I am a British male, I like movies, books, poetry, music and videogames. My favorite thing about videogames is their artistic qualities; stuff like sound design, art direction and that general pith, I especially love stylized games with a touch of retro and the macabre.
Below is a picture of me as an 80's detective
I owe roughly 43% of my brain to Klei Entertainment, Playdead Studios and Quentin Tarantino.
Hideo Kojima, Chris Nolan and Ken Levine can fight over the rest.
From one trailer, two thousand conspiracies are formed
As everyone must be aware by now due to articles by DToid,Joystiq and a 60+ PAGE DISCUSSION THREAD AT NEOGAF, there was a little something up at the recent VGA's. A previously unheard of studio known as Moby Dick released a trailer for a little something called The Phantom Pain, or as it's now known; Metal Gear Solid 5.
With there being literally no information about the game aside from the kick-ass trailer, fans have taken it into their own hands to decode the messages that may or may not lie within, and so far things are looking a little sketchy (asside from playing the trailers audio backwards, which is complete bollocks). I mean between Snake, Raiden/Raikov and Burnt Face Man look-alikes, possible Volgin and Mantis reappearances, coincidental mo-cap photo's and a light sprinkling of Bad Robot even I'm Starting to wonder.
For starters the studio's website, mobydickstudio.se, was only registered very recently, and is suspiciously bare (although on second thought this could be due to the recency of the site registration). Also the game is being produced by someone known only as Joakim Mogren, and even I'll admit that the whole Joakim/Kojima anagram seems to be a bit too much like coincidence.
Joakim "Kojima Project Ogre" Mogren
Now normally I wouldn't bat an eyelid at this, I mean it's Kojima, the man's by no means sane, but I'd recently blown the dust off of my Playstation 1, bought MGS 1 and the HD collection and started working my way through the series (Just finished Snake Eater, started Peace Walker whilst waiting for MGS4 to arrive). Either way, I am now suitably intrigued and regardless of whether this turns out to be Metal Gear Solid 5, some weird viral promotion for Ground Zeroes or a whole new IP by a legitimate company, I am quite certain that I will be picking up a copy of The Phantom Pain (If that is your real name!)
Whilst browsing the internet earlier on I found a blog entry which contains details of Playdead studios (creators of the indie game Limbo) second game.
Curious to find out more I headed over to their official website and came across an advertisement for the collectors edition of Limbo, and it was for sale at Amazon for a stupidly low price (around £15 in the UK, not sure about the USA).
The special edition comes with a stylish case, some cool art prints and a sticker of the player characters head, and as I am someone who would have willingly paid £15 for the game alone this was a steal for me.
As I was entering my Paypal details I got to thinking as to why I love Limbo so much, it is definitely one of my favourite games, despite it lacking many of the features which I enjoy in videogames;
I like my games to be colourful, Limbo is black, white and grey.
I like my games to have a rich story, Limbo's story is one line that's shown on the box,
I like my games to have complex characters and villains, Limbo has a small child and a big spider.
This being said, I think my appreciation for Limbo stems from something more than just the visual and the written, it is the aesthetic and the feelings that the game provides that really draws me in.
Between the bleak background art, the moody lighting and Martin Stig Andersen's chilling ambient soundtrack, Limbo is brought to life. Mix in the tight gameplay and the ludicrously sly traps that can sometimes make the game play like a black comedy and you get a formula which simply tastes of success.
In short, I love Limbo because it is fucked up.
It is also the same reason I love Adventure Time, to me that show has many similarities to Courage the Cowardly dog, which at it's core was messed up. It wouldn't surprise me if that show was revealed to have been written by inmates at a psycho-ward.
I mean, how many of you guys have lost sleep because of this guy!?
There are many ways to create horror, the jump scares of Dead Space and Resident Evil and the crushing dread of Amnesia and Silent Hill are both excellent when executed correctly, yet videogames as of late seem to have lost the ability to be subtle, with many "horror" games going for cheap and poorly executed jump scares and shying away from the much more effective method of inspiring terror in the player through the rare ingredients of atmosphere and pacing.
What's even rarer in videogames however, is showing restraint.
Nearly every horror developer seems to just want to go:
"Look, look how clever we are and how much money we spent on brilliant writing, here you go have it all now and then maybe you can have some more guns, it's what you nerds like isn't it?
Huh? No, I've never heard of context is that some kind of gore engine?"
The only 2 recent examples I can think of where a game has just created a world and let the player get lost in it are Amnesia and Limbo, and before then Silent Hill 2. These were games that were happy for the player to just get stuck in and have the story come to them as naturally as possible (well for Amnesia and SH2 anyway, it's laughable to think that Playdead has a writing department).
Hopefully though this is all a phase due to the HD generation and the acceptance of videogames as an art form in the public eye, and the release of Playdeads "difficult second album" (currently known as "Project 2") will herald a new age of colour, fun and pant-wetting fright. So come on Playdead Studios, is this your "Colour and the Shape" or is it going to be your "Room on Fire"?
To quote Deal or No Deal's crazy man Noel Edmonds "It's not how you start, it's how you finish". Ok, so it's not the best example and it's not even video game related but the message is the same (and Noel used to host his own house party so that's got to be worth something!)
A big gripe that get's presented often is that lack of thought, effort or money that goes into a video game's ending, and that's completely understandable as it can be very frustrating to spend many hours with a character or a group, enduring struggles and living the high life together, just for the last impression the game leaves you with to be an unfulfilling, lacklustre pile of tripe pulled from a writers arse.
The game I find that particularly sticks out to me for this was Rockstars 2011 detective game LA Noire. I picked the game up late after it's release and from the start of disc 1 to the end of disc 2 I berated myself for not getting it sooner, I found the story of Cole Phelps engaging (when he wasn't following noir film clichés) and I enjoyed the interactions between him and the characters around him. It was a game that made me feel like a grade-A genius for solving a case, and made me want to improve whenever I mishandled a case.
However, with the insertion of the final disk and the introduction of the "grand overall story" I quickly lost interest. The retarded story, coupled with an out of place shooter section lead to a crushing disappointment which was only then topped by a pointless unfulfilling ending. The game had set itself up to be my game of the year, but instead it now joins the mediocre brigade, where it has quickly become forgotten. I almost wished I had lost the third disc before I got to it, which is something that a developer should really not want said.
Cole Phelps about to be flushed down a drain, maybe the ending was a self aware parody?
Now, on the other end of the spectrum, Bungie's Halo: Reach sets an example that I feel should be at least considered (please bear with me on this one).
I have long been a fan of Halo, with Halo 2 being my favorite in the franchise, but I personally believe that all of the Halo games on the 360 are just par for the course. They were safe and took no risks, constantly living in the shadow of greater things and for that I am forever disappointing. I picked up Halo: Reach preowned 2 days after it's release as I felt that it would be beneficial for me to at least give it a go as it was a prequel to the first ever game I got for my Xbox many years ago.
To my surprise it did not pull a George Lucas, and in itself was a competent game, I felt that same feeling for it that I did for the other 360 Halo's, half joy, half boredom.
That was until the end. (SPOILER ALERT)
Throughout the course of the game you get beaten, shot at, and watch your squad mates die around you, and finally, watching the Pillar of Autumn leave to start Master Chief's story you think "it's my turn". What follows next however isn't some half-baked cinematic, but an interactive sequence where you desperately fight off oncoming waves of Covenant with only one objective. "Survive".
I was stunned, being able to limp about, pick up weapons and shoot the horde's around you, all of it only prolonging the inevitable.
I was shocked, a game which had been an exercise in mediocrity had suddenly gripped me, slapped me about and made me actually feel something.
It was almost touching, if only the rest of the game had been as good.