Wiley Peach

Building Playable Characters in Games: Lee, That Guy Has Character!

Don’t worry ****SPOILER FREE**** happy reading and playing.

 

We are all aware of the problems that come along with games that want well rounded character AND also wanting some player input into the arc of that character. We all also know that Telltale Games didn’t seem to think that was as much of a problem as we did, because suddenly there is Lee Everett.

(In my head Telltale just walk up all cool and are like ‘Oh! You guys were looking for this. We had this guy just lying around.’ Then they just walk off and I let out a single tear of admiration.)

Anyway lets start to break this all down generally video game characters seem fall into three rough categories:

Blank Slate 

This means more than it lets on and is not, as it usually is when talking about film or literature, a negative comment. These are, for lack of a better term, The Bethesda Characters; Fallout, Elder scrolls etc. If you choose the gender, name, attributes, political views and toilet habits its a blank slate.

Like I said though this is not a bad thing. In fact its there malleability to take on your attributes through the way YOU experience the game that makes them so suited to RPG’s (where they are often found). We get attached to these characters because they are very much us in every way   just with a sword or a repeater rifle not a controller. They’re stregnth comes from this and they are more vessels to explore worlds and experiences which is why we often talk about RPG stories in terms like ‘So I was caught out in….’ or ‘Me and my companion had just….’. Even if you named them Farts McSnotty, that’s still  you in that world and that scenario. You named yourself Farts…. well done.

 

Blank Slate++

Going with the Developer theme we can call these guys and gals, ‘The Fellows of Valve’.  Gordon Freeman and Chell are good examples of this (those two should get together by the way) they are characters in the world with names and assumed identities before you started playing and you simply assume control for a short time. They do not though have a deep sense of character though (again that is not an insult). This is generally shown by having a mute man/woman with whom the other characters interact with but who generally doesnt interact with them outside teh players mechanical actions. Link can fall in and out of this catagory depending on what game your playing, so lets steer well clear of him.

Your More Traditoinal Characters

 

Nathan Drake, Solid Snake and even characters like Booker DeWitt. Regardless how you play the game ultimatly these characters are very much like the NPCs or protagonists in movies or novels. They have a fixed character, which again is not a bad thing, it is not a handicapp to know have a rigid character description in a game. It simply means you are not telling the story in the way the Blank Slate characters are, variety is good and varied playable characters are too.

 

 

And then there’s…

 

              Lee Everett

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So up until the Walking Dead games and Lee Everett I assumed this was really the only three ways characters had been done. I am also aware though that games like Infamous and Deus Ex had and have been doing similar things but I also think their character do not resonate like Mr Everett.

Now Whats interesting is I have in my mind a very fixed idea of the type of person Lee, his charcater is strong and memorable and (if you have played the game) I’m sure you too have an image of Lee too. The amazing thing is that these too people could be radically different and yet we would still think we were seeing the true and only Lee. The large amount of player choice in the game hasn’t taken away from Lee as a character becuase he already had a vivid backstory and a complex character too begin with, what we as the player did was allow the different facets of his personality show moment to moment.

I think  the difference is this. Lee is like a Blank Slate polished so fine as to become a mirror fro us to see ourselves. Lee (not us) is the main character always we feel more like his subconoious allowing him  be expressed differently depending on whose playing. Thats something I havent felt before and TellTale should be commended on achieving it.

 

Five Ghosts: The Haunting of Fabian Gray #3 Review

 

Describing the first three issues of Five Ghosts: The Haunting of Fabian Gray (the tale of a treasure hunter possessed by five literary specters) has been giving me a fair amount of trouble. I could say it‘s the most fantastic love letter to 1950s era adventure films to come out since the Indiana Jones trilogy (yes, trilogy) but that wouldn’t get across the pure delight of imagination that’s being poured into every issue of this wonderful comic by writer Frank J. Barbiere and artist Chris Mooneyham. It wouldn’t hint towards the large fantasy aspects that surround the whole story or the buddy-cop style dialogue between the protagonists as they dart off to foreign lands in search of adventure and answers.

If there are any negative aspects it’s that those 1950s adventure films did bring the silent and strong lead man cliché back up with his reincarnation as Fabian Gray, whose motivations can seem vague at times. Truly though, in a world where inventive ideas are thrown in and then brushed aside for something newer, Gray’s stone face almost seems like a port in the imaginative storm.

Five Ghosts: The Haunting of Fabian Gray is the best and the pulpiest of pulp fiction and while it might be difficult to describe, issue #3 only makes the stakes higher and the world richer. What I can tell you is this; do yourself a favor and go buy this issue and the previous two is you haven’t already.

 

8.5

 

Wiley Peach

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Arkham Origins: “Twice the size”?

 

Let me preface this by saying I’m have a giddy excitement about me when it comes to this game!

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So the big news that going round a lot of sites at the moment regarding the previews of this game the big quote ‘twice as big as Arkham City‘. I know number are important when talking about video games, the origins of tech and specs can’t be ignored and I understnad why this is a good thing. Its not exciting me about the game though, if they had said ‘We are working to make this city as thick with content, character, and easter egg within easter eggs as the preivous game AND by the way ITS TWICE AS BIG’ that would have excited me to no end.

I’m sure they are working toward this too, but there seems to be an idea that sequels and even sequel-prequels must be bigger fatter games. I’ll take a lean mean City if given the choice.

Just a short post
Peach x

A Short One: Slices of What’s to Come

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This is just a little early week post on somethings I’d like to get on here during the next few days:

 

One – I’m still currently playing Walking Dead Ep. Three and its just all the emotions ever. All of them. Its an astounding few hours for a lot of reasons some of which I’d hope to talk about in the next few days once its settled into my noggin.

Two – NEW BATMAN ARKHAM ORIGINS TRAILER! Plus a bunch of industry guys have actually seen some game play so a piece on why that series is working so well and what I hope for this next installment is definitely worth talking about.

Three - More on Up at Noon. I know I did a short piece on it last week but it was just that, short. Too short in fact and I genuinely think it’s an interesting direction both the industry and the consumers are moving towards.

Four - Comic Reviews Tomorrow!

Now lets see how much of that I am actually able to pump out.

Peach x

 

Thoughts on the PSN: Waiting for Episode Three to Download.

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Yes, I’m late to the game. Winner of a chunky bunch of twenty-twelve awards, TellTale’s series – The Walking Dead pushed me to hunt down, once again, my neglected PlayStation Store icon, which I found at the bottom of my network column a bit dusty but happy to see me. After, of course, i hurried past PlayStation Home and Plus, who still hang around the main screen like bums both unused and asking for money.

Fast forward through an some new account creating, because I can never remember passwords, I had bought Walking Dead Ep. One and set it to download. The crawling speed of my internet though led me to start roaming freely around the PS Store where I found demos, dirt cheap games and classics all bundle up hidden away on my PSThree all this time.

Now A few months, waiting for episode three to download, I can look at my cluttered list of of downloaded titles:

Ni No Kuni Demo,

Beyond Good and Evil HD,

Poker Night demo,

Terraria Demo,

Walking Dead Ep. One, Two (and Three pending)

and looking at these i can see that; One, I’m broke and can only get heaps of free demo’s (hence why its take me two months to get this far in The Walking Dead) – and two, the potential for a more robust PSN store looking forward to the PS4 is so exciting if they can truly give a more rounded experience this time around. Maybe then I wont have to wait for something as special as Clementine and Lee to venture back in.

Anyway its finally downloaded so I’ll leave the point here for now.

Peach x

Things Digital Comics Did Right

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As a newcomer to comics I can tell you that if it wasn’t for the availability of digital comics I would not have been able to make my way into this fascinating medium. This has a lot to do with the lack of comic stores in my area and the current state of broke-as-fuck which I perpetually live in it also has a lot to do with the excellent and inventive ways digital comics have improved on availability. Two of those ways I’m now going to talk about.

Keeping Publishers Separate

Now I’m not a fool I’m aware the reason there are separate Marvel, DC, Image, and Dark Horse apps on my Ipad has more to do with the publishers then me. Still, keeping these groups of comic books distinct helps to preserve that favoritism (and yes bias) which fuels fans as well as making sure comics don’t become ‘COMICS!!!!‘ an unapproachable and heavily saturated app with no clear boundaries to begin with.

 

Understanding The Benefits of No Material or Shipping Costs.

I’ll keep this one short. Free first issues are amazing (full stop). Not just for readers either If i see a new comic issue #2 or #3 out that looks interesting I’ll pick up that first issue  which i might not have chanced on for unknown or brand news writers and artist this is a great, GREAT opportunity.

 

 

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Right I think its time for this blog to take a bit more of a routine, well loose routine – more of vague guide (IKEA vague).

 

Comic Reviews – Once a week.

I’ve just set up a My IGN blog chiefly to test my comic review chops in their community reviews. I’m going to be focusing on Image’s comics because they seem like one of the more neglected publishers.

 

Video Game Reviews or Analysis - Once a fortnight.

What can I say I’m broke! Even renting games I’m going to have to cut it down to a fortnight for any  definite articles, maybe a few cheaper or free games thrown in there aswell. Which is not counting any commentary or analysis I’ll throw on here though.

 

Something Creative – Once a month.

This needs to be a part of the Blog otherwise my practice is getting too narrow so lets stretch it into a more creative space.

 

All the Other Stuff – Every day!

I’ll will be updating this with something everyday. Something being used in its most vague of terms.

So get prepared comics, games, creativity and Somethings coming this way.

Tomb Raider (2013): First Impressions and Fire! Dun Dun DUUUUUNNNN!

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I finally was able to pick up a copy of Tomb Raider (2013 not 1996) and my quickie review if you want to stop reading now is:

‘Its good not great you should play it so probably go do that.’

If you are still reading the more elaborate first impression is:

‘It borrows heavily from other AAA titles namely; Assassin’s Creed, Uncharted and Spec Ops. All the elements it takes from these titles (level design, set pieces, and contextualize violence respectively) all work just not as well as in the original titles and that is not a bad comment on the game all these work well except…’

…and it would go on like that for some time. I haven’t finished the game yet though and so a full review would be premature. What I would like to touch on is the symbol of fire in the first half of the game I’ve played so far.

The use of fire is vital to game play: it solves puzzles, is the sight of base camps, is used to unlock collectables, as well as being a vital component for combat in a myriad of ways. It all begins though with a single match left for Lara by Roth (the father figure in the game) in the beginning when she is cold in the storm and it is from this single match comes the base camp, the torches, lighter, flaming arrows, makeshift napalm and grenade launcher. Lara from this one match as her character arc progresses find new (but usually destructive ) ways of using fire. Which fire being the universal symbol for human invention and ingenuity mimics her own change in character, from victim to survivor and then the one  who creates victims.

My last point on this symbol is one of the reasons it stood out to me. It was important not just because of its role in the story but because it was vital to game play and was always appearing in the game not just the cut-scenes this gives it a potency that games without a tandem gameplay-narrative connection cannot.

The Great Gatsby: What If It Was Terrible On Purpose

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Hear me out on this one. In the lead up to the Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby something was bothering me, nagging at the back of my head after each trailer, then after around the third trailer was released and Dicaprio as Gatsby turns almost to the camera and says “You can’t relive the past! Why not?” it hit me.

What hit me was the realization that this movie is almost a contradiction to itself. One of the central themes of the whole book is just as Gatsby say’s, you can’t relive the past and it is ultimately his belief that you can that turns Gatsby into the tragic figure that has lasted so long in popular culture.

The problem is this film is doing just that with the modern sound track given to a movie thats already been made SIX times before and putting in in HD3D CGI’d up to the teeth with glitz and glamour trying to tell a message that itself contridicting by just existing.

So imagine if that was done on purpose. Imagine they set out to make a movie that over glorified the past and felt disjointed with all the modern twinks thrown into a nearly century old text. Or imagine that they changed the ending and made it happy and that everyone leaving the cinema felt like something was very wrong felt like someone had tried to make the past too beautiful and then maybe the Director could be Gatsby and we’d be T J Eckleberg”s eyes watching the past get dragged up and then found to be dirtier and older than it was before.

Up at Noon: The Idea of Celebrity In Video Games

ImageAlthough its a bit of a polarising program mainly to do with the level of jokes and people’s strange aversion to Greg Miller. The quick point I’d like to make is this: This is one of the first shows I’ve seen where people who work in video games are interviewed by a high end (and yes Greg MIller is high end) critic in the business. Seeing these people talk together and more importantly seeing people watch them talk without exclusive trailers or pre-order bonuses is amazing. It shows people care about the people who make there games beyond the games themselves. Regardless of the jokes and their quality regardless of the host; that is something very astounding.

 

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