Zero Punctuation: Firewatch & Layers of Fear

UNHchabo

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Yahtzee said:
This video brought to you by the spider marketing board
Nice to see the Australian Tourism industry sponsoring gaming content these days.
 

Thanatos2k

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I've heard Firewatch's ending is so bad it ruins the entire experience. So I'm definitely not paying full price for that. Maybe just watch this one.
 

IamLEAM1983

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Aug 22, 2011
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slo said:
IamLEAM1983 said:
But of course, there's a subset of the gaming population that snobs anything that's not overproduced, packed with recognizable gameplay features or geared towards the competitive sector.
Cod. You meant cod. It's ALWAYS cod. If someone does not like a walking sim, it is always immediately assumed that's because he can only play cod. There's no way someone can be disappointed by anything else about a walking sim. Only that it isn't cod.
I know you're joking, but a lot of the "Eeeeuugh, Ess Jay Dubya Gaemz, blaaah!" nonsense I see on Steam tend to come out of close relatives of the Common CoD Player, mostly the DotA Fans and CS:GO players. That said, now that time's passed since the game's release, most of the negative reviews are more coherent. The excellent story delivery is noted, the art design is praised - but folks seem to rather uniformly have trouble digesting the idea of a story where *nothing* happens, despite outwards appearances to the contrary.

We're at a point where shows about nothing warrant postgrad theses (see Seinfeld) whereas games about nothing (which Firewatch seems to be) are decried for not giving the player some of the old agency-preserving devices like a tangible threat or an outwardly perceptible reason to care. I'd chalk that to the medium and to its consumers both still being fairly young, so there's still a lot of folks who think that Walking Simulators aren't games because there's no guns, no XP system, no movement or traversal mechanics or no competitive pull.

Keep in mind, film has been around for over a century. Literature's had thousands of years and visual art's had a few hundred thousand more, if you go by the Lascaux cave paintings. Video games, on the other hand?

Thirty years if you go by the post-crash recovery and the release of the NES, sixty to seventy if you go by the research leading to Pong's development. That's nothing, a drop of water in the ocean. We'll be able to tolerate really daring and artistic approaches to the medium some day, but there's a lot of research and general education of the masses to take care of until then.

Try debating Gone Home's worth to someone who's still stuck at "Super Mario Bros."-levels of game design exposure. You'll be at it a long damn time.
 

Neurotic Void Melody

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I think the one niggle that i wish i never knew, going into Layers of Fear kind of ruined any fear it could've been capable of giving me...
that you never are in any danger. I don't care how, just put something in the game that can fuck my shit up! How are you supposed to be afraid when everything is just picture and noise?? It's like a constant cushion with a scary face stitched into it. Ok, the metaphorical imagery is nice with some wonderful moments that appear to have a lot of thought and potential. But, to feel the horror in a horror game, i need the danger! Neeeeeeeed it!!

I'll wait for Firewatch to go down in price before trying it, a sale mayhaps.
 

FPLOON

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"I'll be fun, they said... You'll meat a lot of people, they said... How was I suppose to know that they were making a euphemism?"
"That's great and all... But, what about the fence?"

Other than that, how many layers of fire were out there in that forest of a mansion?
 

springheeljack

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May 6, 2010
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Layers of fear could have been so much better than it is. It is a really interesting idea that is just never realized. I would have liked it if instead of just finding random documents that chronicle the characters gradual loss of sanity you saw it happen in real time. It gets so tedious after awhile when the rooms start blending together and switching around continuously.


Honestly I found the paintings and furniture more interesting than the game itself.
 

EHKOS

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Feb 28, 2010
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So what I learned from this video is that a Johnny in Australia is slang for condom.

Since I started watching Let's Drown Out and had a ton of fun with the Half-Life series, I realized I much prefer them to ZP. Which is sad because Gabe is too fat to fit in Yahtzee's carry-on.
 

JonSherwell

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He is certainly right about one thing. The Village Green Preservation Society is the best Kinks album.
 

IamLEAM1983

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Aug 22, 2011
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slo said:
That's a disturbing amount of words for such a simple topic.
Really? Yahtzee's videos run for longer than it took me to write this, and I'd consider them succinct. Then again, brevity varies from person to person.

slo said:
Not just because they aren't games. When they get flak for that it's because they should, there's nothing wrong with it.
So by your logic, all the games that don't use experience point systems or gunplay mechanics, to name only a couple of the standard systems, deserve criticism. Okay, then - I'll have to politely disagree. If a dev uses what he needs and uses it well, he doesn't need to fish into the standards of industry more than he already has. Does Dear Esther need a set of guns to be interesting? Granted, if you go into this expecting a "game", you'll be disappointed. Dear Esther's an interactive experience, but it isn't focused on giving you a sense of empowerment, nor on giving you a clear set of tasks.

slo said:
You would have trouble digesting a bowl of piss that isn't apple juice despite outwards appearances to the contrary. So that's pretty justified too.
That's... not very encouraging. Again, following your logic, a game like Firewatch is equatable to a bowl of piss masquerading as apple juice. If anything, you're just proving my point. Expecting traditional game mechanics out of Firewatch is a moot point, as is the idea of expecting a traditional ending.

Consider certain famous playwrights like Samuel Beckett. "Waiting for Godot" is a play that starts with nothing, talks about nothing and ends with, arguably, also nothing. Two hobos are waiting for a third at the train station, they exchange banter to pass the time, and their buddy never shows up. They leave the way they came. Does that make a poor play out of it? Not if you ask the audience, and not if you consider that one of the latest Broadway tours of the play involved Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen in the lead roles.

Is "Waiting for Godot" an inferior experience because it doesn't pack all the requirements of a traditionally engaging story? Is Firewatch inferior because its ending doesn't stick to its conspiracy theory-inspired buildup?

There's an audience for everything. If gamers can spare some elbow room for the football jocks and the audience for oddly specific German forklift simulators, then they can also spare some room for games that want to break the mold, even if that involves leaving what defines them as games to begin with. Nobody's forcing you to play either Firewatch or Layers of Fear.
 

Blood Brain Barrier

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Things that walking is more interesting than:

-Shooting a bunch of people/monsters/animals for hours on end.
-Running around like a headless chicken collecting XP to level up
-Fetch quests
-"Stealth" rubbish
-Tedious and repetitive swordplay against a (insert scary foe)
-Watching cutscenes of meaningless dialogue
-QTEs
-Collecting 50 bear skins to make a bearskin armour

There you go. I think I've covered most of modern gaming there.
 

008Zulu_v1legacy

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UNHchabo said:
Yahtzee said:
This video brought to you by the spider marketing board
Nice to see the Australian Tourism industry sponsoring gaming content these days.
They need positive reviews since their "Hug A Spider" campaign didn't produce encouraging results.
 

Silent Protagonist

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I think a "horror" game where the protagonist starts off terrified but gradually becomes more and more accustomed to his/her bizarre environment to the point of being bored and/or annoyed by any malevolent force's attempt to frighten them could actually be very entertaining. It would be pretty easy to execute without deviating much from the usual horror game formula. You could probably even just mod an existing horror game, adding some additional voice acting, and pull it off.

I have always found the concept of the extraordinary and bizarre becoming mundane extremely entertaining for some reason. Probably one of the major reasons I really liked Yahtzee's Mogworld book.
 

IamLEAM1983

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Aug 22, 2011
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slo said:
Might be stemming from the fact that most of the folks who adore walking sims have little to no experience with games and poor understanding of the medium. It's never Myst or something.
Um - I didn't hate my time with Dear Esther, Everybody's Gone to the Rapture, Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs or even Gone Home. I loved The Stanley Parable and The Beginner's Guide, actually. Consider this, and look at my Steam account. Look at my Skyrim hours, my New Vegas and Borderlands 2 hours. Guns have their appeal, but I'm okay with dialing things back from time to time. If I can make that distinction, so can other people.

Plus, the Sims series is selling like crazy, all iterations combined. People clearly love that breed of game design - it's a whole lotta tools and zero explicit goals. Will you optimize Joe Average's career path or will you play the cruel god to your little people's pathetic digital lives? Maybe you're just going to re-enact an HGTV house makeover show or build giant McMansions for no reason whatsoever.

Nobody's the boss of you in a Sims game - and it's still a game. There's metrics, yeah, but nothing concrete to spur you onwards. No "Hey, player person! Do this!" moments.

slo said:
No they're not games, they have no gameplay.
As you say a few words later, who cares? Some people came out of Gone Home feeling enlightened about feminist issues as represented in the early years of the Third Wave, or considered it was a touching portrayal of certain problems LGBT representatives have to go through. If games are going to garner the widespread appeal they so need to finance their increasingly bloated budgets, artistic value is going to be something producers will need to examine in future. The average Call of Duty has the cultural value of a sack of potato chips, but projects that embrace less obvious avenues of approach have the potential to be discussed. Stuff like Neverending Nightmares, for instance, and the way it depicts schizophrenia.

Past a certain point, having actual gameplay becomes a moot point. Is the product interactive? Did it involve more than turning a page or watching a screen? Did you have some agency over the experience, even if that was limited to turning left when the game said you should go right? Eventually, that's what's going to define games in a broader sense - and not simply the presence or absence of hitboxes and statistics being dynamically tweaked under the hood.

slo said:
Same with walking sims, mark them properly and there will be less disappointment and less downvotes and less bad reviews.
Does that really matter? Let's imagine that a comics shop decides to round out its income sources by displaying art pieces from local creators. A comics lover walks in and reacts the way the Steam folks cry foul about walking sims. "What's all this art doing in my comics shop?! I came here for the latest Spider-Man print, I don't want to see that pretentious bullshit!"

The thing is, his comics are still there, on the same shelves and the same boxes. If the paintings or sculptures offend him that much, he can either leave and start buying comics elsewhere, or suck it up and understand that nothing's forcing him to look at the paintings. The really scathing reviews for walking sims are typically from people who actually paid for it so it shows up in their Steam library but have no real intention to play it. Wrap your head around that: they've burned money to have the right to ***** and moan.

That is, when they don't invade the game's Discussion Hub and start spewing misinformed comments left and right. Then some wiseacre comes up and says "Hey dude, where's the mouse icon next to your name?"

On Steam, if you don't have what you're actually bitching about, you have zero credibility. With all that in mind, labeling these games as "Stuff that Doesn't Contain Bang-Bangs and Pew-Pews and that Could Offend You if You're Insecure About People Liking Stuff You Don't Like" wouldn't amount to much.

slo said:
And come to think of it, walking sims ARE visual novels, just very poor ones, since they can't be of decent length or render any characters.
Visual Novels and walking sims don't have the same aspirations. VN's actually have a story to tell, and not much of a point to make. "Hatoful Boyfriend" isn't about anything grandiose or philosophical, it's about a school partially populated by sentient birds. One of the granddaddies of the genre, "Season of the Golden Witch", is about a cursed Japanese dynasty reuniting on a yearly basis to air out its grievances and fall apart in a cross between Shakespearean drama and a classic Whodunnit - spiced up with vaguely Gothic Lolita-esque visual elements.

The Stanley Parable doesn't have a story, it's trying to talk about player agency and how far it goes. Dear Esther's trying to talk about loss and grief moreso than to sketch out characters or a setting. I've already covered Gone Home, whereas more recent entries like The Witness are trying to come across as a really intellectual celebration of the human mind. I'll admit Jon Blow's latest is pretentious as fuck and that I hated it to bits, but I won't go so far as to say that people who fell for it are deluded or insane. To each their own.

slo said:
Setting wrong expectations is a pretty valid approach, and shit given to that is a pretty valid shit. Do I really need to elaborate?

Market "Waiting for Godot" as a murder mystery and you will receive shit for that. If that was your goal - con-fucking-grats.
Assuming you understand what walking sims are trying to get at, what other expectations would you maintain? If you know what The Witness is about but still expect, I don't know, guns and tangible characters or a progression system out of it, I'd have to say you're a bit off-mark.

Time will pass, people will accept that games are turning out to be a viable tool for narrative expression in a way that goes beyond basic Spunkgargleweewee (see Yahtzee), and those who don't will simply go their merry way. Or, you know, the more likely outcome of people enjoying both varieties of games at once will be understood as being commonplace.

I like my shooty bang-bangs or my slider-twiddling micromanagement sims. Just, y'know, not exclusively.

slo said:
And no, Dear Esther does not need a set of guns to be interesting. It won't help. Nothing will save Dear Ester, not even dinosaurs and jetpacks. It's that bad.
Aw, shucks. I actually gave the North Korea mod a shot - it replaces the game's narration with fat jokes about Kim Jong-Un and it adds random 2D sprites of Ken Jeong playing the guy that you can shoot down with a gun painted in blue and red stripes. Every time you squeeze the trigger, a kickass guitar solo plays and Randy Savage descends from the parting clouds. He gives you Slim Jim items you can use to turn the island's radio tower into a Ubisoft Radio Tower, complete with random mooks to kill.

It's a great mod.

Blood Brain Barrier said:
Things that walking is more interesting than:

-Shooting a bunch of people/monsters/animals for hours on end.
-Running around like a headless chicken collecting XP to level up
-Fetch quests
-"Stealth" rubbish
-Tedious and repetitive swordplay against a (insert scary foe)
-Watching cutscenes of meaningless dialogue
-QTEs
-Collecting 50 bear skins to make a bearskin armour

There you go. I think I've covered most of modern gaming there.
I like the way you think.
 

Rawbeard

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so apparantly in Firewatch you can just not talk to the boss lady and she basically has a breakdown. interesting they put the effort into that.
 

Casual Shinji

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Rawbeard said:
so apparantly in Firewatch you can just not talk to the boss lady and she basically has a breakdown. interesting they put the effort into that.
She has a breakdown regardless. Maybe she gets one faster if you ignore her, I don't know, I didn't feel inclined to play it a second time, but she breaks down even when you do converse with her.