Amano's name.

Yoshitaka-Fucking-Amano...directing...a FILM.

Now forewarned the dialogue is shit as is the voice acting which is the only one in English. The story itself is alright, but the ONLY thing that is important is the visuals.

I've always wondered if they could ever make a game using his style of water color and wispy artwork which is just awesome to see; but actually seeing it live, breath and be in MOTION is just a fanboy's dream come true. Even though the voices were grinding on my nerves, the visuals are so breathtaking and I was so surprised by this that I totally ignored it. This reminds me of when the artist Dave McKean decided to direct MirrorMask who also had an art style that I would have loved to see in motion. Problem was it did seem a bit lower on the quality end in terms of the CG. However with Amano, you can see they went all out to make his stuff totally true to what he usually does. It looks less CG and more like a living water color moving before your eyes. You want to see crazy stalagmite towers? You got it. Bizarre creatures from Amano's mind? You also got it. A little moogle cameo? Well there you go. Even though the animation is a bit stiff and not as smooth as most other CG films out there, the visuals totally make up for it.

If the Pre-FF7 games were ever to be remade on consoles this this is the animation style that I hope they will use. That art style is much better suited for those games than the more photorealistic FF7-Advent children application for the FF7 onwards games (excluding FF9 of course). Granted Dissidia did highlight the glaring weakness of Amano's artwork; the waif-ness of the leads which compared with their post FF7 breathren; look actually more feminine than Nomura's designs (if that were actually possible) and in contrast Nomura's designs of the Pre-FF7 characters looked more manly than their Amano counterparts. However if you are still a fan of his artwork, it certainly is a treat to behold. This was seriously the best thing I've seen at the film festival because it was such a surprise for my game geek self.

Seriously though, I just hope that Square Enix gotten wind of Amano's project because this might be the most awesome way to really show the fanboys they actually give a shit past remaking FF4, 5 and 6 on the FF3DS engine. If they gave FFTactics a bit of a facelift to have the cutscenes be reflective of Yoshida's artstyle, they should at LEAST consider to make some of the games reflective of Amano's style. However you be the judge, whether you hate it or love it, it's still amazing how far 3D animation has come and how far it still has yet to go.

In the end we might just accept the consulation prize for what we expect Square-Enix to do, but after seeing this short film I say fuck that consulation prize and so should you.


7th Dream from Stef Lui on Vimeo.




7th Dream Japanese from Stef Lui on Vimeo.