Zero Punctuation: Firewatch & Layers of Fear

Blinkled

New member
Feb 14, 2016
2
0
0
slo said:
Guns guns guns. Guns. I told you it's always cod. It always is. 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.
No they're not games, they have no gameplay. You cannot succeed or fail or lead the story or an encounter to a more desired outcome.
Or, you know, it could be possible that humans are complex beings that are able to like different types of things? That it might be that you can like mainstream games like Dark Souls, Bioshock Infinite, and Dead Rising, while also liking walking simulators like The Stanley Parable, Firewatch, and Gone Home? There's nothing wrong with not liking those games, but insinuating that you're somehow an inferior person for liking them is needlessly insulting. A lot of people enjoy the interactive narrative while cutting out all the arbitrary challenges that only exist in a video game. Also, you can throw around as many arbitrary definitions for what constitutes a "real video game" you want, but it won't change the fact that they are. Same as, as much as you don't like it, Duchamp was an an artist. You might argue that art needs a certain amount of minimum effort, or it can only be marble sculptures and oil paintings. Won't change the fact that "Fountain" is worth 3.6 million dollars.
 

THM

New member
Sep 27, 2014
218
0
0
canadamus_prime said:
I wonder if your supervisor guy is the Forest Watcher guy from The Red Green Show.
Now THAT might actually make the game interesting. :)


OT: Sorry, I got nothing. Neither of these games seems that interesting. Kinda cool to hear about them, though - and Yahtzee's treatment of his houseguests. ;)
 

PunkRex

New member
Feb 19, 2010
2,533
0
0
wallstaples said:
I'm really, really tired of all the hate these kind of games get. They're niche. Most people won't like them. If you don't like them, fine, but don't burst down the clubhouse door and demand that they accommodate you. I don't like MOBAs, but I'm not going to go to the comments for everything MOBA-related and say they're stupid. I understand that different people have different tastes, and that DOTA and LoL are very well-made for their target audience. No one is forcing you to play walking simulators. If you know you don't like them, just don't.
It's his job, I don't like cutting up firewall but I do it because I dislike not eating/paying rent more.
 

IamLEAM1983

Neloth's got swag.
Aug 22, 2011
2,581
0
0
Michael Prymula said:
I can't help but scratch my head when people call it one of the best games of all time, I think it actually sends a lot of unfortunate implications about gay relationships, and had the game featured a heterosexual couple I think people would've been harsher on it's message overall.
Oh, I get that. Gone Home's overall theme deserves a more critical approach, and it gets sappy with its delivery. I tend to chalk that up to the subject matter being of importance to the writers and devs, so there's some distance that's missing.

That said, their attempt at it still matters. As far as storytelling exercises are concerned, Gone Home still deserves a mention. As to whether or not I agree with TB's definition of a game, I don't think that matters. It's an interactive product that had a specific goal in mind, that set out to accomplish it and that did the best it could.

On a personal level, though, I did feel a bit slighted when the game's early spooky tones were dropped. We've been so trained to expect supernatural shenanigans as gamers that a product abandoning this specific hook halfway through feels less avant-garde than it feels like they dropped the ball. If you're going to pack a sordid past and a Ouija board in the middle of your tales of early-nineties LGBT self-affirmation, I'm still going to expect those cues to go somewhere.

I'm just mature enough to admit that a game that fails to live up to my expectations might still have some worth to it as a product or an artistic experiment.

Michael Prymula said:
Yes i'm so sick of people claiming i'm "narrow-minded" because I find games like Submerged, Wander, Dear Esther, Gone Home, and Everybody's Gone to the Rapture as exciting as watching grass grow. They're just not for me, it's that simple, if someone likes them great, but don't expect everyone else to blindly agree with you.
To each their own, honestly. I reviewed The Witness on my blog and was pretty freaking harsh on it. On the other hand, folks at IGN and Elder Geek are singing its praises. I don't have to love every other game that comes out - I'm free to like what suits me and ignore what doesn't.

The one thing I won't do is take my prejudices to a Steam Community Hub and trash-talk people try to enjoy what suits them. This might be a free country, I don't have the right to be a dick to people who are enjoying what I can't enjoy.
 

IamLEAM1983

Neloth's got swag.
Aug 22, 2011
2,581
0
0
Michael Prymula said:
Yeah that's total bullshit, that's not most modern gaming in the least, and no walking is not more interesting then any of those things.
It's a deliberate exaggeration, I'd say. Walking sims at least have the merit of being something that's relatively new, when compared to the usual sets of mechanics AAA studios flock to. It goes to the point where making a shooter that's going to be distinguishable in the crowd requires some substantial research and investment, or at least lightning in a bottle. See SuperHOT for an example.

Otherwise, what are you getting, and how many devs are offering you similar packages? We had years of Doom-likes, then years of Quake-likes, then cinematic WWII experiences - and in the middle of all that you had rare gems like the first System Shock or Deus Ex. Innovation is hard and it's usually implemented incrementally, so we don't get a whole lot of it if single genres are considered. Now the leading paradigm is Near-Future Gritty Realism, with things like the Borderlands series being the relatively recent quirky outlier.
 

Blood Brain Barrier

New member
Nov 21, 2011
2,004
0
0
IamLEAM1983 said:
Michael Prymula said:
Yeah that's total bullshit, that's not most modern gaming in the least, and no walking is not more interesting then any of those things.
It's a deliberate exaggeration, I'd say.
Not at all. The thing that's missing from this discussion is what you're actually doing when "walking". Obviously it's not just walking. Walking is not walking. You're thinking, looking, searching, reminiscing, remembering. Go for a walk outside right now and find out for yourself. You're never just walking. But in a shooter what are you doing? You're always shooting. Everything you do is concerned with that. The looking and thinking is concerned with how to best shoot your opponent.

The upshot of all this is that the experience of a "walking simulator" depends entirely on how the game is done. What it gives you to look at, think about and so on. If it does that part well, it should be a far richer experience than a RPG or shooter.
 

IamLEAM1983

Neloth's got swag.
Aug 22, 2011
2,581
0
0
Blood Brain Barrier said:
The upshot of all this is that the experience of a "walking simulator" depends entirely on how the game is done. What it gives you to look at, think about and so on. If it does that part well, it should be a far richer experience than a RPG or shooter.
Thanks for the clarification. I agree, but unfortunately I don't see how core gamers could learn to accept what you're describing. We're both aware that thinking, searching, reminiscing or remembering aren't passive activities, after all. I wouldn't call an experience like Dear Esther passive, it's just heavily internalized. It does almost everything you're describing, the randomized bits of written letters standing in for thought processes or the protagonist's overall emotional state.

The problem is, some people would always end up looking for something more immediate, more tangible than just walking around waiting for the right memory or train of thought to jog things along. We've had decades to be conditioned to the idea of needing to run, to actively pursue a goal, to get physically involved in the proceedings or to use mechanics that simulate physical involvement - and that's something that's difficult to put aside for some gamers.

One person's introspection is another person's shallow or borderline pedantic crawl, unfortunately. A lot of what defines how a new walking sim is received by the general public is in its tone and overall artistic sense. The more high-brow, the more some people are inexplicably prone to feel like they're being talked down to.

I can sort of get the frustration, I hated The Witness. When a game exudes the impression that a specific artistic bias or personal philosophy is needed to best appraise its worth or impact, some people just default to feeling insulted. That's unfortunate, and there's still a lot of miscommunication to fix between projects with more "Arthouse" sensibilities and the general public.

Hopefully, like I told Slo, it won't involve labeling the genre only to coddle the risk-averse.
 

Blood Brain Barrier

New member
Nov 21, 2011
2,004
0
0
IamLEAM1983 said:
Blood Brain Barrier said:
The upshot of all this is that the experience of a "walking simulator" depends entirely on how the game is done. What it gives you to look at, think about and so on. If it does that part well, it should be a far richer experience than a RPG or shooter.
Thanks for the clarification. I agree, but unfortunately I don't see how core gamers could learn to accept what you're describing. We're both aware that thinking, searching, reminiscing or remembering aren't passive activities, after all. I wouldn't call an experience like Dear Esther passive, it's just heavily internalized. It does almost everything you're describing, the randomized bits of written letters standing in for thought processes or the protagonist's overall emotional state.

The problem is, some people would always end up looking for something more immediate, more tangible than just walking around waiting for the right memory or train of thought to jog things along. We've had decades to be conditioned to the idea of needing to run, to actively pursue a goal, to get physically involved in the proceedings or to use mechanics that simulate physical involvement - and that's something that's difficult to put aside for some gamers.

One person's introspection is another person's shallow or borderline pedantic crawl, unfortunately. A lot of what defines how a new walking sim is received by the general public is in its tone and overall artistic sense. The more high-brow, the more some people are inexplicably prone to feel like they're being talked down to.

I can sort of get the frustration, I hated The Witness. When a game exudes the impression that a specific artistic bias or personal philosophy is needed to best appraise its worth or impact, some people just default to feeling insulted. That's unfortunate, and there's still a lot of miscommunication to fix between projects with more "Arthouse" sensibilities and the general public.

Hopefully, like I told Slo, it won't involve labeling the genre only to coddle the risk-averse.
Oh. I loved The Witness and think it is the best game of the past decade. It is also the furthest you can get from a walking simulator. Why do you think an artistic or philosophical disposition is needed to appreciate it? I think everyone should be able to get something out of it.

Otherwise, absolutely agreed on everything else you said. The conditioning of modern gamers is hard to undo, and not even necessary to undo. Some won't appreciate games that lack a very specific "mission", and which ask more from you than to follow narrow goals.
 

IamLEAM1983

Neloth's got swag.
Aug 22, 2011
2,581
0
0
Blood Brain Barrier said:
Oh. I loved The Witness and think it is the best game of the past decade. It is also the furthest you can get from a walking simulator. Why do you think an artistic or philosophical disposition is needed to appreciate it? I think everyone should be able to get something out of it.

Otherwise, absolutely agreed on everything else you said. The conditioning of modern gamers is hard to undo, and not even necessary to undo. Some won't appreciate games that lack a very specific "mission", and which ask more from you than to follow narrow goals.
Okay. Here's my experience with The Witness in a nutshell.

The first forty minutes or so were awesome. I loved the clear interface, the initially simple mechanic being slowly developed into more complex uses and patterns - I've compared it to Sudoku in describing it to friends of mine. It's a really basic setup for a puzzler, but the game provides enough variants and introduces enough mechanics to keep the challenge fresh.

The problem is that's all there is. Puzzles. Nothing but. No world-building, no theming other than in the presence of statues or weird architectural cues. If you're lucky or patient you'll come across these little recordings that are supposed to offer some insight into the area's overall theme or exposed mechanic in some allegorical fashion. The thing is, I didn't see these as flashes of brilliance or nudges in the right direction; I saw it as self-satisfaction, the game referencing its own claims to be a serious brain-teaser by quoting some of the Greats or the enlightened. Reaching the ending only furthered that impression (so I'm just going back to the beginning? Really?!) and the Easter Egg that's unlockable shortly afterwards made me feel as though Blow were busy tooting his own horn.

I won't spoil anything in case someone else reads this and hasn't finished the game, but the Easter Egg ending feels incredibly pretentious to me. There's something very... self-congratulatory to the entire experience that just raises my proverbial hackles. It's not deep thought or the game being proud of its own innovative streaks; it's pretension. Or at least, that's how it feels to me.

I mean, Portal 1 and 2 provide context and purpose while being as legible and solidly iterated upon as The Witness. The Myst games have terrific world-building going for them and puzzles that actually further the environments' sense of place. There's tons of reasons to be drawn into the experience in both cases, outside of just puzzles and vague promises that recorded quotations will suffice. I'd even recommend Fireproof Games' The Room series on mobile devices, as far as really solid Adventure Game experiences are concerned.

The Witness is just... there. I've played through it, I've tried to find as many of the recordings as I could and I spent time trying to make sense out of the statues in the courtyard or what looks like a half-finished or half-ruined small town. I've even left the game and tried to find online summaries, hoping someone else could shed some light onto it all. I've got nothing so far. It's opaque and it mistakes its profundity for deep thought.

It's all just surprising, really. Braid had a whimsical tone and a bit of an on-the-nose moral to be dug up at the end, but it wasn't this infuriating.

And I do know this is terribly ironic, considering what we've discussed. I'm all for games that don't wear their theming or world design on their sleeves and I don't mind the occasional bit of opaque storytelling, as long as it's well done. See the Souls series, for instance. Despite that, The Witness was my personal limit. I started by loving it, then getting mildly annoyed not so much by the lack of direction as the lack of purpose - and then I flipped my lid once the randomized puzzles kicked in. I couldn't combine enough of the presented mechanics to make it work, the glitchy puzzles got in the way of my ability to work based on the design language the game teaches you - and none of it amounted to much in the grand scheme of things.

See the irony? Guy thinks games could do more than just toss numbers to alter or health bars to nullify, but he still loses it when iterative puzzle design proves to be too much. Same guy also feels the need to cling to the idea of world-building or general versimilitude while tackling a game that clearly doesn't care for either concepts. That's sad, and I know it is.

So yeah. About conditioning? I'm conditioned. I expected something and I didn't get it. Mea Culpa and whatnot.
 

Blood Brain Barrier

New member
Nov 21, 2011
2,004
0
0
IamLEAM1983 said:
Blood Brain Barrier said:
Oh. I loved The Witness and think it is the best game of the past decade. It is also the furthest you can get from a walking simulator. Why do you think an artistic or philosophical disposition is needed to appreciate it? I think everyone should be able to get something out of it.

Otherwise, absolutely agreed on everything else you said. The conditioning of modern gamers is hard to undo, and not even necessary to undo. Some won't appreciate games that lack a very specific "mission", and which ask more from you than to follow narrow goals.
Okay. Here's my experience with The Witness in a nutshell.

The first forty minutes or so were awesome. I loved the clear interface, the initially simple mechanic being slowly developed into more complex uses and patterns - I've compared it to Sudoku in describing it to friends of mine. It's a really basic setup for a puzzler, but the game provides enough variants and introduces enough mechanics to keep the challenge fresh.

The problem is that's all there is. Puzzles. Nothing but. No world-building, no theming other than in the presence of statues or weird architectural cues. If you're lucky or patient you'll come across these little recordings that are supposed to offer some insight into the area's overall theme or exposed mechanic in some allegorical fashion. The thing is, I didn't see these as flashes of brilliance or nudges in the right direction; I saw it as self-satisfaction, the game referencing its own claims to be a serious brain-teaser by quoting some of the Greats or the enlightened. Reaching the ending only furthered that impression (so I'm just going back to the beginning? Really?!) and the Easter Egg that's unlockable shortly afterwards made me feel as though Blow were busy tooting his own horn.

I won't spoil anything in case someone else reads this and hasn't finished the game, but the Easter Egg ending feels incredibly pretentious to me. There's something very... self-congratulatory to the entire experience that just raises my proverbial hackles. It's not deep thought or the game being proud of its own innovative streaks; it's pretension. Or at least, that's how it feels to me.

I mean, Portal 1 and 2 provide context and purpose while being as legible and solidly iterated upon as The Witness. The Myst games have terrific world-building going for them and puzzles that actually further the environments' sense of place. There's tons of reasons to be drawn into the experience in both cases, outside of just puzzles and vague promises that recorded quotations will suffice. I'd even recommend Fireproof Games' The Room series on mobile devices, as far as really solid Adventure Game experiences are concerned.

The Witness is just... there. I've played through it, I've tried to find as many of the recordings as I could and I spent time trying to make sense out of the statues in the courtyard or what looks like a half-finished or half-ruined small town. I've even left the game and tried to find online summaries, hoping someone else could shed some light onto it all. I've got nothing so far. It's opaque and it mistakes its profundity for deep thought.

It's all just surprising, really. Braid had a whimsical tone and a bit of an on-the-nose moral to be dug up at the end, but it wasn't this infuriating.

And I do know this is terribly ironic, considering what we've discussed. I'm all for games that don't wear their theming or world design on their sleeves and I don't mind the occasional bit of opaque storytelling, as long as it's well done. See the Souls series, for instance. Despite that, The Witness was my personal limit. I started by loving it, then getting mildly annoyed not so much by the lack of direction as the lack of purpose - and then I flipped my lid once the randomized puzzles kicked in. I couldn't combine enough of the presented mechanics to make it work, the glitchy puzzles got in the way of my ability to work based on the design language the game teaches you - and none of it amounted to much in the grand scheme of things.

See the irony? Guy thinks games could do more than just toss numbers to alter or health bars to nullify, but he still loses it when iterative puzzle design proves to be too much. Same guy also feels the need to cling to the idea of world-building or general versimilitude while tackling a game that clearly doesn't care for either concepts. That's sad, and I know it is.

So yeah. About conditioning? I'm conditioned. I expected something and I didn't get it. Mea Culpa and whatnot.
Fair enough. I'll just say that my own experience was totally different and your ending thought of "I'm going back to the start" never even popped into my head. I think the game is quite simply a meditation on oneself ("The Witness"). That's basically it - it's the broadest and most vast subject of any possible game. And it could mean a vast range of things for a vast range of people. That's why it could not have had a narrower story or direction, because channeling your thoughts into colliding with the developer's would have meant channeling them away from the intended subject. If anything I find that the opposite of pretentious. But with that there's also the freedom to dislike it, and you're welcome to do so.

A bit more on the ending:
You couldn't have failed to notice the symbolism throughout the game - the "birth canal" you enter the world through, and the rib-cage like "death" at the end, followed by entering an angelic-like cage to "ascend". What is the end sequence with the monologues inviting you to do? I'd say it's challenging you to make sense of what you've just been through - a metaphor for the journey through life. The video clips are very relevant to what is being suggested with the final words of the game, especially #4 and #5. But I'm glad it was left vague so as not to be too heavy-handed.
 

IceForce

Is this memes?
Legacy
Apr 4, 2020
2,384
16
13
tzimize said:
The best bit of this was the scary going-to-be-president lurking behind one of the walls. Excellent stuff.
I believe in the business they're called 'trump scares'.
 

IamLEAM1983

Neloth's got swag.
Aug 22, 2011
2,581
0
0
Blood Brain Barrier said:
There's also the freedom to dislike it, and you're welcome to do so.
Basically this. I'm fine with people playing games I personally don't like, which just makes me look at some user reviews or even the new Ghostbusters trailer's YouTube comments page and just shake my head. "The Witness" isn't "SJW bullshit" because it failed to make a lasting positive impression with me - it's just a game that doesn't work with me. If it does with you, all the more power to you.

Seriously - don't look at the comments for the flick's trailer. Save yourself the embarrassment. There's more of these grown-ass men saying women ruin everything because Reasons.

*insert vague sigh of mental exhaustion and acute frustration here*

That said, thanks for telling me your interpretation of the story. I guess the last few puzzles didn't leave me much mental legwork to notice what you did, and it does give a tiny bit of meat to the game's bones - but no, the birth canal analogy never struck my mind, nor did the elevator ride strike me as being angelic or symbolic in nature. I can see how you could interpret those elements the way you did and it does frame some of the quotes in a clearer context - but it still doesn't help the sense of disconnection between the island and its puzzles.

I guess I have a certain threshold of tolerance for allegorical content and the game just went past it. Being more of a reader, I like my game worlds to contain stories and have a sense of place. With that missing, I suppose a lot of my motivation to catch these cues went out the door.
 

Spartan448

New member
Apr 2, 2011
539
0
0
My only complaint with Firewatch is that I didn't realize it was building up to nothing until after I had passed the two-hour gameplay window for Steam refunds. The game is called Firewatch, I expect to be dealing with responding to actual forest fires at some point. As it stands, Firewatch actually has quite literally nothing to do with watching for fires. The two chances you have to actually spot fires, Delilah does it for you. The Narrative builds up to nothing. The game even tries to make a pathetic attempt to drive physical tension in the last scene of the game, but by then the player knows the game is full of shit, because the developer can't stand to have their precious narrative changed in any way from their perfect view of it.

Taking your sweet time and getting every conversation in the game and using your entire photo reel, there's three hours of gameplay. Not nearly worth the 18 dollar price tag.
 

IamLEAM1983

Neloth's got swag.
Aug 22, 2011
2,581
0
0
Spartan448 said:
My only complaint with Firewatch is that I didn't realize it was building up to nothing until after I had passed the two-hour gameplay window for Steam refunds. The game is called Firewatch, I expect to be dealing with responding to actual forest fires at some point. As it stands, Firewatch actually has quite literally nothing to do with watching for fires. The two chances you have to actually spot fires, Delilah does it for you. The Narrative builds up to nothing. The game even tries to make a pathetic attempt to drive physical tension in the last scene of the game, but by then the player knows the game is full of shit, because the developer can't stand to have their precious narrative changed in any way from their perfect view of it.

Taking your sweet time and getting every conversation in the game and using your entire photo reel, there's three hours of gameplay. Not nearly worth the 18 dollar price tag.
Eh. We're at a point in Game Design history where games about nothing are positively groundbreaking - but they're not exactly for everyone. I'm also holding off on playing it or watching a Let's Play because "Denied Expectations and Banal Outcomes: The Game" doesn't really sound like fun, even if you tell me the whole banter thing with Delilah is the best piece of voice-over performance in years.