kkotter's GameLogBlogging the experience of gameplayhttp://www.gamelog.cl/gamers/GamerPage.php?idgamer=1936Here They Lie (PS4) - Tue, 27 Mar 2018 21:21:29http://www.gamelog.cl/logs/LogPage.php?Log_Id=6647I'm not quite done with the game yet, but I feel like I must be close. The story elements are ramping up, the environment has changed drastically, and something big feels like it must be coming. My concerns about finding answers are even larger, now. I've received very few answers, and a lot more things are happening that can only be described as psychedelic. It sort of feels like a cheap trick by the game in an attempt to scare me, but it's only ever unsettling instead of actually frightening. A large part of this is just because I don't truly understand what's going on. All kinds of themes are being brought up, though: drug use, failed relationships, death and the afterlife, figuring out one's purpose and reason for living, etc. The first few playthroughs of the game I struggled to see how I could approach it critically through an ethical lens. This playthrough, however, completely got rid of that difficulty. One particular scene was gruesome and difficult to play, and I'm still not entirely sure what its purpose was in the game. You enter a theater where a play is about to start. It won't start, however, until you get on stage. As soon as you do, a spotlight lights up the stage and a body falls from the ceiling, hanging from a noose. You have the option to go up to the body and help him out of the noose. As soon as you do, however, another body drops, and another. I spent more than 5 minutes freeing body after body, but there didn't seem to be an end. I finally gave up and just watched the bodies fall until the stage was full, and then it stopped. I felt horrible as if I hadn't done enough to try and save these people. I'm not sure the game would have allowed me to save them all, though, or if it would have just gone on endlessly until I let enough people die. The ethicality of that scene is most definitely questionable. What was the purpose behind it? Did it have a purpose besides creeping the player out? If it was meant to convey some kind of message, what was it? Just that the player was a bad person? And if that's the case, why is that a valid message, and how does it tie into the overall theme of the game, if at all? Hopefully the ending of the game can answer these questions as well.Tue, 27 Mar 2018 21:21:29 CDThttp://www.gamelog.cl/logs/LogPage.php?Log_Id=6647&iddiary=11752Here They Lie (PS4) - Tue, 27 Mar 2018 00:40:35http://www.gamelog.cl/logs/LogPage.php?Log_Id=6647I'm a good chunk further into the game now, and I can definitely say that I am the target audience for this game. I'm a sucker for mysteries stacked on top of mysteries, and so far this game is offering that in spades. I worry that the game is offering up more questions than it has answers, but hopefully the game proves me wrong. The game has mellowed out a bit, creepiness wise. It's still scary, but in much more of a suspenseful, something-could-be-around-that-corner type of way instead of the jump scare, creepy imagery way that the game started off. Personally, I prefer that, as it allows the players' minds to fill in the gaps and make things even creepier. The art direction for the game is phenomenal. At first, I thought the very muted, grayscale color palette was a result of limitations, but it's definitely not. The art style makes the world dark and somber and devoid of life, which is a big theme in the game so far. The environment itself is fabulous and is rich with environmental storytelling. Subtle narrative clues, such as the environmental storytelling, are the main way that the game is getting across the story and I think it's an incredibly effective way to do so. The game also does audio logs, but they're purposefully vague and confusing, and it's the environmental storytelling that actually gets across what is happening in this world. For example, in one small alleyway, I found a newspaper lying on the ground with a headline that answered one of my biggest questions in the game. It felt like the game was rewarding me for playing it in the appropriate way, which was really nice. The other thing the game does a superb job at is directing the player throughout the environment. There is no map, no mini-map, no in-game directions of on-screen guides. Instead, the game uses light, color, and sound to guide the player to specific areas. The sound one is especially effective for me. Anytime I started to feel like I was lost, the sound of children giggling or a ringing phone would lead me in the right direction. It was also intensely creepy, which helped heighten the atmosphere in the game. The sounds were never random, however, but instead tied into an action I was supposed to do or a snippet of the narrative that I would uncover. It made the game world feel natural and real and allowed me to become much more immersed, which in turn made me more invested in the game world. I did die for the first time during this play session, which was fascinating (and more than a little horrifying). The death screen itself became part of the narrative. Instead of just having a static "game over" screen, the game instead offers the player a hint into what is truly going on before it starts them over in a previous location. I've never seen this done before, and because the game already has strong themes about death and the afterlife, it felt completely ludonarratively accurate. There were a few small issues I had, mainly with gameplay controls, but nothing too serious. I am still worried about the game's ability to answer the questions it's raising, but this play through gave me a little more hope that the game knows what it's doing and has the answers ready for me. Guess I'll see.Tue, 27 Mar 2018 00:40:35 CDThttp://www.gamelog.cl/logs/LogPage.php?Log_Id=6647&iddiary=11742Here They Lie (PS4) - Mon, 26 Mar 2018 00:47:28http://www.gamelog.cl/logs/LogPage.php?Log_Id=6647(So just a quick heads-up: I downloaded this game before I realized it was built for VR, and I don't have PSVR, so I'll be playing this game in just regular, non-VR mode. Hopefully, that doesn't change the experience too much.) From the outset, I can tell that this game was designed for VR. I only played for about 40 minutes today, but you can tell that the environments of the game were designed for people with a headset on. It's an environment that requires players to have full access to a 360-degree view and often requires frequent panning back and forth between different spots in the environment. This is probably much easier with a headset on (you can just turn your neck), but it's not too bad with just a controller. The game wastes no time in throwing you into the story, and then it wastes very little time after that attempting to creep the player out. It worked for me, especially the use of audio. The scene that takes place on the train is grating and tense and nerve-wracking, in large part because of the constant metal-on-metal grinding screech that overplays the entire scene. The little of the story presented so far (mainly the character of Dana and the presence of demonic, ethereal beings that seem to chase the player) is intriguing, but in a way that I'm worried about. It seems to be headed in the type of direction that raises a lot of questions and answers very few of them. I've heard the game is very short (roughly 4 hours), so I hope the game answers these large questions instead of just piling on new ones. The purpose of the game is unclear right now, but I almost feel like the purpose of the game is to figure out the purpose of the game. There's obviously at least a small mystery going on (who is Dana, what is your backstory with her, and why were you separated from her?), but the even more interesting things aren't (seemingly) related to Dana at all. These things, such as the ethereal demons, a lone Ferris wheel, and other seemingly random images point to a larger, more interesting mystery that I hope is solved. At this point in the game, however, it's got me hooked. It's creepy, interesting, and more than a little unsettling. The music is great, and the art style and direction of the game is fantastic. The colors of the environments especially drive home the point of horror. The controls were frustrating at first (mostly because there were none), but I'm getting the hang of it. I'm definitely interested in what's to come.Mon, 26 Mar 2018 00:47:28 CDThttp://www.gamelog.cl/logs/LogPage.php?Log_Id=6647&iddiary=11731Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor (PS4) - Wed, 14 Feb 2018 01:29:20http://www.gamelog.cl/logs/LogPage.php?Log_Id=6579I almost exclusively spent my time this play session (around 1.5 hours) doing all of the available missions to free slaves in the surrounding areas. In my past couple of play sessions, I had freed the slaves because I felt morally obligated to, but I didn't see how freeing them helped me at all besides earning a (relatively small) amount of experience. However, when I freed another camp of slaves at this beginning of this play session, I unlocked a wide series of slave-rescuing missions and discovered that rescuing slaves put me in their good graces, and by rescuing more I could unlock intel about leaders in Sauron's army. I was much happier to discover that doing something that the game presents as morally good was actually rewarding in a significant way (does that make me a bad person, that I only really want to do the things that the game's ethical framework say are good if I'm being compensated in a large enough way? Probably). Another interesting thing I discovered is that the orcs and uruks will have conversations with each other if you eavesdrop on them. The fascinating thing is that the conversations generally aren't boring and inconsequential; instead, they're about the power struggle in Sauron's army and how they feel about their direct superiors. Occasionally, after I'd fought with some of them, some of them would even discuss me and my prominence among the gossip circles. It was cool to feel like the game world was moving constantly, even if I wasn't doing anything. Having this living, breathing game world made it feel so much more real, and that just increased the impact of the story throughout the game (if the world feels real, then the slave within it are, in some sense, real). This whole system was especially enjoyable because the actual main campaign/storyline isn't particularly interesting or nuanced, but the Nemesis system and the way that the characters interact with it has more than made up for it, in my opinion. Speaking of, the Nemesis system is the meat and bones of this game, and it's clear to me now why the game won Game of the Year at GDC. Navigating the political nature of Sauron's army, figuring out who to kill and who to target next, gathering intel on your opponent's weaknesses and strengths and how best to defeat them... it's a fascinating, unique approach to gameplay that I didn't expect to find in a LotR game. I think it's interesting to think how similar systems could be used in other genres to great effect. I mean, come on, now I just want to play a House of Cards game with a Nemesis system in place.Wed, 14 Feb 2018 01:29:20 CDThttp://www.gamelog.cl/logs/LogPage.php?Log_Id=6579&iddiary=11635Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor (PS4) - Tue, 13 Feb 2018 00:32:34http://www.gamelog.cl/logs/LogPage.php?Log_Id=6579Got another hour or so of gameplay in today. I'm loving the world the game has set me in -- it feels distinctly Lord of the Rings, and even the fighting system makes me feel like I'm in one of the movies. I think that's one of the games biggest strong points, actually. I've played roughly 3 hours so far, and not once have I ever fought an enemy one on one. At first that frustrated me, but the more I've played, the more I've realized that it's trying to tie into the player fantasy. Because you play as a Ranger, a semi-mythical figure in the LotR universe, fighting a horde of enemies -- and winning -- makes you feel good. It makes you feel powerful and in control while at the same time making every battle, even the small ones, feel tense and chaotic. Also, because of countering and slo-mo critical hits and the ability to flow from enemy to enemy in a stylish way, every fight feels like it could be a choreographed scene from one of the movies. However, the game is set up in such an open-world way that you can often find yourself amidst groups of enemies you're just not equipped to deal with yet, and the resulting deaths feel like the game is punishing you for exploring. This concept of exploration punishment was also my first real introduction to the game's Nemesis system, wherein you kill leaders of Sauron's army (or they kill you) and the hierarchy of that army changes. However, dying to one of the leaders increases that leader's power -- and due to my constant (perhaps stupid) exploration, I died again and again to one leader, causing him to be incredibly overpowering. This only means that the Nemesis system is working as intended, and it's really cool in context of the game and world, but it can be frustrating to constantly run into this leader and know that I either run or die. I also spent the better part of today's play session ignoring the main story missions and instead freeing slaves captured by orcs. I'm not even sure that the time spent doing so was particularly worth it (I received experience and money for freeing the slaves, but nothing particularly grandiose and nothing that provided any type of narrative), so I'm not sure it was time well spent. The game prompted me to free the slaves and then didn't force me, but that meant that I would've felt like a bad person if I had ignored that hint and not freed the slaves. Interesting ethical situation, there. Also, ran into Gollum near the end of my play session? For some reason I thought this game was centuries before the main LotR movies, but apparently not.Tue, 13 Feb 2018 00:32:34 CDThttp://www.gamelog.cl/logs/LogPage.php?Log_Id=6579&iddiary=11610Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor (PS4) - Sun, 11 Feb 2018 01:42:43http://www.gamelog.cl/logs/LogPage.php?Log_Id=6579I played for about an hour and a half today. The game has me incredibly interested, even if I am a bit lost and confused. I thought the developers did a very good and interesting job with the opening of the game, which surprised me. About 5 minutes into the game, I was incredibly frustrated with the opening. I hadn't actually been able to play yet, and all the game had been was cutscenes and voiceovers. I'm a firm believer that games should get you to a playable position as quickly as possible, and it looked like the game was going to go full exposition on me instead. This was particularly worrying because the game kept showing flashbacks of the main character's backstory, but they had little weight to me because I didn't know who the main character was. Thankfully, though, it quickly switched, and I was able to actually play these flashbacks -- and even better, the flashbacks were the tutorial for the game. Learning how to sword fight because I was teaching my son how to sword fight was a genius move, really, and let the game avoid many of the problems of tutorial levels as well. Actually getting into the main gameplay has been a lot of fun. The "Nemesis" system that I've heard so much about is starting to peek out every once in a while, but it's currently daunting and has had very little explanation by the game. The fighting is fluid and natural, and the controls all feel very smooth. My one major complaint so far is that the game suffers from some pretty serious map and menu UI overload (unfortunately borrowing a little too much from Assassin's Creed here). There's so many icons on both the map and the menu that navigating them becomes a chore, which should be the exact opposite of what both of those things are there for. The game itself has been fun so far, though!Sun, 11 Feb 2018 01:42:43 CDThttp://www.gamelog.cl/logs/LogPage.php?Log_Id=6579&iddiary=11588Firewatch (PS4) - Thu, 18 Jan 2018 00:22:45http://www.gamelog.cl/logs/LogPage.php?Log_Id=6525I played a little over an hour tonight. There's still a lot I love about this game, but I'm starting to get frustrated as well. There is definitely a sense of a mystery being at play, and yet it doesn't seem to be headed anywhere. I think I'm at day 63 in the game, but nothing has really developed all that much regarding my ransacked watchtower (besides finding the teenager's wrecked campsite and discovering later that they are missing). I guess I just feel that the game isn't delivering on promises that it made -- or at least, it's not delivering on them as quickly as I would like. I kept expecting the quests that I went on to have some greater meaning or influence on the plot, but instead I just went on another quest to pick up supplies that had little to no meaning. My relationship with Delilah, though, is fascinating. I like Delilah -- who she is, how she talks, the way she treats my player character. I enjoy talking with her, and I always choose the nice, friendly dialogue option when talking to her. However, the last 15 minutes or so of gameplay I played turned from being nice and friendly to being flirtatious. I was fine with it for the first few seconds (I like Delilah, after all), until I suddenly remembered that I'm married. Then it all felt wrong, and it felt like I, as the player, had made wrong choices in making what I thought were the right choices. I felt like a bad person for cheating on my ill and disabled wife, if only in thought. Then I realized that none of this was real, but I still had those negative feelings, and the true ethical dilemma of the game started to become clearer to me. I also distinctly noticed the audio this time playing the game, which I hadn't noticed or paid attention to in earlier playthroughs. The use of music is very sparse, and only comes up during particularly big reveals or discoveries, such as when you're about to walk on to the teenagers' campsite. The music then stops, and the sudden lack of music becomes just as big of a statement as the music itself. It made everything seem eerie and intense, even though very little about the scene itself was that way.Thu, 18 Jan 2018 00:22:45 CDThttp://www.gamelog.cl/logs/LogPage.php?Log_Id=6525&iddiary=11518Firewatch (PS4) - Wed, 17 Jan 2018 00:46:53http://www.gamelog.cl/logs/LogPage.php?Log_Id=6525I played for a little over 45 minutes today, and I'm starting to get the feeling that this is the exact type of game that I'm going to love. It has mystery, great dialogue, fantasy environmental storytelling, and beautiful art to boot. To top it all off, at one point I actually got lost in the game and wasn't sure what to do next. It's been an incredibly long time since I've had that experience in a game; nowadays, games lead you from one step to the next. That's not a bad thing, but it was nice to be able to just get lost for a while. For a game all about wandering the Wyoming wilderness, it felt natural and right to be lost. This game, from what I can tell so far, has two main points: establish a mystery that needs to be solved (who robbed my watchtower, and what mysterious something is going on with Delilah), and establish a relationship between myself and Delilah. The fact that the two intertwine is obviously no coincidence, and makes me invested in both of them even more because of that. The subtext that's happening that focuses on the main character's relationship with his ailing wife is also fascinating, and brings up a ton of moral quandaries: is it ethical for him to be separated from his wife at such a crucial moment, even if her new situation is a better living condition? Is confiding and trusting in another woman the wisest thing for him to do, as a married man? Does having the player play a character that's made morally questionable decisions off screen imply some type of acceptance and approval by that person as they play them? There are a few things that are frustrating me, however. The game has occasional obnoxiously long loading times, particularly for a game that's nowhere near as big or complex as similar titles. Also, the immersion of the map and compass is nice, but gets annoying quickly when you need to check them frequently to locate yourself and where you need to go. I'm not sure it would improve the game, but a minimap certainly would have made getting from place to place a lot easier.Wed, 17 Jan 2018 00:46:53 CDThttp://www.gamelog.cl/logs/LogPage.php?Log_Id=6525&iddiary=11481Firewatch (PS4) - Tue, 16 Jan 2018 00:58:09http://www.gamelog.cl/logs/LogPage.php?Log_Id=6525I just started this game today. I've heard a lot of contrasting opinions about Firewatch - some love it and call it a fantastic game; others will argue for hours about how it's not a game at all. The first 45 minutes that I played, however, I absolutely loved. It felt real and raw and immersive: a combination of great voice acting and phenomenal art direction gives the game an atmosphere unlike anything that I've played before. The warm, earthy colors and silhouetted shapes makes the entire game feel like a vintage National Parks postcard, which can't be a coincidence. The intro of the game as well as the first chunk of the actual game does a good job of bringing interesting choices into the gameplay itself. The introduction was heavily text-based, which I thought was a daring choice to make. By starting the game off with character introductions and dialogue options, though, it allowed the player (me) to feel like they owned the character. Simple choices, such as which dog I should adopt, let me feel in control and interact with the game itself. Harder and more complex choices, such as whether or not my wife should see a counselor, started to bring in interesting questions of ethics and morality into the narrative. What type of person should my character be? Should he be kind and caring for his wife, or try to ignore the bad and pretend that everything is fine? Should he insist on being her primary caregiver, or instead find a home for her that would perhaps give her better care? These choices not only provide a complex background for what could have been a one-dimensional character, they also force the player to examine their own choices. If the player chooses a less-than-ideal option, what does that say about the player themselves? What types of consequences will come in-game because of those choices, and what effect will that have on the player From the little gameplay I've experienced, no consequences have come from any of the choices that I've made (I only made it to the point where I discover that my watch tower has been raided). I hope that that changes, and that the choices that I make within the game actually have consequence in the world that they were made in. (This entry has been edited1 time. It was last edited on Tue, 16 Jan 2018 00:59:06.)Tue, 16 Jan 2018 00:58:09 CDThttp://www.gamelog.cl/logs/LogPage.php?Log_Id=6525&iddiary=11445