Month: May 2016

Abnormal Mapping 49: Requiescat in Podcaste

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A dark day comes in the lives of any video games person. A day where the joy is gone, and the game pad falls to the floor in utter defeat. This is not true despair, though, for that instead can be found on the internet, where said intrepid gamespeople go when their play is through, only to find a cesspool of fear and hate and suffering. That is the true gauntlet of horrors, eroding all of us into shapeless forms of old dreams, spent energies, and a dim animal sense that the world shouldn’t so easily gobble up things that are fun and convert them into things that are burdens.

For three intrepid gamespeople, in one tiny little boat of a podcast, in an endless sea of trivial bullshit? That day is today.

Come for the end. Stay for the beginning. Listen as we render all good things to dust and say goodbye to a friend in this, the last episode of a podcast that was, and a discussion of a podcast that might yet be.

You can get our podcast on iTunes, on Stitcher, or you can download it directly by clicking here.

Things Discused: Lego Marvel Superheroes, Stardew Valley, Uncharted 2, Hitman: Blood Money, Become A Great Artist in 10 Seconds, Car on a Stick

This Month’s Game Club Game: Hitman: Blood Money

Next Month’s Game Club Game: …

Music This Episode
Blown Away by Kevin MacLeod
Home Sweet Home by Keiichi Suzuki and Hirokazu Tanaka
Super Mario 2 Ending Theme by Koji Kondo
Ave Maria by Franz Schubert and Vienna Boys Choir.

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On LEGO Games

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The LEGO games have always traded in parody, drawing upon popular iconography of a particular franchise and then heightening it for comic effect. However, their success comes not from the comedic undermining of the subject matter, but the distillation of its subject matter to the core values. LEGO Star Wars: The Prequel Trilogy‘s silent narrative captures the adventure, tone and thematic conceit of Star Wars arguably better than the movies on which it is based.

Traveler’s Tales have kept this up for over a decade now, taking an approach to adaptation which centers on identifying the essence of the source material and applying it to the established core design. Nowhere is this more obvious than LEGO Marvel Super Heroes, a far more effective way to understand the appeal of comic books the movies they draw from so regularly. The game revels in its characters, bouncing them off of each other in every puzzle and every cutscene, showcasing a incoherent cliff-notes Marvel Universe which embraces the ludicrous joy of its conceit rather than to (as is the trend in more mainstream adaptations) grapple with the logistics of its existence.

Whilst this element of the LEGO games is fairly widely understood, what struck me when playing is how this approach to adaptation remained true in terms of the game’s more formal design. In addition to adapting and distilling a fictional universe, LEGO Marvel Super Heroes is an adaptation and distillation of modern video games, with how it frames its open world, highly scripted level design, and a trillion-and-three collectibles.

It isn’t that the game has these elements – almost every AAA game contains one or more of them these days – but that LEGO presents them nakedly, without the need to burden itself with context. The open world makes no attempt to  be anything other than a constructed sandbox in which you may destroy and explore; even superheroes need to carjack every once in a while. The scripted level design is merely a series of explicitly colour-coded signs onto which you must move the correct character, ad infinitum. You are not collecting coins and completing side-missions to improve the effectiveness of your weapons, or your gang, or your war effort, you are doing it because the number is low and dangit, the number should be higher.

These design techniques are no less effective than in an Assassin’s Creed, or a Destiny, or a [insert 75% of recent AAA Games here], but they do feel a great deal less exploitative. A LEGO game is a passive experience of consumption, wherein you follow simple instructions in order to get more things, which unlock more simple instructions to follow. But that treadmill stands honest and alone, rather than to motivate the player through a narrative, or to trap the player inside a marketplace.

Just as LEGO games serve as an accessible introduction to the appeal of their chosen narrative source material, so too do they serve as an accessible introduction to the appeal of their formal source material. Alone, neither of these elements explains the series’ cultural staying power, but putting them together makes it a lot easier to understand just why the LEGO games have managed to be one of the last kids’ games standing on consoles.

Let’s Play DOOM

When DOOM (2016) was released, I was sitting in my room all disappointed that I couldn’t afford it and what a shame that was because boy did I have a hankerin’ for some DOOM.

Then I stood up and realized that I could totally play DOOM and all I needed was a soundcard and 28MB of disk space. Thus began a new impromptu Let’s Play…

Abnormal Mapping 48: Trauma Babies

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Just another day in a podcast without end…
ABNORMAL MAPPING

At last, the time has come. Just under a year ago, I started playing the Metal Gear games, and now, 42 articles and 5 podcasts later, the journey is complete. I hope you have enjoyed the ride, and if you’re new, then feel free to come along on this quest anytime. For this final episode, we’re discussing Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, the honest-swear-to-god-for-real final game in the Metal Gear Solid Trilogy. Come on in for a chat on trauma and colonialism, exploitation and capitalism, and most importatly, The Life and Times of Punished “Venom” Snake.

I am joined in this final episode by @woundww, a friend and writer for the Arcade Review – currently on Kickstarter! – many thanks to them for smart insights throughout.

Fair Warning: There are a couple audio issues in the podcast! Nothing too bad; a little echo, some birds in the background, but I thought I’d give a heads up nonetheless! Enjoy!

Things Discussed

Metals Gear 1 – V

Music This Episode
Heres To You by Joan Baez
Quiet’s Theme by Akihiro Honda, Ludvig Forrsell, and Stefanie Joosten
Nuclear by Mike Oldfield

Morning Mega Man: Mega Man 1

A plumber retires to his brotherly abode and the sun sets on the land. All is well, all is at peace. Until…

A boy of blue, a man of rock, emerges into a wasteland. It is years later, this boy knows not of the plumber and his deeds, buried as is his kingdom under Wily’s metal and machines. And so, he will fight, each and every morning, until the land is free once more.

Welcome back, everybody, to Morning Mega Man!